How do you get your Chinese to an advanced level?

I’ve seen some threads about being frustrated with Chinese learning, and one somewhat related to what I’m asking here, but nothing quite fit.

I would say my Chinese is at an intermediate level. It’s plenty good enough for daily conversation, meetings with my wife’s family, etc., and I seem to be okay even in work situations (short meetings with others, etc.).

But it has been stuck at the present level for probably 10 years. I think I’m ready to bring things up a notch and try to get to an advanced level.

What has worked for others? I would be very interested in getting some ideas.



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Really? Go back to school? Hmmm. I will consider that but it’s not my first choice. The two guys I know who got really fluent in Korean did so by getting advanced degrees and attending almost no Korean language courses.



Yes, I agree that is definitely key. But how did you increase your vocabulary? Did you make flash cards or perhaps use a particular textbook?

Can you read Chinese?

I would say it is highly dependent on the subject matter. For example, with technical documents in some areas, I can get by okay and even had to do some translation years ago in my job. But if I pick up a newspaper, I would be lost with some articles.

Do you speak Chinese with your wife? If not, do so. Watch the daily news with her. Discuss, in Chinese.


Korean is totally different. No tones. Vocalised alphabet.

Classes is the fastest way.

OK, it sounds like your Chinese really is at an intermediate level.

As other have suggested, your major problem is likely to be deficient vocabulary.

One of the best ways to increase your vocabulary quickly is by reading more. You can prep for watching the news by reading the newspaper first. Discussing it with your spouse is a great idea. A lot of the news these days is traffic accidents. That’s actually good for you because the same vocabulary will be used over and over again.

I would recomend that you combine your news watching with dictation practice. Take a traffic news story and transcribe exactly what you hear in pinyin. It should be possible now with various AI tools to produce a transcript and convert it to pinyin with tone marks.

This textbook or something similar would help you get started with reading the newspaper in Chinese.

Another thing you might consider doing is working through the elementary school textbooks with a tutor to improve your reading and expand your vocabulary.


I read stuff that was way below my level. According to my teachers when I last took classes, I was at an HSK 5-6 level. But when I’d read, I’d get frustrated with how many words I didn’t know. Often more than one new word per sentence. It’s boring as heck and incredibly ineffective to try to learn all the words from the text out of context. I started reading HSK 2 or 3 level stuff every day, listening and following along usually so I could hear and see the words. There’d be 1-2 words tops that were new, but they’d stick with me because I learned them in context.

You could also try something like LingQ or Dong Chinese, which highlight only new words or flagged words, which quickly and visually lets you know if the text you’re about to read is actually at your actual level

This article might shed some light on why it’s a load of nonsense to try reading things you don’t understand: What 80% Comprehension Feels Like - Sinosplice (they replace certain percentages of words in an English story with nonsense words and you start to get lost after 90% comprehension. You can’t even follow the story anymore at 80% comprehension). Reading is better than vocabulary lists for vocabulary expansion in one’s native language. But regardless of whether you’re reading in your first or second language(s), you need a text that you comprehend. Picking up Journey to the West is not going to expand your vocabulary nearly as well as something aimed at beginners.


Yes, we speak mostly in Mandarin, a little bit of Korean, and a tiny bit in English. The news together sounds like a good idea.

Also, when a story catches your interest, read a few articles about it online, and discuss further.

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Yes, in the beginning, pick something interesting like the Tainan murder and follow it for a few days or weeks.

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One thing I noticed is that if you are continually communicating with family members and not others it can limit your exposure to the wider language, and there is a risk that they start dumming it down by not using language that you wouldn’t understand, because it becomes a pain in the ass for them to have to continually explain to you. Bringing the news - or other outside sources of language in is a good idea. Its a pity that it’s not possible to get to advanced level effortlessly just by living your life in the language. No free pass :unamused:


And I think the tendency is to become complacent and comfortable when you reach a medium level of fluency. I know I did. But I’ve been thinking lately that my fluency level kind of sucks for 20 years here. Flash cards have always worked well for me in the past. I think it’s time to start with that study habit again.

Has anyone tried any AI apps for language learning? Ideally, I would have a conversation and get corrected/critiqued. I don’t know if there’s anything like that available yet.


Brute Repetition.

AKA The Immersion Myth. Ironlady kept reminding us about that.

Does anyone know how to get the Google the trailers for Spiderman or Batman, in Mandarin, with English subtitles? That specific mix is harder to find then I thought.

How close is this for googling on youtube:

Biānfú xiá zhīzhū rén diànyǐng yùgào piàn guóyǔ yīngwén zìmù

Movie trailer search

Trailers have clear sound, a mix of street + high level language, plus a 2 minute length that you can repeat 50-100 times round the house.

I guess we could share movie trailers here, if anyone’s interested.

Anything to get out of the Sarlaac pit of HSK5 mediocrity.


Just started going through this set of flashcards based on books from the MTC at NTNU. Kind of basic at the beginning but I’m sure things will pick up soon.

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I think for me, reading and writing about a variety of topics was how I improved my English. My English class in college got us to read about different speeches made by famous Americans, and I was really drawn to Dr. MLK Jr. and Malcolm X’s speeches, and that got me into reading more civil rights related topics.

I think actually writing about, summarizing and paraphrasing, what you read really helps connecting the dots in your head.

Although I guess judging by my English level, I am not making a very convincing case.

I’m trying to do the same with Taigi, and I am also stuck at an intermediate level. I think once you have a good enough grasp of the language to converse with people, flashcards really aren’t all that helpful. Words stick better when you hear and use them in context.