Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

Improving Foreign Language Pronunciation: Interview with Hacking Chinese on Language is Culture

A few weeks ago, David Mansaray over at Language is Culture asked me if I was interested in appearing in his new interview series focusing on different aspects of language learning. Since the content he had produced earlier looked really interesting and he seemed to be cool guy in general, I didn’t hesitate. After having discussed briefly, we settled on pronunciation as the topic of the interview. You can listen to the interview here:

Everything you Need to Know About Improving Foreign Language Pronunciation


Naturally, we didn’t talk about everything related to learning pronunciation (just like Hacking Chinese doesn’t actually tell you everything you need to know about learning Chinese), but we did cover a lot of interesting topics, such as:

  • How to train your ears to distinguish similar sounds in a foreign language
  • How to learn the pronunciation of words at the start of your language learning journey
  • The path to sounding like a native (and the reason why most people fail)
  • The best ways to get honest feedback on your pronunciation
  • How to manipulate the production of sound coming out of your mouth
  • How to constantly improve your pronunciation

The interview is about 70 minutes long and you can listen to it directly or download it from Language is Culture.

Some thoughts and reflections

I just listened through the interview myself and I’d like to share a few thoughts:

  • It’s great talking to other people who are also interested in pronunciation
  • It’s very hard to explain complicated topics in a limited amount of time for an imagined audience
  • I want to spend more time improving my own pronunciation, both in English and Chinese
  • I really do believe that the system is heavily stacked against people who don’t learn quickly
  • I have almost no photos of myself available (that was the only one I could find)
  • Pronunciation really is the most interesting part of learning a new language!

What did you think?

 If you listen to the interview, it would be great hearing what you think. Remember, I have (virtually) unlimited amount of space on this website to write more about any of the topics mentioned in the interview, so if you want me to expand on something, let me know! I also think I have a lot to learn when it comes to interviews and creating/contributing audio content in general, so feedback in that area would also be much appreciated!

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  1. Hugh Grigg says:

    Haha, was great to hear your voice, Olle!

    1. Olle Linge says:

      i think I have a lot to learn about audio/podcasts/interviews, but I would definitely like to focus more on audio in the future. Glad you liked it! 🙂

  2. Scott Young says:

    Great recording, Olle.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Thanks, glad you liked it!

  3. Tyson says:

    Cool podcast. At one point I discovered that I could not produce the sound zhe correctly (e.g. 打折). Then I realize I actually could not really hear the difference between zhi and zhe very well, and particularly could not tell which one I had produced. This was even with slow, quite exaggerated sounds!

    Then I really listened many many times to the difference and really noticed the different vowel sounds. It took about 2 weeks for this to snap into focus after I noticed it. Once I could hear that very well, I could finally produce the sound and know when I was right. This was quick – maybe 30 minutes (not perfect, but distinguishable as the correct sound). Then I also became much much better at self-correcting if I said it wrong.

    BTW the book Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow has some good explanations of how our brain gets overloaded and how it creates automatic processes to do things.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Thanks for sharing both your experience (I have experienced the same thing several times) and the book recommendation. I think that “brain overload” is something overlooked in language learning and teaching in general, so reading the book might give me more ideas on how to connect the two topics.

  4. xiaokaka says:

    Very interesting and informative talk!

    Did you mention which tonal error you made the first two years? (Listened while Skrittering, so might have missed it).

    If not, could you evolve a little bit?

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Hm… I’m not sure if I did. I intended to, but I might have forgotten it or considered it unimportant since most listeners would not be studying Chinese. In any case, I’ve talked about this a lot here!

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