Long Term Goal: Learn Mandarin.

For a long time now, I've wanted to learn to speak another language. I've always thought that you really had to speak two languages to be considered educated, and that the US education system doesn't emphasize it enough. In school, I made a feeble attempt at French, but it never really held my interest.

I've decided to learn Mandarin Chinese as it would be a very useful language for me. According to Wiki, it is the most spoken language on Earth with 1,051 million speakers. English is second with 980 million speakers, and Hindi is third with 948 million.

Researching the language on the web, I found some interesting statistics on Chinese-Forums.com. I'm afraid I've lost the link to the original post, so my apologies to the author.

"For Single characters:
1400 will cover over 95%
2000 will cover 98%
2451 will cover 99%
3477 will cover 99.79%

Now if you want to know about words then
4500 words covers 88.7% to 90.7%
8000 words covers 95.1%"

I would very much like to spend a year in China studying Mandarin, perhaps as soon as next fall. I figure that if I study hard and learn 4 characters and 12 compounds/words a day, I might be able to have a serviceable level of Mandarin within a year or so. At least to the point that I can hold simple conversations. Perhaps even good enough to pass the HSK test at level 3 (or better!).

Although the thought of learning an entirely new character set is frightening, and the tones are nearly impossible for me to pronounce without really concentrating, I think it should be doable if I really try.