Learn Chinese

Chinese is a fascinating and complex language spoken by more than a billion people around the world. If you are considering learning a new language, Chinese may be the right choice for you.

In this guide, we will explore why you should learn Chinese, the challenges you might encounter while learning it, effective strategies for mastering the language, and the best ways to choose a Chinese course that suits your needs.

Whether you want to improve your job opportunities or study abroad, learning Chinese can open many doors in your personal and professional life. In this guide, we will accompany you on your learning journey, providing useful information and practical advice to achieve your goals.

Learn Chinese with EF

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Want to learn Chinese?

Here's why you should choose EF for your Chinese course abroad.

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Learn Chinese abroad

Why learn Chinese?

Learning English is a good way to improve your professional future and expand your horizons. More and more people around the world use English as a way to connect with people from different cultural backgrounds. The English language has become the lingua franca of international communication, trade, business, diplomacy, and many other areas. Mastering the language will open doors for you, both expected and unexpected.

According to the EF English Proficiency Index (EPI), the world's largest ranking of countries and regions by English skills, more than 1 billion people speak English as a first or second language, and hundreds of millions as a third or fourth. English proficiency helps scientists, researchers, tourists, and business professionals exchange information. On an individual level, people who speak English get better jobs, earn more, and have access to more of the information available online.

5 benefits of learning Chinese

Here are 5 reasons why learning Chinese offers unique advantages:

  1. Job Opportunities: Chinese is highly sought after in the business world, especially in trade and international relations. With China's prominence as a global economic force, many multinational companies seek individuals fluent in Chinese to facilitate negotiations with Chinese partners.

  2. Market Expansion: China, boasting the world's largest population and one of the fastest-growing economies, offers immense market potential. Proficiency in Chinese can open doors to establishing business relationships and tapping into new markets.

  3. Cultural Insight: Delve into a rich cultural heritage spanning thousands of years by studying Chinese. Gain a deeper appreciation for Chinese art, literature, and philosophy. Additionally, as a tonal language, Chinese offers insights into how language shapes culture through nuances in intonation.

  4. Travel: Planning a trip to China? Learning Chinese enhances your travel experience by enabling authentic interactions with locals. From iconic landmarks like the Great Wall to cultural sites like the Temple of Heaven, speaking Chinese enriches your exploration.

  5. Personal Enrichment: Beyond practical advantages, learning Chinese is personally enriching. It challenges your mind, expands your worldview, and fosters cross-cultural understanding, paving the way for meaningful connections and experiences.

How to learn Chinese

If you're interested in learning Chinese, there are many ways to get started. One of the most effective methods for learning Chinese is immersion. Surrounding yourself with Chinese 24/7, either through a trip to China or by creating a language immersion environment at home, can significantly accelerate your progress in learning the language. Here are some simple steps to create a Chinese immersion environment at home:

  1. To learn Chinese, you can begin by changing the language settings on your phone, computer, or other devices to Chinese. This way, you'll be exposed to the language daily and can easily learn new vocabulary.

  2. To improve your understanding and listening skills in Chinese, you can watch Chinese movies or TV shows with English subtitles. Start with English subtitles and then gradually switch to Chinese subtitles.

  3. Listening to Chinese music, podcasts, or audiobooks while exercising, cleaning the house, or traveling will help you get used to the sound and rhythm of the Chinese language, improving your listening skills. Start with songs with clear pronunciation and a slow pace, then move on to more complex material.

To achieve your Chinese learning goals, it's important to set specific and achievable objectives, such as passing a language exam or having a conversation with a native speaker. Keep track of your progress: it will help you identify areas for improvement. You can also use language learning apps or keep a diary to record new vocabulary and grammar rules.

Challenges of learning Chinese

There are several challenges in learning Chinese, especially for those who speak languages that are very different grammatically and phonetically (like us Italians):

  1. Writing System: Chinese utilizes a character-based writing system, which requires a significant amount of time and effort to learn. There are over 50,000 characters, but only around 3,500 are commonly used. Mastering characters demands time, consistency, and patience.

  2. Pronunciation: Chinese pronunciation differs greatly from that of European languages and can be challenging for beginners. Chinese is tonal, meaning the pronunciation of a word changes its meaning. There are four primary tones and a neutral tone, which can be difficult for beginners to distinguish.

  3. Grammar: Chinese grammar may seem quite different from that of European languages. For instance, Chinese lacks verb conjugations, which simplifies grammar to some extent but can be hard to grasp for speakers of languages with extensive verb conjugations.

  4. Listening Comprehension: Chinese may sound fast and confusing to beginners. Chinese accents and dialects can vary significantly from standard Mandarin, which is the official form of Chinese. There may be many nuances and idiomatic expressions that can be difficult for beginners to understand.

  5. Immersion: Immersion is crucial for learning any language, and Chinese is no exception. However, most people living outside of China may struggle to find an authentic immersion environment. This can make it more challenging to learn Chinese and gain a deeper understanding of Chinese culture.

Learning Chinese can be a challenge, but with the right dedication and the assistance of qualified teachers and language resources, it's possible to overcome these difficulties.

How to stay motivated while learning Chinese

Maintaining motivation while learning Chinese can be challenging, especially when encountering difficulties or progress seems slow. Here are some tips to help you stay motivated during your learning journey:

  1. Set Specific Goals: Identify and keep in mind your specific and realistic goals. Establishing why you're learning Chinese, whether it's to read a certain number of Chinese characters or hold a basic conversation with a native speaker, can help keep you focused.

  2. Find a Study Partner: Seek out a study buddy or teacher who is passionate and knowledgeable about the Chinese language. Having someone to practice with can provide opportunities to exercise your language skills and improve your conversational abilities.

  3. Create a Motivating Learning Environment: Make learning Chinese enjoyable and interesting. For example, watch Chinese movies or listen to Chinese songs, participate in Chinese cultural events, or join conversation groups.

  4. Track Your Progress: Keeping a diary or record of your language learning progress can help you stay motivated and identify areas that still need work.

  5. Utilize Online Resources: There are many apps and websites available that can help you learn Chinese in a fun and interactive way. Using these resources can make language learning more engaging and motivating.

  6. Remember Why You Started: Remind yourself of the reasons why you decided to learn Chinese. Whether it's for greater career opportunities, a deeper understanding of Chinese culture, or simply a personal challenge, recalling your initial motivations can help you stay motivated during tough times.

Remember that learning a new language takes time and commitment, but by following these tips, you can maintain motivation and effectively learn Chinese in a lasting manner.

How to measure your Chinese level

Assessing your proficiency in the Chinese language can be helpful for monitoring your progress and identifying areas for improvement. One of the most recognized tests for Chinese proficiency is the Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK).

Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK)

The Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK - Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi) is a language proficiency test for the Chinese language. The test evaluates listening, reading, and writing abilities in Chinese at various levels, ranging from HSK 1 (lowest) to HSK 6 (highest). Recognized worldwide, the test can be beneficial for those seeking employment in China or aiming to study at a Chinese university. Additionally, the test is often required for obtaining permanent residency in China. It is offered in various parts of the world, including some European, Asian, and North American countries.


Our Chinese test (EF SET) assesses reading comprehension and listening skills and is constructed to the same standards as other Chinese language proficiency exams such as the HSK or YCT. The test takes 30 minutes and is free!

The EF SET provides a score between 0 and 100 for listening and reading skills, as well as an overall score. The scores are aligned with the six levels of the HSK (from HSK 1 to HSK 6). This means you can use your score to compare your Chinese language proficiency with that of other students around the world and set goals to improve your skills. Whether you are learning Chinese for personal or professional reasons, our Chinese test is a useful tool for assessing your progress and achieving your language goals.

Take the Chinese test

How to pick a good Chinese course

An English course is a good idea for beginners and can be a great investment if you know what you’re looking for. Before researching English course options, sit down and make a list of your goals as you learn English. If you’re looking for a broad introduction to the language, that’s a very different course than one that prepares you for negotiating contracts in English or one that gets you ready to take the TOEFL. It’s worth spending 15 minutes putting your goals down on paper.

Once you know what you’re looking for, research which English courses most closely match your learning goals. Here are the main options:


  • Online English courses – unlimited access to the platform + live teacher lessons on demand, or a private teacher to study what you want to study
  • English language schools – once or twice a week in a location near you (just like regular school)
  • English courses abroad – 3-4 hours of lessons a day + a host family (full immersion experience)
  • Self-study – the most common way to learn English. There are extensive English reference materials online as well as English learning apps.

Class size

  • Private lessons – work on exactly what you want (more expensive)
  • Group lessons – follow a set curriculum and meet at set times (less expensive)


  • Long-term English courses – meet once or twice a week all year (usually 2-4 hours/week)
  • Intensive English courses – meet every day for 2-6 weeks (usually 15-30 hours/week)


  • General English courses – a broad spectrum course covering all aspects of the English language
  • Specific English courses – IELTS preparation, TOEFL preparation, medical English, aviation English, English for Academic purposes (EAP), etc.

The more specific your goals, the more likely you are to find an English course that can meet them. And remember, as you learn English, your goals may change, so revisit them regularly and adjust your learning strategy accordingly.

Jenny, EF New York

Learn Chinese with EF

At EF, we believe that learning Chinese should not only be an academic and repetitive activity, but also an exciting and engaging adventure. With our highly qualified and passionate teachers, you will be immersed in an engaging learning environment tailored to meet your specific needs and unique learning style. Choose from a wide range of courses, from intensive Chinese lessons to preparation for language exams, to achieve your goals and deepen your knowledge of the Chinese language world. Don't miss the opportunity to start your Chinese learning journey with us. Click below for more information on our Chinese courses in Singapore.

Learn Chinese in Singapore

Immerse yourself in the world of Chinese-descendant culture, history, and tradition, and learn the most spoken language in the world with EF in Singapore.

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Frequently asked questions about learning Chinese

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