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Speaking

Being able to speak Chinese fluently is the goal of many learners. Achieving that isn’t easy, but neither is it impossible. Learning how to pronounce Chinese first involves understanding how the sounds are pronounced, something most teachers won’t tell you more than once, which isn’t enough for most people to learn. Repeating what your teacher says is not enough! Increasing fluency is of course a matter of practice, but there are many smart ways to go about it.

Here are some questions which are answered in the articles in this category:

  • How do I learn all these weird sounds and tones?
  • How do learn to speak Chinese fluently?
  • How do I perfect my pronunciation?

It’s difficult to select a few articles that are more important than the others, but after careful consideration, I have chosen the following seven articles.

  1. Learning pronunciation as a beginner - Learning to pronounce Chinese properly is one of the major obstacles for most learners. As a beginner, the task might seem daunting, but I’m convinced that with the right attitude, native-like pronunciation is achievable. The most important thing to do is to take responsibility for your own learning and adopt a correct attitude towards being taught. Focusing a little bit on the third tone doesn’t hurt either.
  2. The art of being corrected – Very few people can receive criticism for something they do with a perfectly open mind and a positive attitude. In fact, I would go as far as saying that being able to do that is an art. Being corrected is a natural process when learning a language and something you should welcome with open arms, even if it takes courage and practice to do so.
  3. Learn by exaggerating: Slow, then fast; big, then small – If you want to speak or write quickly, you should start out by doing it slowly. Mimicking native speed early will just lead to sloppy language and bad communication. Expose your errors so that you have a chance to correct them.
  4. Don’t try to improve everything at once, limit your focus - When we learn, we can’t focus on everything at once. If we want to improve in a complex skill, simply practising that skill isn’t the most efficient way, we need to break it down and use target practice. For instance, focusing on improving pronunciation is too vague, but focusing on the fourth tone is more likely to yield positive results.
  5. Playing word games to practise fluency – Playing small and entertaining games is an excellent method to practise speaking. This word game allows you to do more than that, though, because it includes a way of practising fluency directly. The game is suitable for all levels (including native speakers) and is an excellent tool if you think it’s hard to just start talking.
  6. Tones are more important than you think – Tones are more important than most people think. Just because native speakers reduce tones and speak quickly, it doesn’t mean that you can do the same and get away with it. Don’t be fooled by people who say that tones in Chinese aren’t as important as all that, because they’re wrong.
  7. Recording yourself to improve speaking ability - Recording one’s own voice is useful and should be a natural part of both learning and teaching. When we hear our own voice, we can often hear mistakes we’re making that we don’t normally hear. We become aware of the way we speak in a new way. Correcting oneself is also much cheaper and more convenient than hiring a tutor.

Here’s a complete list of all articles published in this category (scroll down to see all of them in a text-only list):

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All articles
The art of being corrected
The virtues of language exchanges
Pros and cons with travelling to learn a language
A smart method to discover problems with tones
Learning Chinese pronunciation as a beginner
Listening to the listener
Four different kinds of mistakes: Problem analysis
Learning the third tone in Chinese
Benchmarking progress to stay motivated
Playing word games to practise fluency
Tones are more important than you think
Can you become fluent in Chinese in three months?
Learn by exaggerating: Slow, then fast; big, then small
Advancing in spite of praise
When perfectionism becomes an obstacle to progress
Don’t try to improve everything at once, limit your focus
Language is communication, not only an abstract subject to study
Recording yourself to improve speaking ability
The importance of tones is inversely proportional to the predictability of what you say
A guide to Pinyin traps and pitfalls
Vocalise more to learn more Chinese
Translating to improve your Chinese
Using Audacity to learn Chinese (speaking and listening)
Role-playing as a way to expand your Chinese
Do you really know how to count in Chinese?
Standard pronunciation in Chinese and why you want it
About fossilisation and improving your Chinese pronunciation
Drills and exercises aren’t only for beginners
Improving your spoken and written Chinese by focusing on the process
Role-playing to learn more Chinese and avoid frustration
Focusing on tone pairs to improve your Mandarin pronunciation
Two reasons why pronunciation matters more than you think
Asking the experts: How to learn Chinese grammar
Improving Foreign Language Pronunciation: Interview with Hacking Chinese on Language is Culture
Why good feedback matters and how to get it
How to Approach Chinese Grammar
How to find out how good your Chinese pronunciation really is
Language learning with a Chinese girlfriend or boyfriend
Improve your pronunciation with the Hacking Chinese pronunciation check

 

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