中文:The Grand Checklist

Ahoy-hoy mateys! Something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time is a comprehensive list of the various things that need to be conquered for people that want to learn 中文 to above and beyond native level.

I’m going to assume that natives generally know Mandarin and a dialect, which I think is probably true for most Chinese: in my experience thus far, surprisingly few only know one dialect. So, one of our benchmarks for 中文 mastery is knowing Mandarin and a dialect. (I’m going to assume the dialect is Cantonese for the purposes of this post, but you can substitute in whatever you like.)

Anyway: here, in spectacular tabular form, is the triple bill of things one needs to accomplish for unquestionable 中文 ass-kickery…

Skill Requirements
Spoken Mandarin Pretty simple, this: all you have to be able to do is talk to people in Mandarin on any subject and understand everything they say. You’re allowed to ask questions on specialist subjects (e.g. physics, composers of the 15th century) but generally you don’t have to. Your Mandarin is accentless – people assume that you somehow have Chinese parents with very odd genes. Your grammar is flawless. Your command of 成語 rivals that of university-level students.
Spoken Cantonese Much the same as Mandarin, really. You need to make sure you know lots of vocabulary specific to Cantonese and throw it around whenever possible.
Written Chinese You can read at the same speed as your mother language. You have to look up new words/characters at a rate of one per novel. You can read using both Mandarin and Cantonese readings and adeptly switch between the two at will. You can read both Simplified and Traditional characters. Your writing is aesthetic and poetic, and if you had the time and patience you could write a publishable novel or be a professional journalist. You can type at a speed comparable to a professional secretary; even difficult characters, if related to your work, are easy for you to produce by hand.
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4 thoughts on “中文:The Grand Checklist

    • Lol, no, the point was that you need to master them all to learn Chinese as a whole (which is why I wrote 中文)…

      (If it’s not clear: you could just know, say, spoken Mandarin and be below the level of most people from China/HK/Taiwan etc, thereby not being qualified to describe yourself as knowing “Chinese” or being Chinese in a socio-linguist sense.)

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