One of the most commonly asked questions by students are “How many hours does it take to learn Chinese?” “How many/ how long do I need to learn Chinese to understand people and start speaking?”

Well…I personally think this is a wrong question to ask your Mandarin teacher. It’s like asking your fitness trainer how many days of workout can you lose 10 pounds. The answer is: Who knows!?

Your teacher isn’t a fortune teller; he/she can’t give you the EXACT number of your learning curve. Each individual is different. Before you start learning a language, whether is Mandarin, Japanese, German or English, you have to ask yourself some questions.


1.     How many hours will I attend a Chinese course?

2.     Do I attend a small group class or a 1 on 1 class setting? Or you will attend an online course?

3.     How much time and effort am willing to spend on Mandarin?

4.     Am I a devoted student? Will I review/study a lot before and after each class?

5.     Do I have any experiences in learning any other foreign languages?

6.     General speaking, am I good at learning languages?

7.     What’s my goal of learning? Do I have a huge motivation?

8.     Do I live in an environment of Chinese (Taiwan, China..etc.) or not?

9.     Do I have anyone to practice with after class?

10.    How much time do I plan on learning Chinese? 3 years? 5 years?

11.    What’s my previous experience of learning a foreign language?


I’m a Taiwanese. I’ve been learning English since I was 16, so it’s been 17 years and my English is still NOT perfect. I still can’t understand every single word on BBC news or movies I watch perfectly and I make mistakes all the time! Language is not math or science that you can just put the formula in and get the answer.

Now I’ve been learning German for about 8 months now. I’m not a devote student, I study when I have time and when I feel like. I can have little conversation with the natives but making tons of mistakes. I can fit all the keywords in my sentences in order to make people understand and they know what I’m trying to say.

I’ve NEVER asked how much time will it take me to learn English or German! I just learn!! And the answer will just come to me!

If you must know the “how much time?” question, because your time is precious or you don’t have enough budget, time to learn Chinese. Then the thing I’m about to tell you, might be the answer you are looking for, and it’s the same answer for EVERYONE!

Almost every Chinese textbook has 6 proficiency levels since the official test of Chinese (HSK and TOCFL) divided into 6 levels. The textbook I’m using “Chinese Master” has 10 lessons each level. And 6 levels in total.

Let’s say you are a total beginner of Chinese, you need to learn pronunciation which is known as “pinyin” system for approximately 5-6 hours, and that’s the average number from my experience with my students. You might need more or less time to learn that!  

After Pinyin, you start learning lesson one of the textbook. So for level one, you’ll be learning saying hi, self-introduction, times, dates and numbers, buying things, talking about your family, telling likes and dislikes, telling people about your hobbies, the usage of verbs and actions in Mandarin, the usages of adverbs in Mandarin, the usage of adjectives in Mandarin, pointing location in Mandarin…

Each lesson in level one takes about 3-5 hours approximately in a small group class or 1 on 1 class setting. Now let’s do our math, 3~5 hours times 10 lessons plus 5~6 hours to learn pronunciation.

So you get 30~50 hours to finish level 1 + 3~5 hours to finish pronunciation, so It’s about 53~65 hours to be able to perform basic conversation in Mandarin.

By the way, the number of hours does NOT include learning Chinese characters!!

Okay…now you got the answer to your question. I still want to remind you, the key to master a language are your motivation and your effort for the language!!



Good luck and enjoy learning! ;)

SMART Mandarin

Katrina Lee


- 1 on 1 Chinese class in Hsinchu city
- small group Chinese class (2-4people) in Hsinchu city
- Online Skype Chinese lesson wherever you are
- Online audio & video lessons 24/7

Please feel free to contact me here at (Katrina Lee)


l  Picture from Google