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How to learn Chinese 4-Fluency: “LEARNING A LANGUAGE IN 5 MONTHS– By Jeff Lau”

Yesterday Jeff shared his presentation video “”LEARNING A LANGUAGE IN 5 MONTHS” with me. There are all very good suggestions to learn a language, not just Chinese. I think Jeff himself is the perfect person to make this case. It’s very impressived he are comfortable interating with native speaker after 5 months part-time learning. As his Chinese tutor I am so happy for him. Now I want to share this video with you guys.


1. Learning a language in 5 months

  • By Jeff Lau 刘文忠

2. What this talk is about

  • Why I started learning Mandarin
  • My journey in the last 5 months
  • Lessons I have learnt

3. Why I started learning Mandarin

  • Firstly – Because I’m Chinese.
  • Then – becuse I’m not Chinese.
  • And lastly – not because I’m Chinese or not Chinese.

4. My story – Fluency

  • 1000 characters = 90% of a newspaper
  • 2000 characters = 95% of a newspaper
  • 3000 characters = 99% of a newspaper

5. My story – example of Chinese sentence

  • Mù qián quán guó jīng jì xíng shì hěn hǎo
  • 目前全国经济形势很好
  • eye before whole country scriptures help shape power very good
  • reading the scriptures of the past helps make the whole country very powerful
  • 目前 means “currently”, 经济 means “economic”, and 形势 means “situation”.

6. My story – progression

  • First month – Vocabulary
  • Second month – First conversation
  • Third month – 45 min conversation in 99% Chinese
  • End of third month – Shanghai
  • 5 months in – Comfortable basic conversation for indefinite time

7. Lessons I’ve learnt

  • You need to enjoy the process of learning
  • The more often you learn, the faster your learn  “You don’t learn a language you get used to it”
  • Tight feedback loops help you learn faster (SRS is awesome)
  • Do what keeps you motivated
  • Think in your target language
  • Speak early, speak often

8. Thanks!

  • www.jefflau.net/blog
  • www.fluentin3months.com
  • www.ajatt.com
  • www.everydaylanguagelearner.com


  1. I agree that you have to enjoy what you’re doing, though there have been times where it felt like progression wasn’t being made after quite a few hours of study.

    Thanks for posting this Xiao.

    • Yes, I can understand what you said. I think a good learning method (characters, words) and a personal teacher (speaking, sentences structure) would be helpful.

  2. Not sure the figures given for a newspaper are right. I’m sure I know more than 3,000 characters and I don’t by any means recognise every character in the average news story. A colleague says she believes the figure is 6,000 to read 100 per cent, which sounds about right to me. And that’s not accounting for the times when you know the characters but still don’t know the meaning ie when two characters each of which you know independently are put together in a way you don’t know.

    Oh well. No one said it was easy

    • HSK levle Words Characters
      Level 1 150 178
      Level 2 300 349
      Level 3 600 623
      Level 4 1200 1074
      Level 5 2500 1710
      Level 6 5000 2633
      You are right. We have to learn the words, even we have known both of two characters, especially in a advanced level.

  3. That’s right. After all, language is the tool of communicaton. It would be the best way if we can learn from speaking with other people.

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