How much Chinese a beginner can learn in 4 months

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I came across a great forum post today by someone who spent 4 months in Taiwan studying Chinese very instensively, about 70-80 hours a week. He (I will assume it's a he) started this experience as a beginner so it shows what can realistically be accomplished in such a short period of time, and the post is extremely detailed, including living and tutoring expenses, so it may help for others thinking of planning the same thing. Personally I do not like immersing myself in a language at this stage and also don't get the strong urge to do so until later on, but precisely this makes for an interesting comparison with how I learned Korean. One big difference right from the start: I never had to hire a tutor for conversation since making friends accomplished that, and being at an intermediate level upon arrival makes it that much easier to make such friends. At the lowest levels you need either an incredibly patient friend, or will have to pay a tutor / arrange a language exchange.

Immersing oneself in a language early on vs. later may seem to be irrelevant at first sight since both involve improving in a language, but it fact it is not: in most cases the student will end up returning to his home country, and after that "real life" will often set in. Back to school, back to work, out of money, etc. etc. If you, for example, have about $3000 in living expenses saved up but can make the trip now vs. later, later may be the better option if three or four months of exposure at a more advanced level can make all the difference between coming back an advanced beginner or coming back mostly fluent.

If you have a few hundred thousand saved up for language learning, however, then it won't matter a great deal. Spend four months abroad, come back, use lots of Italki or pay people to speak to you in person, and you will be able to continue the immersive experience wherever you happen to be.

Anyhow, read the post if at all curious what this person did in four months in Taiwan. Highly recommended.

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