How Many Chinese Characters Do I Need to Learn to be Fluent?
How Many Chinese Characters Do I Need to Learn to be Fluent?
Learning Mandarin
05/11/2021

Whether just beginning your Chinese journey, or on your way to fluency, you will have inevitably asked yourself the question, how many Chinese characters do I need to learn to be fluent?

Learning to write Chinese can be an extremely daunting process. Although you’ll only need to know between 2 – 3,000 characters to read a newspaper, there are over 80,000 Chinese characters in total. 85,568 characters to be more precise according to the Zhonghua Zihai dictionary.

Native Chinese speakers

But don’t be afraid! Native Chinese speakers themselves don’t know that many words and characters in Chinese! That’d be an incredible number of characters to know.

At elementary school, Chinese students are expected to learn about 2,500 characters. This increases by 1,000 at middle and high school. When Chinese students have finished high school, they typically know about 4,500 characters.

What’s your learning goal?

When faced with the daunting question, you must first ask yourself some questions. How many Chinese Characters do I need to learn to be fluent? What are you looking to study? Want to live in China, and interact in your everyday life in Chinese? A vocabulary of 1,000 words may be enough.

If you need to order food, read something a menu, call a taxi or even asking for a directions, far fewer would suffice. Looking to understand what’s going on the TV, or the radio? You will probably need between 3,000 and 4,000.

What’s your level?

If you’ve just started learning Chinese, then you belong to the HSK 1 level. As your progress through the levels, the number of words you need to learn increases, with a guideline shown in the list below:

HSK 1: 153 – HSK 2: 150 – HSK 3: 300 – HSK 4: 598 – HSK 5: 1300 – HSK 6: 2513

Final thoughts

There is no need to be concerned of the number of Chinese characters to learn! You don’t need to absorb a Chinese dictionary by heart to be fluent in Chinese! Just study little and often, and utilize your language ability as much as possible!

Inspired? Discover some of the top careers with Chinese language with your newly developed skills!

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