Learn Chinese in 6 Months – How Far Can You Go?

Six Months of Studying Chinese in China – Alice’s Story

This experience was kindly brought to you by Alice. Could she learn Chinese in 6 months? Let’s find out!

Alice studied 24 weeks of small group classes in Beijing & lived with an LTL homestay for the first month of her course.

Something I Always Wanted To Do…

Studying Chinese was something I had always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity.

I graduated from university and, like most people my age, failed to get a job in the UK.

I decided to make the most of the opportunity and spend six-months in China learning Mandarin by booking a Chinese Gap Year program with LTL.

Main area of LTL Mandarin School
Main area of LTL Mandarin School

Picking a school was not easy. I wanted to do this right, and Beijing is full of immersive schools, all of which purport to offer the same excellent standard of teaching, for varying costs.

I decided on LTL, in part because it offered everything I wanted: central location, homestays, and small classes, but mostly because of the glowing reviews I’d seen online, which I later found were wholly deserved.

I chose to do six months, from November to May, with group classes, and my first month living in a homestay.

Before the Big Adventure

Before I moved to China I couldn’t speak a word of Chinese, and the prospect of moving to a country half way around the world alone was quite daunting, but also exciting.

Dinner with the host dad.
Dinner with the host dad.

After I arrived in Beijing, and also after some imaginative miming to a taxi driver, I made my way across the giant foreign city to the host family that I had been allocated.

I was unreasonably nervous about living with a host family.

I’d heard horror stories from friends who had done year abroad programmes, but I quickly found I had nothing to worry about.

My host family, a couple with a son the same age as me, were the most kind, welcoming family I could have hoped for.

They helped me settle in, cooked me delicious food and introduced me to another student who was living in the same building.

They spoke little English, and myself basically no Chinese, (which led to a lot of humorous misunderstandings) but their help was invaluable.

They would sit up with me each night teaching me Chinese and explained cultural differences.

One week, they even took me to a wedding of a friend, which was an incredible experience.

I was very sad to leave after the month was up, but they stayed in touch and often invited me back to have dinner or make dumplings with them.

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People always tell you what to do in China, but what about what NOT to do in China?

Classes at LTL School

The classes were really brilliant. I chose group classes, which involved four hours of classes a day, with a group of students ranging from 4 at its highest, though I was the only student in the class for quite a while.

I can’t stress enough how brilliant the teachers were.

I had three teachers during my time at LTL and all three became fast friends. The classes were intensive, teachers will try to use as much Chinese as possible very early on and try to only use English if absolutely necessary.

One of the things I found was that, because I was learning right from the very beginning with LTL, my Chinese foundation was solid.

Pinyin, tones and pronunciation were drilled into me from the start, which meant I could progress quickly.

The beginning stages were tough however – they say that Chinese is one of the hardest languages for an English speaker to learn for a reason, it’s just completely different.

You need to forget everything you know about European languages and just take it as it comes, which is hard to do at first.

However, unlike other languages, like French for example, Chinese doesn’t get harder and harder the more you learn it.

If anything, it gets easier and easier after you learn all the building blocks.

After you master tones and understand characters everything begins to make sense and learning actually becomes fun.

How about Social Life?

Learn Chinese in 6 Months - Alice's Story
Student night out in Beijing.

The social side of LTL was really brilliant too.

The school attracts a range of people from a huge number of backgrounds and I made many lifelong friends.

During the later stages of my course, my friends were almost all Chinese and I met my boyfriend who helped me rapidly improve (truly the best way to learn a language!).

My Chinese reached a level that I never could have expected, and by the end of my course I even managed to do a few job interviews in Chinese.

After six-months of study I reached HSK 5 standard, but not without a horrific amount of work and a real effort to immerse myself in China.

The skills I learnt at LTL were absolutely invaluable and will not be forgotten.

My Chinese skills eventually helped me to get a job in London, where I regularly work with colleagues from China, and am planning on moving back to Beijing in a year.

Overall I absolutely loved my time at LTL and wish I could have stayed longer!

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Any negatives?

There were, of course, not so great things during my time in China.

Beijing gets a lot of bad press, and many people had warned me that I wouldn’t enjoy my time in the city.

Learn Chinese in 6 Months - The Pandas
Visiting the Pandas in Beijing Zoo.

The underground is horrifically cramped, but you get used to it soon, and it’s part of the experience of living in the city.

Others had mentioned that the city had no personality, and this can seem true when first wandering through the streets – the city’s sprawling districts are almost indistinguishable from one another.

But underneath the veneer, each area has its own character and vibe. Beijing needs a lot of patience, but it has a lot to offer, and has many cool pockets waiting to be discovered.

Truthfully, the only really bad aspect of living in China was all the weight I put on from eating all the delicious food…

In a nutshell my time in China was…

Overall, my time at LTL was incredible and I would absolutely recommend the school to anyone who is serious about learning Mandarin.

My advice for anyone coming to China to study would be, above anything else, make a real effort to socialise with Chinese society as early as possible.

It can be tempting to stay in a comfortable bubble of English speakers, but that won’t be doing your Chinese any good.

I wouldn’t have been able to reach the standard I did without the help of my various patient language partners who I bored with my basic Chinese, and later, the kind Chinese friends who pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me how to use Mandarin in real life situations.

Learn Chinese in 6 Months – FAQ’s

Can you become fluent in Chinese after 6 months?

Simply put, no. It’s not possible. You can make great progress for sure, but fluency is a broad term, and you’d need a minimum of a year to get even close to spoken fluency in Chinese.

How much Chinese can I learn in 6 months?

With a consistent study program and some determination students can certainly reach HSK 4 level from no Chinese in 6 months, sometimes perhaps further like in Alice’s case in this blog.

Is Chinese hard to learn?

Although for westerners Chinese would be harder than learning Italian, Spanish or French… it is not as hard as people make it out to be. Once the initial tones, words and structures are learnt, it’s actually a very logical language to learn.

Days and Months are heavily reliant on numbers which are just a case of memory, and Chinese doesn’t use tenses meaning he ate, she eats, he’s eating are said in the same way. Very convenient.

How can I Learn Chinese in 6 Months with LTL?

Our Gap Year program or Multi City programs would be the ideal choice for you. Check out our Price calculator to get an idea of the sorts of programs you can build with us in a 6 month period.

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