If you want to learn Chinese then the best place to do this is in China, the country itself. Languages are best learned with regular practice and learning Chinese is no exception. By simply living here and overhearing the dialect you will be constantly exposed to overhearing and thus revising and practicing everyday phrases you learn from your study books over and over again.
When I first came to China my Chinese language level was such that I knew little past hello (你好) and thank you（谢谢）. In the one and a half years since then I have found myself studying mandarin Chinese most days anywhere from half an hour to five hours per day. Living in China, I then automatically reviewed and practiced my study by simply living my everyday life from talking with my students to buying vegetables at the supermarket. Consequently, one and a half years later I am close to fluent in my speaking, listening, reading and typing and slowly progressing with my handwriting. I can read approximately 5000 characters and can write approximately 1000 of these.
Chinese really is a difficult language to learn and even the natives spend year after year studying their mother tongue before they can be confident at saying they are fully literate. So, if it’s so hard for the Chinese themselves, then what chance have we foreigners got at learning fast!? The truth is, if we want to learn Chinese, we too have no option other than to work long and hard. However, although mastery of the Chinese language may well require a lifetime. Just 1 year of continuous study can be enough to speak confidently about most subjects and read the majority of day to day essentials such as street signs and adverts.
The point that I’m making is that studying quickly pays off and is very rewarding. After my first year of fairly relaxed study I passed my HSK 4, the benchmark for being conversational in Chinese and the minimum requirement to work for a company and use mandarin as your language of communication. Another reason Chinese is so rewarding is that due largely to its distinctive difference in written appearance and son dive found people find learning Chinese a greater accomplishment than other European languages. Ordering at a Chinese restaurant in England in mandarin in front of your friends is bound to look impressive.
So, every time that you struggle with a sentence or don’t recognise a character. Remember why you started to learn Chinese in the first place, think of all the cool points and 继续把 (carry on!).
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