Can you learn Chinese in 5 Minutes per day?

Can you learn Chinese in 5 min per day? No! But you can build some basics!

No! However, Kungfucius does think that you can build a basis and maybe reach HSK level 1 or 2 after a year of consistently doing 5 minutes per day.

While it’s an enticing thought, the idea of achieving fluency in Chinese by dedicating just 5 minutes a day to learning is a bit far-fetched. Sure, you can learn Chinese for five minutes per day, but you won’t become a master of the language. In fact, you’ll most likely never progress beyond old HSK level 4 or the new 2023 HSK level 3 even after years, as repetition will eat up most of these 5 minutes after a while.

What can you achieve by studying Chinese 5 minutes per day?

What can you actually achieve in 5 minutes per day? First of all, you should ditch learning characters – both reading and writing. Just focus on listening and speaking with the help of Pinyin. Admittedly, you won’t be able to grasp more complicated grammatical structures, but that’s not that important in Chinese anyways.

Now, let’s talk numbers. If you can review and repeat initially 20 words within 5 minutes for the first 10 days, you will already have 200 words. From then on, let’s assume that repetition takes much more time and you will learn 5 new words each day. 

In a year, you might know about 2000 words. That’s the optimistic case and nothing should go wrong! In other words, if you get sick or if you have a wedding party to attend with extensive drinking, then quickly this impressive vocabulary might shrink to a more realistic 1500 words – which is still very impressive! 

The downside of dedicating just 5 minutes per day

Here’s the catch: learning vocabulary in isolation might lead to fossilisation of some mistakes. Vocabulary should always be learned in context, i.e., embedded in full sentences. That will require more time though as you can not just use some repetition system but you should learn dialogues and sentences. 

In Chinese, some common mistakes that language learners might make involve the use of incorrect measure words. So, if we assume that you will learn 500 nouns, will you make sure to learn the corresponding measure words that go with these nouns? Or cut this annoyance? 

Another issue comes from pronunciation. Correct pronunciation in Chinese is more important than in most other languages and it is even more important to be able to understand spoken Chinese. Both very crucial and difficult to achieve in 5 minutes. 

As an example, ChinesePod episodes, even the most basic ones, often last longer than 5 minutes. So, while 5 minutes per day might help you form some simple sentences and master simple situations after a year of consistent practice, it’s important to keep your expectations realistic.

In conclusion, while learning Chinese for 5 minutes a day might be a fun and lighthearted approach to starting your language journey, it’s important to remember that becoming proficient requires dedication, consistency, and a considerable amount of time. So, enjoy those 5-minute sessions, but also consider investing more time and effort if you truly want to unlock the potential of speaking Chinese fluently. Especially for Chinese, a full immersion period might be very beneficial!