Shortly after arriving in my new homeland, I remember reading an article called “The 5 Stages to Learning Chinese“… I remember that 2 years ago, I thought that I may have moved from the Intermediate to the Advanced phase, but looking back I can say 2 years ago I was certainly NOT at the advanced stage. 2 years from now, maybe I’ll have to look back and say the same thing… Time will tell.
“I’m just speaking Chinese” Stage (Advanced)
In this stage, the learner is not in the least surprised by his improved communication abilities because he got there through hard work. Learners who make it to this level can most likely read and write as well, because of the level of dedication involved. Also, learning advanced grammar patterns and expanding vocabulary is most efficiently accomplished through extensive reading in Chinese. You know for sure you’re in this stage when the only new vocabulary or grammar patterns come to you through reading or the news. At this stage the learner should have a lot of Chinese friends, but these friends no longer feel the need to compliment the learner’s Chinese because it’s just become so obvious at this point. For the most part, they treat you like you’re Chinese. Friends who might have once said, “you can’t understand because you’re not Chinese” will now reconsider that view. The learner understands everything that is said to him, and can express almost everything as well. What’s left for the learner at this point includes learning vocabulary of questionable usefulness (the names of the more famous hydrocarbons in Chinese, or of Western stars’ Chinese names, for example), working on expressing the most abstract concepts, and developing a sense for Chinese literature and poetry.
To get to the next level requires extreme dedication (obsession?) and probably some kind of formal coaching as well. Tones have already been completely mastered, but overall sentence intonation may still require a little work to be perfectly natural.