Road Map for Chinese Learners

How to Reach an Advanced Level in Four Years or Less

Year 1: Beginning Chinese
Year 2: Intermediate Chinese
Year 3: Advanced Chinese I
Year 4: Advanced Chinese II

Learning Goals: Year Two

Intermediate Chinese


  • Listening: You should be able to understand normal speed Chinese dialogues and monologues on a many school and everyday life (survival) topics as well as some social issues if the speakers are speaking standard spoken Chinese (no obvious accent, neither too formal nor too colloquial).
  • Speaking: You can clearly express yourself in short but well connected paragraphs with some elaborations and limited idiomatic phrases. Your speech should be close to natural speed.
  • Reading: You can recognize 1,000 to 1,200 Chinese characters or around 3,000 frequently used Chinese words/phrases (including some colloquial and formal expressions) and read short articles modified for foreign students on topics as mentioned above.
  • Writing: You can write simple personal letters, short articles that discuss some common social and cultural issues taught in your textbooks.
  • Grammar: You can correctly choose proper structures and sentences patterns frequently used in standard spoken Chinese.
  • Cultural knowledge: You should have a better understanding of Chinese culture and society.
  • Your oral proficiency should reach at least Intermediate Mid level by the end of the 2nd semester.
  • If you take HSK test, you should get at least level 3.


  • It is an ideal time for you to study in China on this level. You may consider joining a good intensive summer program in China or stay in China for one semester. If so can accelerate your Chinese learning and reach true advanced level in three years. Obviously, you will have a better learning environment there.
  • You have learned most of the fundamental structures and many patterns of the standard spoken Chinese. To understand to use them in the most appropriate contexts is the crucial.
  • Patterns and vocabulary are very important for this period so you will spend most of the time in drills to practice the patterns and most significant words. In certain sense, your achievements in this period will be quantitative and this is a preparation for the breakthrough in the next stage.
  • Learn some more colloquial expressions not found in the first year textbook and try your best to use them.
  • For writing, however, just write what you want to say. Although you may have been exposed to some written style reading materials, it is no hurry to imitate them because you have not yet been given the rules.
  • You may start to group the characters you have learned.

Frequently Asked Questions

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I am learning many new characters/words each day but I am forgetting a lot words/characters each day too. How could I avoid forgetting these learned characters/words?

It is quite natural to forget something old when you are learning something new. The most important thing for you is to use the language to express yourself. Then, you will naturally need both the words you have just learned and those you learned a while ago. A study shows that for Chinese characters 1,500 is a threshold or turning point. After you can well recognize 1,500 Chinese characters, you will not forget old ones when learning new ones because the characters you have learned are enough for you to connect them in a system. In other words, you will know all the characters are connected with a fixed number of radicals and sound elements.

In China I found with surprise that the tones of most Chinese are not standard. Does that mean tones are not so important?

The tones of local dialects are surely different from standard Mandarin. But they have their own rules and most of the native speakers can understand the people from other regions. The natural tone differences are expected and will not hinder communications significantly. Unfortunately, your wrong tones may not be identical with any of the known Chinese local dialects so that they will lead to misunderstanding and mis-communication.

Should I try to read Chinese newspapers and magazines?

Not yet the time for you since you have not yet learned written Chinese systematically. Try your best to understand the most difficult lessons of your textbook is more realistic.

The 入乡随俗 textbook seems more difficult than most of the other textbooks. What are the advantages of using it?

Different from many other intermediate textbooks, this one is designed to expose you with more colloquial Chinese expressions although the grammar system is still based on the standard spoken Chinese. In the last part of the volume 2, you read some articles in written style or semi-written style. This will make you very well prepared for the next stage, the real advanced Chinese.