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Chinese from scratch – a 1260 hour work Programme optimising your result.

If you want to learn Mandarin you can’t duck out of the time it takes – you can only optimise it. Here we see some mandarin ducks optimising their time on a lake.

Reader Jarad Mayers wrote the following very good question:

I want to learn Mandarin. I am not sure how to go about it. This is the very first language I am attempting to learn. I have not done anything yet. I am on very tight budget and currently not employed. I tried to access the free material on Mandarin ( )but it is no longer accessible . I was wondering if I could use your experince and if possible sort of outline the steps I need to follow.

BTW, I am not sure where to post my question. I am sorry if this the wrong place for posting it.


I’ve prepared the answer as a table – it is a whole programme to 80% of Chinese that you’d need to get your degree, read newspapers, live an everyday life in China. The rest after that comes down to vocabulary building for which I’d recommend the goldlisting of dictionaries or of bilingual literature. You could spend four times as much time getting from 80% Chinese to 100% Chinese (ask Vilf “the Gilf” Pareto, he’ll tell you why, or might have done, until 1923 – now you’ll have to look up what he thought in order to know why, or simply accept it).

Real Chinese philologists like Victor Berrjod might give you other useful sources better than the ones I have listed. All of the ones I have listed are available on Amazon. The audio courses are expensive so it will pay you to shop around a bit.

1260 hours, based on the number of years/days in Daniel and the Book of Revelation, also happens to be a typical year’s work in a modern Western company. This means that the below work programme can be:

Don’t expect to learn Chinese meaningfully any quicker than that.

If you are sure that you want to get seriously into Chinese at an academic level, from my discussions with Victor “Hobbylinguist” Berrjod and concluding from certain things outlined by Mike “Glossika” Campbell. I’d recommend Goldlisting the Mandarin and also the Cantonese pronunciations of the characters in the character only Goldlist and the Words Goldlist.

Please note that in this Programme, quite apart from giving yourself 160 hours worth of work on audio only before even touching the Gold-List method, there are actually four separate Goldlists that you need and I suggest that at least at Bronze Book level you keep them quite separate. They are:

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