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What level of Chinese can you achieve outside of China?


jkhsu
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Well imron I think you hit the nail on the head. If you're looking for a "native"-esque level of Chinese, then there's no way around doing the hard work. Thanks for the link, too. Those are some great posts! I've got plenty of ammo now to kick this thing in the butt.

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My thoughts on improving various different skills below:

For self learners trying to achieve fluency, one of the skills that is often overlooked is composition. I define composition as the ability to collect your thoughts (hopefully quickly) and then express them in written or spoken form. While most people will associate the skill of "speaking" with composition, speaking is one of those skills that requires resources to improve, such as a native speaker to practice with in real life situations. This is not always accessible to everyone.

Therefore, one of the suggestions I have for improving composition is to participate in forums such as these but in Chinese. The 中文角 here one. You don't need to pay money or schedule a time with a language partner to improve your composition skills this way. The hard part is getting to the level where you can participate.

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I think the original question "What level of Chinese can you achieve outside of China?" is too ill-defined to have a meaningful answer.

I agree that the title alone does not convey what I was trying to ask but I did list out the conditions in my original post. Otherwise, the title would have been way too long. However, I firmly believe that the question of "What level of Chinese can you achieve outside of China?" given the conditions I listed is very relevant and applicable for most people learning Chinese outside of China. There's been some questions about why I put in conditions in the first place. If I didn't put in conditions, then we're talking about all possiblities and with money, time and resources anyone can achieve near native level Chinese outside of China. Here's a crazy scenario: One way is to first, hire several live-in teachers from China to do a simulated IUP / ICLP program at your home 24 hours a day for several years. Next, start a company where you hire all your workers from China and require them to only speak Chinese. What would your company do? Maybe analyze all messages and content on websites such as weibo, 开心网, etc, and compare them with official Chinese news sites to identify the differences and write up reports? Your daily tasks would include reading, writing, and doing conference calls all in Chinese. Every week, you do a major presentation and report. At home you hire live-in staff from China who only speak Chinese to you. You never speak English to anyone. Ok, I going off the deep end here but you can see that if I have no conditions, I have many ways of creating an environment where I can get to near native fluency outside of China.

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Sure. What I meant was just that, given whatever conditions you stipulate, how far one can go depends on the ability of the individual. If we assume that people's achievements fit a normal distribution, then there are always going to be a handful of outliers who can reach native-like fluency, and a handful who barely get past nihao. For everyone else, well, it just depends where in the distribution you happen to be.

For the average person, under your conditions, I think it would be very hard to rise beyond an intermediate level, even after several years. This answer is, of course, subjective and speculative, but I know how much time and effort it takes even in a Chinese environment to reach this standard.

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What I meant was just that, given whatever conditions you stipulate, how far one can go depends on the ability of the individual.

In general that is correct, but what I am asking is given the conditions that I stipulated, what level of Chinese can one possibly achieve outside of China. So in essence, I am talking about the outliers. Anyone (including myself) can tell me the "theoretical" possibility but it's always good to hear real life examples. I figured there must be some outliers in this forum. Scoobyqueen was one who shared an inspiring story. At least it gives others hope.

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You "ask" about learning Chinese outside China; and yet you get more than one person saying that you already appear to have made up your mind?

@jbradfor - This to address your question from the other thread that belongs here. Let me be as brief and straight as I can. I asked about what level of Chinese one can achieve outside of China given a list of conditions. Many people gave their opinions and even real life examples. Below was your statement that I did not agree with you on:

"In thinking about this, I don't see any impediment to reaching any level even outside China -- given enough time. Under your conditions, I think progress would be very slow, but I could see a dedicated person reaching any level they want given enough time. Well, until they die, that is."

I did not agree with your statement, therefore I argued my point, maybe too vehemently (I will be more careful of that in the future). Even though I asked the initial question, I did have opinions of my own going in. I didn't and still do not believe one can reach any level of Chinese outside of China given the conditions I set, even with time. I thought I had given some sound arguments and reasons to support my point of view. It's important to note that my arguments were based on my own experiences of learning Chinese in the USA and having traveled to China on numerous occasions and in various capacities. They were not just pulled out of a hat for the sake of provoking an argument (again, apologize if it seemed that way).

What I learned from this thread are the stories and experiences of people who have reached a very advanced level of Chinese. I said and will say again that I would be perfectly fine if I can reach that level of Chinese so I've got a lot of inspiration from those posts. I've learned a ton from all the people on this thread, including you @jbradfor who also shared your personal story and introduced me to SRS and Anki. Thank you.

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  • 2 months later...

I am living in Italy. Here there is some school where you can study chinese mandarin.

I had a short try, time ago. Well, I've learned something but surely I didn't achieve the level I wanted.... There are evening-course where you can just learn "something" but to study the language at an upper level you've to attend a specific school. There are some, quiet expensive, and all in daytime. So it's impossible for a common worker to study there.

Anyway, comparing to other friends, they all seem to tell me that 6 month of experience in China values more than 2 year of study here... because you can hear chinese ALL DAY and your mind is costantly focused on their sounds.

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  • 5 weeks later...

I'm Polish and I'm studying English and Chinese at Polish university. I'm taught by 4 Chinese teachers (including one professor who speaks Polish - how awesome is that?). I was able to pass HSK 2 after 7 months and my score was 80% - I reckon it's not bad. It's been 1,5 year now and I think my level is quite good, although pronunciation still needs improvement. There're many people in my group who really can't pronounce nihao correctly, but there're also some who are really great, their tones and character writing amazes me sometimes. So, yeah, I think that learning Chinese outside China and achieveing quite a good level is possible, although, naturally, very hard.

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I'm Polish and I'm studying English and Chinese at Polish university. I'm taught by 4 Chinese teachers (including one professor who speaks Polish - how awesome is that?).

Actually I would have assumed that anyone teaching at a Polish university would be able to speak Polish. Is it common for Chinese teachers in non-English speaking countries to not be able to speak the local language?

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  • 2 months later...
To get an idea of the kind of Chinese level you can achieve inside of China, 锵锵三人行 had a recent episode with Julien Gaudfroy and a Japanese guest. It was a pretty fun episode to watch.

That tall Chinese guy speaks really good French.

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To get an idea of the kind of Chinese level you can achieve inside of China ...

What's really amazing is that Julien learned as an adult. I have no doubts that one can achieve any level of Chinese inside of China though. One comment that struck me was when he said that he actually had a Chinese accent when speaking French in France! I guess that's one sign that your Chinese is really good.

For some reason when I was watching Julien in that interview, he reminded me of the Chinese actor 文章 from the 裸婚时代 series I saw last year. Here's a link(watch from 28:00) to 文章 reenacting the famous proposal scene.

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Julien posted a few times on how-to-learn-any-language.com a while back:

http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=7171&PN=1&TPN=4

He got lots of input, almost 24/7, kind of like alljapaneseallthetime.com. He also repeated sentences over and over until he felt that they sounded native-level.

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It really is one of the best ways I know of to improve accent and intonation. I'll take a recording of a sentence and put it on repeat, then say it over and over along with the recording. It's easy this way to pick up tiny differences in your own speech versus that of the native speaker, and self-correct on the fly until you get it right without having to think about it. If the sentence takes 5 seconds to say, you can practice it 60 times in 5 minutes. Put in 20 minutes of this kind of practice per day for a while and see if your accent doesn't improve. My favorite thing to use this with is sentences with new grammar patterns, because then I also get the feel for grammar pattern in my mouth, rather than just in my head, so it feels wrong if I say it wrong. Two birds with one stone, not bad!

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Julien did say that he learned most of his Chinese in France. However, it's hard to assess how native his conversational skills were before moving to China. I'm sure his pronunciation was pretty native-like already given his hard work and abilities. I don't buy the fluent in a few months comment though.

Here are some excerpts from the link in post #96

"I learned most of my Chinese by myself in France, so my work was all about creating a Chinese environment around me, using all means I could think of."

"In a way, I felt fluent even after a few months! And back then already on the phone some people didn't notice that I was not Chinese. Of course I had to be in control of the conversation..."

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