Something that seems to come up on regular basis, either on the net in blogs, or in general discussions about Chinese, is that it’s possible to become fluent in an extremely short length of time. Or that there is a magic method that if employed will take you right to the top.
That’s simply not the case.
While there are way to better spend your time that result it more effective outcomes, it all comes down to one thing – there is no substitution for hard work.
Learn Chinese in 5 minutes, or 5 years?
When I hear stories about someone who started from scratch and achieved fluency in 6 months, there’s one of two possibilities: Firstly, it’s a lie, or more likely, there is a discrepancy in the definition of “fluency”. This isn’t meant to come across as negative, though. On the contrary, it’s just simply worth stating that if you’re going to start learning Chinese, or any language for that matter, then you need to put in the time and the effort. Only then can you truly achieve a decent level of fluency.
While “learn Chinese in 5 minutes” might sound tempting, it’s obviously just not possible. There are, however, better ways to more effectively spend your your time while studying, though in most cases our inner-lazyness is played to. The book title “how to effectively spend 5 years of your life learning Chinese” wouldn’t sell as well as “become fluent in Chinese while listening to this tape on the way home from the book shop”, would it?
So what can you do?
Be realistic. If you’re just having some fun and learning a bit of Chinese here and there so you can order beef noodles in a Chinese restaurant and impress your friends, then that’s fine. But if you’re more serious about learning then it’s important to understand that it will take a serious chunk of your time away and requires consistent and persistent learning that will take you through a journey of highs and lows – But when you come out the other end 5 to 10 years older and you can read a Chinese language newspaper and converse about a wide range of subjects without dropping back in your mother tongue, and maybe even found employment using your abilities, won’t it all be worth it?
How long do you think it takes to become fluent in Chinese? What is the definition of “fluent”? How do you more effectively spend your time when learning? What’s your opinion?