<p>"If the primary usefulness in learning Chinese is for business interaction, would that mean I would have to be based/live in China? Do corporations send employees to permanantely work in Asia, or do you just travel there often for dealings and such but are officially based in the US?"</p>
<p>both. but i think mainly based in US and travel to china. </p>
<p>"Approximately how many semesters of Chinese do you estimate it will take for a non-native speaker to become adequately proficient (to the extent that you could interact with native speakers, negotiate, understand general business deals, documents etc)? "</p>
<p>2 years minimum (4 semesters). that will be adequate enough to smoothly interact with native speakers. but in order to get to the point where you can negotiate business contracts and stuff... you're gonna need some more advanced chinese. i mean, even a random college student might not be able to make a good contract in english unless he/she had additional training on english in terms of negotiation and contracts and business-emphasis. </p>
<p>"How about fluent (to the extent that you could live in China with ease, read a mandarin newspaper, understand tv broadcasts, grasp cultural/linguistic nuances etc)?"</p>
<p>ADVICE: start reading mandarin newspapers and start watching chinese tv broadcasts. hopefully you'll have access to those (if you live in major chinese populated areas like SF, NY, LA then you probably will). but that's the best way to see how good you can read the mandarin newspapers, and how well you understand the chinese tv broadcasts. most chinese tv broadcasts have subtitles in chinese characters too, so you can do both listening AND reading at the same time! listening to the radio is also good cuz its more challenging... its not as scripted and theres no subtitles/it's more "natural." at first, you will have tons of trouble and won't understand anything. that's okay... just look for a few words that you know. eventually, you'll be able to string sentences together and it'll snowball from there. since you know french already, i'm sure your french teacher told you something similar when it came to mastering french. if you don't live in a major chinese area, then ask your chinese department for films or documents that you can look at. renting chinese films is also a good way to learn. heck, even "House of Flying Daggers" was released in the US in Chinese!!</p>
<p>BEST ADVICE: DO GO TO A STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM.
i cannot emphasize this enough. this is where you'll figure out how lacking your mandarin really is haha jk, no but IMMERSION is the best way to learn mandarin. i'm sure if your school has a good chinese department, then it probably has partnerships with some universities in china where you can study abroad and learn chinese, or even do a summer chinese immersion program. this is THE BEST way to learn about culture, to learn mandarin IN china, etc etc. plus, businesses are more impressed if you've done study abroad. they know you have experience interacting with chinese people and that you're capable of sufficiently handling yourself if they send you on a business trip to china.</p>