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How Long Does it Take to Learn Chinese?

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How long will it take me to achieve the desired level in my target language? Will I ever get there? 

These can be excruciating questions for any diligent language learner, but knowing the answers can give you a sense of security and motivate you to work even harder toward your goal

Today, we’re going to answer that pressing question: How long does it take to learn Chinese? We’ll give you the best possible answer for each of the three major levels in Chinese learning (beginner, intermediate, and advanced). Moreover, we’ll provide you with a few secret tips on how to learn Chinese effectively! 

But first: Have you ever wondered why some people can learn Chinese quickly, and others learn it more slowly? Well, there are many contributing factors. Your language learning progress can be affected by any number of things, such as…

  • …the kind of environment you’re in. 
  • …the amount of time and effort you dedicate to learning. 
  • …your own gift or knack for languages. 

After reading this article, I believe you’ll have a much better idea of how long it will take you to master Chinese based on these and other factors.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. The Factors Involved in Your Learning Progress
  2. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Beginner Level?
  3. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Intermediate Level?
  4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Advanced Level?
  5. Conclusion

1. The Factors Involved in Your Learning Progress

As mentioned, there are a few different things that can affect how long it takes to learn Chinese. Here’s a quick breakdown of those factors for you. 

Your Native Language vs. Chinese

All of the time estimates in this guide are based on the assumption that your native language is English or one of the Romance languages, which are very different from the Chinese language. But if you happen to know one or more Asian languages already (such as Korean or Japanese), congratulations! This will definitely give you a major advantage and make the learning process a lot faster for you, because these languages share many similarities with Chinese. 

Your Study Method

Everyone has his or her own way of learning and adapting to things. The first thing you should do is become aware of your personal strengths and weaknesses, and then find the best way to utilize or tackle them. 

Secondly, determine your goal and main reason for learning the language. Do you want to become a fluent Chinese speaker so you can have fulfilling conversations while traveling? Or would you like to read a book in Chinese? Your answers to these questions will determine how much time you should assign to learning different parts of the language, such as reading comprehension/vocab memorization and speaking/pronunciation practice. 

Once you pinpoint your goals, it’s time to take real action! Are you going to self-teach or learn the language systematically at an institution or convenient online class? To figure this out, ask yourself whether you thrive in people-oriented environments, or whether you have enough discipline to study by yourself. Either way, find the learning methods that best suit your interests and preferences. 

From there, it’s all about dedication! 

Your Own Dedication

A Man Studying Late at Night

If you want to achieve something, then you’ll have to pour your sweat and tears into it.

Have you established your goals and put a systematic learning system in place for yourself? Great! But that’s just the start. Learning a language is a daily practice that requires consistency; if you ever break that consistency, your progress may go downhill. 

You need to always keep your motivation in mind and push yourself forward in this long journey, little by little. You might get upset sometimes, but remember that this happens to everyone. It may take a long time for the progress to reveal itself, so it’s normal to become frustrated. The important thing is that you don’t give up. 

The Environment Around You

If you’re planning to move to China for work, study, or even just a short trip, take advantage of the opportunity and talk to people. Pay attention to the way they talk and never feel afraid to speak, even if you have limited proficiency. 

If you were raised in a bilingual environment, this is another huge plus for learning a third language. This is because your brain has already adapted to language learning and switching between languages—one less factor to worry about! 

Of course, it’s possible that you’re stuck in your own place for now and have no native Chinese speakers around. No worries! Try your best to create an immersive environment for yourself, whether that means listening to local Chinese audio sources, watching Chinese shows, or even trying to make a Chinese friend online. All of these things may boost your language speaking ability dramatically!

2. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Beginner Level?

Regardless of your goals, it’s important to start strong as you enter the beginner level. Here’s some useful information on how long you can expect this to take, what the “beginner level” looks like, and how to get there quickly! 

What a Chinese Beginner Needs to Know

A Man with Steam Coming Out of His Ears in Frustration

The beginning part of the learning process is always the hardest!

HSK, also known as 汉语水平考试 (hàn yǔ shuǐ píng kǎo shì) in Chinese, is the only official Mandarin Chinese proficiency exam for non-native speakers in China. It includes six levels across the beginner, intermediate, and advanced stages. 

As a beginner in the Chinese language, you should first start by learning the Pinyin system. Once you have that down, you can move on to learning phrases for basic daily greetings, self-introductions, telling the time, and asking for help and directions, as well as other everyday vocabulary. 

Of course, your proficiency is very limited at this point. Chinese is a tonal language, a concept that is difficult for speakers of English and Romance languages to grasp. In addition, the writing system is quite different and thus complicated to learn. Don’t worry about those things just yet; try your best to master the basics first and the harder aspects will become easier as you progress.

Required Time to Achieve the Beginner Level

Because Chinese is one of the most difficult languages in the world, it usually takes more time to grasp the fundamentals than it would for other languages. Assuming a student is studying consistently on a daily basis and putting in quality effort, it should take around 30-50 hours to achieve a beginner level. 

Secret Tips for Beginners

Are you feeling overwhelmed already, and wondering how to learn Chinese from scratch in the most efficient way possible? Don’t worry! These tips from ChineseClass101.com will help you make the most of your study time. 

Tip #1

Take advantage of your free time or time between tasks! You can keep a stack of flashcards in your pocket to review throughout the day or repeat vocabulary in your head while waiting in line, doing chores, or even taking a shower. Don’t underestimate these precious moments; once they accumulate, they can become pretty powerful.

Tip #2

Watch some Netflix shows or YouTube videos in Chinese with the help of English or Chinese subtitles, and never let a new vocab word slip past you again! Once you catch a word you don’t know, pause the video and look it up. It can be excruciating to pause the video over and over again, but trust me: you’ll learn more this way than you would just being entertained!

Tip #3

Chinese is a flexible language. As a beginner, you should start by mastering the Pinyin and trying to get a hang of the tones. Once you grasp the pronunciation aspect, it’s time to learn the most frequently used vocabulary and practice using those words in sentences. Don’t worry about the writing just yet—after all, learning how to converse is the most important part of learning a language.

Sample Lesson from ChineseClass101 – “How are you?”

Language points: Common daily phrases
Highlight: Learn how to use Chinese adjectives and how to negate them.
Estimated time to study: An hour
Tips: Try to read out loud along with the video, doing so several times until you get used to reading the new phrases. Try reading them by yourself while thinking about the meaning.

3. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Intermediate Level?

Depending on your goals, the next logical step is probably to begin working toward an intermediate level. But what exactly does this look like and how long will it take to get there? 

What an Intermediate Chinese Learner Needs to Know

Two Twin Girls Sitting on the Couch and Raising Their Arms

You’re getting better and better now after so much practice! Congratulations!

It takes about 1-3 years to become fluent in daily conversations in Chinese. At this level, you’ll be able to talk about what you’ve done and express your feelings, which are considered intermediate-level topics. Additionally, you should be able to articulate the different tones most of the time and be able to read any Chinese character with the help of Pinyin. 

The writing system may still seem complicated to you as an intermediate learner, but you should be able to write some basic Chinese characters. In addition, you should be able to read most of the commonly used sentences and have a good understanding of how they’re structured. 

Required Time to Achieve the Intermediate Level

I suggest you spend at least two hours a day studying, which will ensure you can achieve the intermediate level within three years. These two hours should be spent effectively, studying all aspects of the language: active reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

Secret Tips for Intermediate Chinese Learners

Tip #1

Instead of flashcards, you should now have a handbook of all the new and old vocabulary you’ve learned. You should form the habit of reviewing and updating it daily to keep track of your progress.

Tip #2

As you approach the intermediate level, you should try to start thinking like a Chinese speaker. This will pave the way for your upcoming advanced-level studies. Namely, you should actively learn Chinese like a native speaker and try to memorize vocabulary without translating it to your own language.

Sample Lesson from ChineseClass101 – “Chinese Study Abroad”

Language points: Vocabulary and grammar
Highlight: Learn how to stand up for yourself.
Estimated time to study: An hour and a half
Tips: Take advantage of the “Vocabulary” part of the lesson, because it will introduce you to the Chinese spelling, Pinyin, and pronunciation of the most commonly used words for daily conversations.

4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Advanced Level?

If your goal is to become completely fluent in Chinese, then let us congratulate you! That will be a huge accomplishment that will change your life for the better. To help you out, here’s everything you need to know about how to reach this level and how long it will take. 

What an Advanced Chinese Learner Needs to Know

Two People with Cardboard Boxes on Their Head Giving the Thumbs-up Sign

Gotta give yourself a thumbs-up if you ever achieve this level!

An advanced Chinese learner should be able to express things in depth and in a more elaborate manner. Prior to reaching this level, you should have started to learn more like a native speaker, meaning that you’re now able to speak, write, read, and listen without translation to your native language (most of the time).

Required Time to Achieve the Advanced Level

It takes about 4-7 years (roughly 2200 to 4000 hours) to become fluent in every aspect of the language, if you spend at least an hour and a half to study every day. However, it’s quite common for learners to become more fluent in some areas than others depending on how they allotted their study time. For example, you might have excellent Chinese speaking skills but have limited reading and writing ability. 

Secret Tips for Advanced Chinese Learners

Tip #1

You should try to create the best possible language learning environment for yourself as possible. To do this, try to think and talk to yourself in Chinese whenever you can; this will enhance your ability to learn the language like a native speaker would. If you’ve experienced any struggles with thinking in Chinese, you should actively look for a solution to this problem while you continue to pick up useful vocabulary and expressions. 

Tip #2

You should now challenge yourself by reading simple Chinese books and trying to keep a journal in Chinese. This will improve your skills in both reading and writing, as well as speaking. Above all, you should shift your goal from simply being able to converse to enriching the conversation.

Sample Lesson from ChineseClass101 – “The Joy of Being Busy”

Language points: Grammar, structure of sentences, and vocabulary
Highlight: Listen to our Chinese host talk about what she does in her spare time to relax in China.
Estimated time to study: Two hours
Tips: Try to learn the sentence patterns and common phrases used here. You can use them for your journal to make your writing sound more natural.

Conclusion

A ChineseClass101 Image

ChineseClass101 has the ultimate Chinese learning resources for you!

How long does it take to learn Chinese? By now, you should have a much clearer picture of the time commitment you’re looking at based on your goals. No matter what those goals are or where you are right now, there are two important things you should do to maximize your progress: 

  • Know your personal strengths and weaknesses.
  • Build your own unique learning system.

ChineseClass101 has established a unique learning system customized for our dedicated members. Our approach allows students to learn Chinese in the fastest and easiest way possible. We provide thousands of practical, immersive lessons that will guide you through daily Chinese conversations with up-to-date vocabulary and colloquial language—and the fun doesn’t stop there! 

You’ll also get a chance to experience Chinese culture and local life. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner, you can be sure to find your perfect fit as we have lessons for every level of proficiency. Join now and you’ll get much more than learning materials. You’ll be getting the language learning experience of a lifetime!

How likely are you to start (or continue) learning Chinese after reading this article? Do you still have any questions or concerns? Let us know in the comments!

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Is Chinese Hard to Learn? (And How to Love it Anyway)

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You’re interested in learning Mandarin Chinese, but rumor has it that it’s the most difficult language in the world. You start to have second thoughts. 

You’re not alone. To a lot of people, especially those who speak a Romance language, the Chinese language not only “sounds Greek,” but worse. The mysterious symbols, the absence of an alphabet, the hard-to-pronounce sounds, the Yin and Yang, and the ancient philosophies behind the language…the list goes on. 

Is Chinese hard to learn? Maybe. But should it keep you from moving forward? 

Definitely not! 

Chinese is a beautiful language. Imagine if the Chinese language were a woman—stunning, exotic, seemingly distant. You want to pursue her, but there’s a voice whispering in your ear that she’s out of your league. Would you give up right away, without even trying? 

Never! 

With the proper motivation, strategies, perseverance, and a few tips (which I’ll provide you with in this article), you can have a wonderful relationship with Chinese that will make everybody else jealous!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Chinese Table of Contents
  1. Getting to Know Chinese: The Easy Parts and the Difficult Parts
  2. Getting Serious: Start Off on the Right Foot
  3. A Little Professional Help Goes a Long Way

1. Getting to Know Chinese: The Easy Parts and the Difficult Parts

Now you’re officially on a date with Chinese. Here are some things you should know about her.

A- What’s the easy part of Chinese?

Grammar.

That’s right. Grammar is the easiest thing about Chinese. Here’s why:

i. Distinctions between tenses and moods are vague, with no verb conjugations. 

Chinese is a highly contextual language. Whether an action has happened, is happening, or will happen is usually indicated by time phrases and particles. 

For example, 爱 (ài) is a verb that means “to love.”

Book Pages Making a Heart Shape
    ➢ 我爱中文。(Wǒ ài Zhōngwén.)
    “I love Chinese.”

Basic simple tense.

    ➢ 我曾经爱过中文。(Wǒ céngjīng àiguò Zhōngwén.)
    “I used to love Chinese.”

Key words: 曾经 (céngjīng), meaning “at one time,” and the particle (guò), which marks an action that has been completed.

Together, they suggest that this is an event that happened in the past. The literal translation is: “I at one time loved Chinese.”

    ➢ 我一直爱着中文。(Wǒ yìzhí àizhe Zhōngwén.)
    “I’ve been in love with Chinese the whole time.”

Key words: 一直 (yìzhí), meaning “always,” and the particle (zhe), which marks an ongoing action or a continuous state. 

Together, they make this sentence equivalent to one in the present perfect continuous tense. The literal translation is: “I always have been loving Chinese.” 

Learning Chinese saves you the pain of reciting patterns of different tenses and the verb conjugation chart (which I have been through, miserably). All you need to know is a handful of time phrases and particles. A lot simpler than English, by comparison.

ii. Nouns don’t have gender or plural forms. 

There’s no need to memorize the gender of every new noun you learn. And there are no plural forms, either. To express plurality in Chinese, simply use adjectives or a number plus measure words, before nouns.

For example, 苹果 (píngguǒ) means “apple.”

One and a Half Apples
    ➢ 你有一个苹果。(Nǐ yǒu yí ge píngguǒ.)
    “You have one apple.”

Key word: 一个 (yí ge), meaning “one count.”

    ➢ 我有很多苹果。(Wǒ yǒu hěn duō píngguǒ.)
    “I have many apples.”

Key word: 很多 (hěn duō), meaning “many.” 

The Chinese language doesn’t care if an apple is a girl or a boy, or whether you have one apple or many. 苹果(píngguǒ), “apple,” is just 苹果 (píngguǒ).

iii. The word order is the same as that in English. 

The sentence structure in Chinese is the same Subject + Verb + Object pattern that’s used in English. 

For example, to say “I love apples” in Chinese, simply translate it word-for-word, in the same order.

我 () + 爱 (ài) + 苹果 (píngguǒ)。
Subject + Verb + Object
“I” + “love” + “apples.”

2- What’s the difficult part of learning Chinese? 

To build a relationship that’s going to last, you’ll also need to be ready to face some hardships. What makes Chinese so hard to learn? To give you a heads-up, here are two major challenges you may encounter when learning Chinese:

i. Chinese Characters

At first glance, Chinese writing looks breathtaking. But get ready for this attraction to mellow down once you sit down and get serious about studying 汉字, or “Chinese characters.” Mastering these enchanting symbols will take commitment and time:

  • One, you need to memorize the pronunciation of a character. 
  • Two, you need to memorize the meanings of that character. 
  • Three, you need to match the pronunciation, the meaning, and how the character looks. 
  • And four, you need to know which stroke comes first when writing it. 

Many learners find Chinese characters hard to learn, and so they only learn Pinyin. You may get away with knowing only Pinyin in everyday conversations, which we’ll talk more about later in this article, but if your goal is to be able to read and write—and eventually work and live in China—you have to learn Chinese characters.

Snack on Shelves

Do you know what you’re getting at a grocery store in China?

Don’t get me wrong. Chinese characters are by no means impossible to learn. All I’m trying to do is get you mentally prepared. Hopefully, when the time comes, you’ll go: Hey, learning Chinese characters is not that hard after all!  

ii. Tones

Let’s move on to the speaking and listening part, which shouldn’t be underestimated either. 

A quick way to tell if someone is a native Chinese-speaker or not is to listen and find out if he or she hit the tones right. Even people who have lived in China and have studied Chinese for a while are vulnerable to making tonal mistakes

Some quick facts about Chinese tones:

Every Chinese word comes with tones. There are five tones in total:

  • The first tone is high and flat, like a robot talking in a high pitch. 
  • The second tone is a rising tone, as if you were asking a question. 
  • The third tone starts low, and dips down even lower before it goes up. 
  • The fourth tone drops sharply from a high pitch. 
  • The fifth tone is light and fast. 

Don’t worry, it’ll take some time to identify the five tones of various pitches, duration, and contour. And that’s not even taking into account the immersion and practice it’ll take to say every single word with accuracy in conversations.

The second “unfair” fact about Chinese tones is that one syllable often has multiple tones. With each tone, that syllable becomes a different word with totally different meanings.

For example:

    ➢ 吻 (wěn) with the third tone means “to kiss.”
    问 (wèn) with the fourth tone means “to ask.”

Make sure you say it with the fourth falling tone when you want to ask someone a question: 我可以问你一下吗?(Wǒ kěyǐ wèn nǐ yīxià ma?) Otherwise, you’d end up asking: “May I kiss you?” or 我可以吻你一下吗 (Wǒ kěyǐ wěn nǐ yīxià ma?

Here’s another:

    ➢ 熊猫 (xióngmāo) means “panda,” with the first syllable in the second tone. 
    胸毛 (xiōngmáo) means “chest hair,” with the first syllable in the first tone.

Make sure you say “Chinese pandas are cute” with the correct tones: 中国的熊猫很可爱。(Zhōngguó de xióngmāo hěn kěài.) This way, you won’t get a bunch of eye rolls from saying: “Chinese chest hair is cute.” or 中国的胸毛很可爱。(Zhōngguó de xiōngmáo hěn kěài.)

Guy Scratching Head Looking Baffled

You’d probably be like: “What did I say?”

2. Getting Serious: Start Off on the Right Foot

So glad you’re still reading! That means you’re serious about learning Chinese, which is the attitude we want. 

It’s important to look in the right places when you first start. Depending on how much time you have, start gathering the following learning materials and tools and go through them either simultaneously, or one at a time. 

A- Pinyin Chart ᠆ Your Secret Pronunciation Weapon

We briefly mentioned 拼音, or “Pinyin,” earlier in this article. Pinyin is the romanization system for Chinese characters. It literally means “spell sound.” Pinyin wasn’t developed until the 1950s, and was created to help learners identify Chinese characters and remember how to pronounce them. It’s primarily used by school-aged children in China and non-native language-learners. 

This is how Pinyin works in a nutshell: One Chinese character has one syllable. One syllable spelled by Pinyin is usually made of a consonant, a vowel, and a tone mark. 

Many of the consonant and vowel sounds in Pinyin are close to, or even the same as, the ones in English, but some are different. All Pinyin letters and sounds can be found in our Pinyin chart, which is a great learning tool that you’ll be using frequently, especially as a beginner. Getting familiar with the Pinyin chart is something you should do when you first start learning Chinese. 

B- Common Core Words – Your Daily Love Notes

You should also start building your vocabulary from Day 1. Start with the most common everyday words in Chinese, and memorize a few every day, or every week, at your own pace. 

Not sure where to find the common core words? Here’s a page on which you’ll find the most frequently used Chinese words.  

You should start with something easy, such as memorizing the numbers from 1 to 10. As your vocabulary expands, you may find yourself slowing down, only being able to learn five a day instead of ten. This is totally fine and normal. The number of words you learn every day doesn’t matter. What matters is that you know how to use them in context and in real-life situations. Luckily, all the words on the page we recommended above come with sample sentences, so you can better understand each word and how to use them properly. 

With these common words, you can create your own vocabulary lists, make flashcards, and learn at any time, anywhere. Don’t forget to review them periodically. 

C- Study Plans and Motivation – Show How Much You Care

Roses, Sweets in a Box and a Note

i. How to Make Study Plans

There’s a saying in Chinese that goes: 磨刀不误砍柴工 (módāo bú wù kǎncháigōng). It means that sharpening your axe before chopping wood will save you time and effort. Making study plans is like taking the time to sharpen your axe. 

When making study plans, take two factors into consideration: #1, how much time you would like to contribute to learning Chinese, and #2, what level you’d like to achieve. 

Once you’ve squared these two questions away, the next step is to make day-to-day plans. For instance, study for ten minutes every day on your commute, memorize words about colors by next week, find time over the weekend to chat with your Chinese friends or language partner in Chinese only. For your study to really work, it needs to be specific and tangible. 

ii. How to Keep Yourself Going

A goal without a plan is just a wish. A plan without motivation is doomed to fail. 

As another popular Chinese saying goes: 不忘初心,方得始终 (bú wàng chūxīn, fāng dé shǐzhōng). It means that one should not forget why they started. Their goals can only be met with this in mind.

When feeling frustrated or defeated, think about what brought you here. Do you still remember why you started learning Chinese? What motivated you in the first place? 

In the meantime, take a moment to review what you’ve achieved. Sometimes we’re so busy moving forward, and forget to look back. Think about why you started and how far you’ve come along. This will help you refresh your weary heart and pump up your motivation again.  

3. A Little Professional Help Goes a Long Way

Even with the easiest language in the world, studying it on your own is challenging. When you feel aimless and frustrated, all you need is a map, or someone who knows the way, to point you in the right direction.

Blind-folded Man Walking on an Imaginary Bridge

ChineseClass101.com has been designed to fulfill that guiding role. 

    ★ We have FREE lessons and resources in various forms: podcasts, videos, PDFs, flashcards, and more. You can pick the way to learn that works best for you.
    ★ Our lessons cover all levels, from absolute beginner to advanced. With weekly updated lessons, you’ll never run out of learning materials.
    ★ Whenever you have a question, post it in the comment section; our teachers will explain it until you understand, without judgement.
    ★ If you’re determined to reach a certain level of proficiency in a relatively short amount of time, try out a Premium PLUS account. You’ll have a learning path designed only for you, as well as your own personal tutor!

Have you started learning Chinese already, or already mastered another language? What tips would you offer brand-new learners of Chinese? 

All in all, falling in love with Chinese is easy. Maintaining this relationship requires effort, though. How far down the road you get really depends on you and how you learn. 

Whenever you feel like giving up, remind yourself that everything you do to learn Chinese will be worth it. One day, you’ll be able to chat with locals with ease. And one day, when people ask you if Chinese is hard to learn, you’ll tell them: “No, it’s not that hard. I did it. You can too!” 

Wedding Bouquet with a Couple in the Background

恭喜! (Gōngxǐ!) – “Congratulations!”

About the author: Influenced by her grandfather, Yinru has shown interest in languages and teaching since early childhood. After getting her degrees in English and Education, Yinru moved to the US and continued her career as a Mandarin teacher. 

Yinru enjoys travelling, photography, and introducing Chinese food to her non-Chinese friends.

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Chinese Keyboard: How to Install and Type in Chinese

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You asked, so we provided—easy-to-follow instructions on how to set up your electronic devices to write in Chinese! We’ll also give you a few excellent tips on how to use this keyboard, as well as some online and app alternatives if you prefer not to set up a Chinese keyboard.

Log in to Download Your Free Chinese Alphabet Worksheet Table of Contents
  1. Why it’s Important to Learn to Type in Chinese
  2. Setting up Your Computer and Mobile Devices for Chinese
  3. How to Activate an Onscreen Keyboard on Your Computer
  4. How to Change the Language Settings to Chinese on Your Computer
  5. Activating the Chinese Keyboard on Your Mobile Phone and Tablet
  6. Chinese Keyboard Typing Tips
  7. How to Practice Typing Chinese

1. Why it’s Important to Learn to Type in Chinese

A keyboard

Learning a new language is made so much easier when you’re able to read and write/type it. This way, you will:

  • Get the most out of any dictionary and Chinese language apps on your devices
  • Expand your ability to find Chinese websites and use the various search engines
  • Be able to communicate much better online with your Chinese teachers and friends, and look super cool in the process! 

2. Setting up Your Computer and Mobile Devices for Chinese

A phone charging on a dock

It takes only a few steps to set up any of your devices to read and type in Chinese. It’s super-easy on your mobile phone and tablet, and a simple process on your computer.

On your computer, you’ll first activate the onscreen keyboard to work with. You’ll only be using your mouse or touchpad/pointer for this keyboard. Then, you’ll need to change the language setting to Chinese, so all text will appear in Chinese. You could also opt to use online keyboards instead. Read on for the links!

On your mobile devices, it’s even easier—you only have to change the keyboard. We also provide a few alternatives in the form of online keyboards and downloadable apps.

3. How to Activate an Onscreen Keyboard on Your Computer

1- Mac

1. Go to System Preferences > Keyboard.

2. Check the option “Show Keyboard & Character Viewers in Menu Bar.”

3. You’ll see a new icon on the right side of the main bar; click on it and select “Show Keyboard Viewer.”

A screenshot of the keyboard viewer screen

2- Windows

1. Go to Start > Settings > Easy Access > Keyboard.

2. Turn on the option for “Onscreen Keyboard.”

3- Online Keyboards

If you don’t want to activate your computer’s onscreen keyboard, you also have the option to use online keyboards. Here are some good options:

  • Gate2Home
    • On the bottom right corner, choose “Chinese Simplified Pinyin” or “Chinese Traditional Pinyin.” Please do not choose “Chinese Cangjie.”
  • virtualkeyboard.biz
    • From the “Keyboard” drop down menu, you can switch to “Chinese Traditional Pinyin.” Please do not choose “Chinese Cangjie.”

4- Add-ons of Extensions for Browsers

Instead of an online keyboard, you could also choose to download a Google extension to your browser for a language input tool. The Google Input Tools extension allows users to use input tools in Chrome web pages, for example.

4. How to Change the Language Settings to Chinese on Your Computer

Man looking at his computer

Now that you’re all set to work with an onscreen keyboard on your computer, it’s time to download the Chinese language pack for your operating system of choice:

  • Windows 8 (and higher)
  • Windows 7
  • Mac (OS X and higher)

1- Windows 8 (and higher)

  1. Go to “Settings” > “Change PC Settings” > “Time & Language” > “Region & Language.”
  2. Click on “Add a Language” and select “Chinese (Simplified, China).” This will add it to your list of languages. It will appear as 中文 (中华人民共和国) with the note “language pack available.”
  3. Click on “中文(中华人民共和国)” > “Options” > “Download.” It’ll take a few minutes to download and install the language pack.
  4. As a keyboard layout, you’ll only need the one marked as “Chinese – 中文.” You can ignore other keyboard layouts.
    1. To switch to Traditional Chinese: Click on 中文(中华人民共和国) > “Options” > “Microsoft Pinyin” > “Options” > “General” > “Choose a character set” > then choose “Traditional Chinese”.

2- Windows 7

1. Go to Start > Control Panel > Clock, Language, and Region.

2. On the “Region and Language” option, click on “Change Keyboards or Other Input Methods.”

3. On the “Keyboards and Languages” tab, click on “Change Keyboards” > “Add” > “Chinese.”

4. Expand the option of “Chinese” and then expand the option “Keyboard.” Select the keyboard layout marked as “Chinese.” You can ignore other keyboard layouts. Click “OK” and then “Apply.”

3- Mac (OS X and higher)

If you can’t see the language listed, please make sure to select the right option from System Preferences > Language and Region

1. From the Apple Menu (top left corner of the screen) go to System Preferences > Keyboard.

2. Click the Input Sources tab and a list of available keyboards and input methods will appear.

3. Click on the plus button, select “Chinese Simplified,” and add the “Pinyin – Simplified” keyboard (not the “Stroke – Simplified” or “Wubi Xing.”)

4. For Traditional Chinese, instead do the following: Click on the plus button, select “Chinese Traditional,” and add the “Pinyin – Traditional” keyboard (not the “Stroke – Traditional” or other different types).

Adding a system language

5. Activating the Chinese Keyboard on Your Mobile Phone and Tablet

Texting and searching in Chinese will greatly help you master the language! Adding a Chinese keyboard on your mobile phone and/or tablet is super-easy.

You could also opt to download an app instead of adding a keyboard. Read on for our suggestions.

Below are the instructions for both iOS and Android mobile phones and tablets.

1- iOS

1. Go to Settings > General > Keyboard.

2. Tap “Keyboards” and then “Add New Keyboard.”

3. Select ”Chinese Simplified – Pinyin” from the list. For Traditional Chinese, select “Chinese Traditional,” and add the “Chinese Traditional – Pinyin” from the list.

5. When typing, you can switch between languages by tapping and holding on the icon to reveal the keyboard language menu.

2- Android

1. Go to Settings > General Management > Language and Input > On-screen Keyboard (or “Virtual Keyboard” on some devices) > Samsung Keyboard.

2. Tap “Language and Types” or “ + Select Input Languages” depending on the device and then “MANAGE INPUT LANGUAGES” if available.

3. Select “中文 (简体)” from the list. For Traditional Chinese, select “中文 (繁體)” from the list.

4. When typing, you can switch between languages by swiping the space bar.

3- Applications for Mobile Phones

If you don’t want to add a keyboard on your mobile phone or tablet, these are a few good apps to consider:

6. Chinese Keyboard Typing Tips

Typing in Chinese can be very challenging at first! Therefore, we added here a few useful tips to make it easier to use your Chinese keyboard.

A man typing on a computer

1- Computer

  • To increase the typing speed, instead of typing character by character, you can group them together or even type the whole sentence out.
  • To increase the typing speed, when typing words with two or more characters, often you can just input the first letter of each syllable.
  • Use an apostrophe to separate an ambiguous pair of syllables. For example, “Xi’an.”
  • “ü” is represented by “v” on the keyboard. For example, to type “lü” or “nü,” use “lv” and “nv” respectively.

2- Mobile Phones

  • To increase the typing speed, instead of typing character by character, you can group them together or even type the whole sentence out.
  • To increase the typing speed, when typing words with two or more characters, often you can just input the first letter of each syllable.
  • Use an apostrophe to separate an ambiguous pair of syllables. For example, “Xi’an.”
  • “ü” is represented by “v” on the keyboard. For example, to type “lü” or “nü,” use “lv” and “nv” respectively.

7. How to Practice Typing Chinese

As you probably know by now, learning Chinese is all about practice, practice, and more practice! Strengthen your Chinese typing skills by writing comments on any of our lesson pages, and our teacher will answer. If you’re a ChineseClass101 Premium PLUS member, you can directly text our teacher via the My Teacher app—use your Chinese keyboard to do this!

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How to Introduce Your Family in Chinese

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Almost everyone holds a special place in their heart for families. A family is those you’re bound with from birth, the ones who will always be there for you unconditionally. When we first meet someone, we like to be familiar with their family background. Knowing this provides valuable information on that person’s upbringing, which could shape their personality dramatically. Thus, it’s important to learn how to talk about your family in Chinese.

In China, family has great importance. 孝顺 (xiào shùn), which means being responsible and obedient to parents, is one of the best qualities a person can have. While reading this article, keep in mind that the Chinese view of parent-child relationships differs in some ways from that of Western countries.

Now let’s get right into today’s adventure!

Table of Contents

  1. Family Perceptions in China
  2. Family Member Terms and Other Basics
  3. Terms for Relatives
  4. Family Member Terms as a Married Person
  5. Endearment Terms
  6. Bonus – Interesting Expressions about Family Members
  7. Conclusion: How ChineseClass101 Can Help You Master Family Terms

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1. Family Perceptions in China

Parents Phrases

The family institution in China is incredibly strong. China highly values family bonds, particularly parent-child relationships. When it comes to family in the Chinese culture, there are even traditions that say children should never travel far, and should always stay with their parents.

Even now, many men still live with their parents even after their marriage. In this case, the woman will have to move to the man’s house and live with his parents. This sometimes creates an unpleasant relationship between the wife and her mother-in-law, which is a situation you can see used as a stereotype in a wide variety of Chinese shows.

There are many different ways to name family members depending on your relationship to them. Age difference is the main factor in determining what to call a family member, since Chinese people heavily emphasize that youngsters should respect their elders.

One thing to keep in mind: Unlike in Western culture, it’s not respectful to directly call elders by their names. This matter will be introduced more thoroughly later in this article.

2. Family Member Terms and Other Basics

Family Words

Here are some Chinese words for family members to expand your family in Chinese vocabulary! With just these basic words and phrases, you have a great place to start a simple conversation about family.

  • In Chinese: 家人
    Pinyin: jiā rén
    In English: family

    In Chinese: 我的家庭很幸福。
    Pinyin: Wǒ de jiā tíng hěn xìng fú.
    In English: I have a happy family.

    In Chinese: 我是在单亲家庭中长大的。
    Pinyin: Wǒ shì zài dān qīn jiā tíng zhōng zhǎng dà de.
    In English: I grew up in a single-parent family.

  • In Chinese: 母亲
    Pinyin: mǔ qīn
    In English: mother
  • In Chinese: 父亲
    Pinyin: fù qīn
    In English: father
  • In Chinese: 妈妈
    Pinyin: mā ma
    In English: mom
  • In Chinese: 爸爸
    Pinyin: bà ba
    In English: dad
  • In Chinese: 姐姐 / 妹妹
    Pinyin: jiě jie / mèi mei
    In English: (older) sister / (younger) sister

    In Chinese: 我有个[姐姐].
    Pinyin: Wǒ yǒu gè [jiě jie].
    In English: I have a(n) [older sister].

  • In Chinese: 哥哥/弟弟
    Pinyin: gē ge /dì di
    In English: (older) brother / (younger) brother
  • In Chinese: 兄弟姐妹
    Pinyin: xiōng dì jiě mèi
    In English: sibling

Fun fact: The interesting thing about siblings in Chinese is that older and younger siblings have different terms, whereas English does not.

  • In Chinese: 姥爷 / 爷爷 / 祖父
    Pinyin: lǎo yé / yé ye / zǔ fù
    In English: (mother’s side) grandfather / (father’s side) grandfather / grandfather
  • In Chinese: 姥姥 / 奶奶 / 祖母
    Pinyin: lǎo lao / nǎi nai / zǔ mǔ
    In English: (mother’s side) grandmother / (father’s side) grandmother / grandmother
  • In Chinese: 父母 / 家长
    Pinyin: fù mǔ / jiā zhǎng
    In English: parents

Fun fact: The literal meaning of 家长 is the family’s leader.

  • In Chinese: 祖父母
    Pinyin: zǔ fù mǔ
    In English: grandparents
  • In Chinese: 曾祖母
    Pinyin: zēng zǔ mǔ
    In English: great grandmother
  • In Chinese: 曾祖父
    Pinyin: zēng zǔ fù
    In English: great grandfather

3. Terms for Relatives

Family in Winter Clothes Outside
Who can say having a big family isn’t fun?

Now, let’s work our way around the Chinese family tree, so that you’ll never struggle to find the right word for a family member!

  • In Chinese: 亲戚/亲属
    Pinyin: qīn qi / qīn shǔ
    In English: relative

Fun fact: There’s a fun Chinese term called 走亲戚 (zǒu qīn qi), which literally means “walk through relatives.” This is a tradition that Chinese people normally have during Chinese New Year, which is also known as the Spring Festival. It’s a holiday where families spend time together and catch up, just like Christmas in Western cultures. If some families can’t make the reunion, you’ll need to 走亲戚, to visit them at their place and spend some quality time. This shows that the Chinese extended family is just as important as the Chinese immediate family.

  • In Chinese: 叔叔
    Pinyin: shū shu
    In English: uncle
  • In Chinese: 阿姨
    Pinyin: ā yí
    In English: aunt

Fun fact: In English, youngsters can usually call their elders who have no relations Mr. or Ms. and such, and sometimes if an elder is close enough, they can even directly call them by their names. This is quite different in China.

The young generation have to call adults who are older a certain term depending on the age difference. Usually, you can call people who are ten to twenty years older “aunt” (阿姨) or “uncle” (叔叔). For people who are at a similar age as your grandparents, you’re required to call them “grandmother” (奶奶) or “grandfather” (爷爷).

  • In Chinese: 堂兄弟姐妹/表兄弟姐妹
    Pinyin: táng xiōng dì jiě mèi /biǎo xiōng dì jiě mèi
    In English: cousin

Fun fact: Since “cousin” in Chinese is a relatively long word, Chinese people usually don’t use the word “cousin.” Instead, they’ll use the terms that can show the direct relation. There are eight different terms under the category “cousin,” including: 堂兄 (táng xiōng) [male, father’s side, older], 堂弟 (táng dì) [male, father’s side, younger], 堂姐 (táng jiě) [female, father’s side, older], 堂妹 (táng mèi) [female, father’s side, younger], 表兄 (biǎo xiōng) [male, mother’s side, older], 表弟 (biǎo dì) [male, mother’s side, younger], 表姐 (biǎo jiě) [female, mother’s side, older], 表妹 (biǎo mèi) [female, mother’s side, younger].

  • In Chinese: 外甥女 / 侄女
    Pinyin: wài shēng nǚ / zhí nǚ
    In English: niece
  • In Chinese: 侄子 / 外甥
    Pinyin: zhí zi / wài shēng
    In English: nephew

4. Family Member Terms as a Married Person

Once you’ve married in Chinese culture, you’ve gained several new Chinese family members. Here’s what to call them all!

  • In Chinese: 妻子
    Pinyin: qī zǐ
    In English: wife
  • In Chinese: 丈夫 / 先生
    Pinyin: zhàng fū / xiān shēng
    In English: husband

Family Smiling
I believe we all want a happy family!

  • In Chinese: 女儿
    Pinyin: nǚ ér
    In English: daughter
  • In Chinese: 儿子
    Pinyin: ér zi
    In English: son
  • In Chinese: 姐夫 / 妹夫
    Pinyin: jiě fū / mèi fū
    In English: brother-in-law
  • In Chinese: 嫂子 / 弟妹
    Pinyin: sǎo zi / dì mèi
    In English: (older brother’s side) sister-in-law / (younger brother’s side) sister-in-law
  • In Chinese: 婆婆 / 岳母
    Pinyin: pó po / yuè mǔ
    In English: mother-in-law (husband’s mother) / mother-in-law (wife’s mother)
  • In Chinese: 公公 / 岳父
    Pinyin: gōng gong / yuè fù
    In English: father-in-law (husband’s father) / father-in-law (wife’s father)

Fun fact: In Chinese culture, if you’re on good terms with your father-in-law and mother-in-law, and you feel comfortable, it will be good to call them “mom” or “dad,” just like your wife/husband does. This shows that you see them as your own mother or father. However, in many cases, it can be difficult to get along with your father-in-law or mother-in-law.

5. Endearment Terms

Family Walking by a Lake
Let’s use more endearment terms to call the ones you love!

  • In Chinese: 爹地 / 爸爸 / 老爸
    Pinyin: diē dì / bà ba / lǎo bà
    In English: daddy
  • In Chinese: 妈咪 / 妈妈 / 老妈
    Pinyin: mā mī / mā ma / lǎo mā
    In English: mommy
  • In Chinese: 老哥 / 老弟
    Pinyin: lǎo gē / lǎo dì
    In English: (older) brother / (younger) brother
  • In Chinese: 老姐 / 老妹
    Pinyin: lǎo jiě / lǎo mèi
    In English: (older) sister / (younger) sister
  • In Chinese: 老婆 / 媳妇
    Pinyin: lǎo pó / xí fù
    In English: wife
  • In Chinese: 老公
    Pinyin: lǎo gōng
    In English: husband

Elderly Person Lying in Bed

Fun fact: 老 means “old” in Chinese, which is a very common thing to call someone who is close to you in Chinese. If you notice, lots of the nicknames mentioned above begin with a 老. In this case, 婆 and 公 each means “old women” and “old men.” By calling your other half this, it shows your commitment that you want to grow old with each other.

  • In Chinese: 亲爱的
    Pinyin: qīn ài de
    In English: dear
  • In Chinese: 宝贝
    Pinyin: bǎo bèi
    In English: baby
  • In Chinese: 闺女
    Pinyin: guī nǚ
    In English: daughter

6. Bonus – Interesting Expressions about Family Members

Family Quotes

  • In Chinese: 虎毒不食子。
    Pinyin: Hǔ dú bú shí zǐ.
    In English: Even a vicious tiger won’t eat its own son.
    Actual meaning: Parents will always treat their own children kindly, no matter how evil their nature is.
  • In Chinese: 有其父必有其子。
    Pinyin: Yǒu qí fù bì yǒu qí zǐ.
    In English: Like father, like son.
    Actual meaning: A son’s character is very likely to resemble his father’s.
  • In Chinese: 不听老人言,吃亏在眼前。
    Pinyin: Bù tīng lǎo rén yán, chī kuī zài yǎn qián.
    In English: If you don’t listen to elders’ advice, you will learn your lesson.

7. Conclusion: How ChineseClass101 Can Help You Master Family Terms

I hope you’re now more fascinated with the unique Chinese culture after reading this article about Chinese family. Continue to binge on learning the most native and entertaining Chinese lessons at ChineseClass101.com; here, Chinese is no longer an excruciating language that’s hard to master. It’s a paradise where you can enjoy yourself even while studying!

Before you go, let us know in the comments how confident you feel naming your family members in Chinese now! And tell us common sayings or idioms about family in your own language while you’re at it! 😉 We look forward to hearing from you!

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Learn Chinese Direct from Beijing with ChineseClass101.com

Dear Chinese Students,

Today we’re pleased to announce the launch of ChineseClass101.com. This is a joint project between Popup Chinese and the folks at Innovative Language Learning.

If you’re familiar with the Innovative Language approach to teaching, you’ll know the strength of their materials has always been tight, step-by-step progressive lessons for beginners. At Popup Chinese, we’ve historically geared our materials towards more advanced students, so when we had the chance to cooperate with the Innovative team and work together to build something that could take advantage of the powerful system they’ve already built we leapt at the chance, and began work designing a focused and stepwise program for Mandarin instruction.

Although a few hints leaked out (*ahem*), for the past few months we’ve worked somewhat stealthily to build the best team possible for the task. You’ll find our progressive beginner lessons hosted by none other than the famous Frank Fradella. Other big names on our roster are Amber Scorah and of course everyone on our existing team like Echo Yao and Brendan O’Kane. This is a great team and I can say with confidence I’ve never worked with a stronger one. With more than 100 lessons on the new site, our content is off to a good start too. As Frank said once after a marathon recording session, “our first twenty lessons here teach more than I learned in a whole year studying elsewhere.”

We think this is a great step forward and look forward to hearing your feedback and thoughts as well. It is definitely a major step forward for Chinese language education online. There’s never been a better time to learn Chinese, or a better way to learn it online. Regardless of whether you’re an advanced independent learner or a total newbie, we hope you’ll enjoy the work we’ll be doing both here and at ChineseClass101. Thanks for your support, and 加油 everyone!

Best from Beijing,

David Lancashire

Best from New York,

Amber Scorah