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I studied for 1.5 years already and I will probably study for 2 more years because I want to be able to use Chinese in a casual work setting. I don't see myself taking any formal tests as I'm more interested in speaking fluidly rather than knowing lots of non-frequent words.
So... how long do you think you will study Chinese? And why that long?
wo3 jue2de xue2 zhong1wen2 shi4 zhong1shen1 shi4ye4
I feel learning Chinese is a lifelong undertaking!
I have studied (semi-seriously -- about 1 hour a day consistently) for about 4 months and I plan to continue to study for at least several years. I do not have an end date since I think that it depends on my ability to speak and comprehend and that as I (hopefully) improve, studying will seem less work and therefore not feel like studying as much as it does now. For example, my vocabulary is still so terrible that I cannot even hope to begin to understand a Chinese tv show and most of my time is spent practicing drills. I know they are important and I am willing to do them but I hope that as time goes on the studying aspect will become more "fun".
Basic Spoken Chinese is a nice tool, among other things, to build listening skill.
I recommend soap operas. They have some on youku.com (simplified chinese) but also youtube has many channels the have soaps. The reason I recommend these kinds of shows is that the dialogue is simple (inane really) enough to allow a novice to have some hope of understanding something, and you get the context of facial expression and situations to help you. IF you try to watch a movie or a news program you will have a much harder time because of the diversity of the vocabulary.
Walter, I'm about 3-4 months past where you are, also studying once per day. I recognize that my vocabulary, grammar, reading, and pronunciation still have a long way to go. But I've definitely found in the last month or so that suddenly the language is making more sense to me, especially the han zi. I recently joined a WeChat group for programmers, mostly for business contacts -- and I was shocked to discover how much I could read and understand. (I couldn't understand most of it, of course, but the mere fact that I could read anything was an amazing feeling.)
So not that I have a huge amount of experience, but I can say that if you hang in there a bit more, you'll start (I think) to realize just how much progress you've made, and that you're slowly but surely starting to get this language. As I keep telling my wife and children, I make about 1mm of progress each day, but that over time, that adds up to a great deal.
I've been learning Chinese on and off for 3 years. Mostly by self study in Germany. Now I live in Shanghai though and I'm planning to stay. My Chinese is quite fluent and I'm quite immersed in Chinese culture, even when I'm outside of China. This means that even if I don't take Chinese courses, I will still be learning Chinese on a daily basis through communication - therefore picking up new words and then trying to revise those.
I've been studying with a teacher (online, five days/week) for about eight months (since August 2014), but did some self-study for about two years before that, off and on, before each of my business trips to China. The more I learn, the more I'm fascinated by the language, as well as tickled pink to think that I can actually speak, read, and write it to any degree. (For so long, it seemed like Chinese would be completely impossible to learn -- and now I see that it isn't, although it does take time and discipline.)
I currently travel to China several times per year to teach programming classes. Those classes are currently in English. I'd love to get to the point of being able to lecture in Chinese, or at least (a) lecture enough to make my students feel comfortable and (b) understand enough to allow them to ask me questions in Chinese. I'm already pretty pleased with my progress in only eight months; I think that in about two years, I should be able to do some basic lecturing in Chinese.
When will I stop learning? I dunno. I moved from the US to Israel as an adult, and while my formal learning of Hebrew stopped long ago, I continue to learn as much about that language as I can. (I'm now totally fluent in both English and Hebrew, although my children laugh at my accent. :-) I have similar aspirations for Chinese; I might stop taking daily classes at some point, but I would probably replace it with a combination of reading on my own and training in (for example) writing, or more formal language patterns. Or just to keep it up between visits to China.
Learning Chinese has had a huge effect on the way that I teach programming . Learning something completely and utterly different from what I've done to date has been very helpful. And I no longer have any sorts of illusions that my students remember what I say, even after five mentions of it.
For now, my hour-long lesson is one of the high points of my day. All of my friends know about my obsession; lots of them know that I write the "Mandarin Weekly" newsletter for people learning Chinese, and are impressed (and amused) to see how much I care about this subject.
I'm actually heading to Shanghai and Beijing in just a few days, and am excited to see how much I've progressed since my last trip -- let's hope!
I'm happy to have found a community of people who are also interested in learning Chinese,
I will likely do so for many more years.
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