Why You Don’t Want to be Fluent in Chinese

In my 30s, I wanted to speak perfect Chinese. What I really wanted was to avoid embarrassing mistakes. Why do you want to speak perfect Chinese? Think it over. Speaking basic Chinese might be perfect for you. It may not be worth the investment of your time and money.  You may be better off just speaking basic Chinese.

What Would Becoming Fluent Do?

Is your goal to negotiate business contracts in China? Is even a good idea? At a deeper, you probably want to connect with people and be effective. You don’t need perfect Chinese for that. You just need to speak basic Chinese.

Maybe you want to ask for directions. You don’t need to speak perfect Chinese for that either.

So, why become fluent? It may make sense to practice enough to attend business meetings or social gatherings with minimal support. You can get to this level in a relatively short period of time.

You might want to teach Chinese at a university. In that case, you probably need to become fluent.

Why Are You Studying Chinese?

Frankly, if you want to do business in China, learn basic Chinese and spend your time studying the business culture. Understanding how sales, marketing and negotiation work will benefit you far more than fluency in Chinese. If you want to travel, again study the basic language skills and spend your time on the social culture.  This will improve your experience far more.

You Don’t Want to Be Fluent

Even if you speak perfect Chinese, mistakes happen. In fact, being extremely fluent would raise expectations and mistakes might be more embarrassing. On top of that, if you are fluent, you will be expected to have a strong understanding of the culture. Simple mistakes will easily be interpreted as slights, which would be bad. Being fluent could easily work against you.