Tips for Chinese Speaking
Master Chinese Pinyin and Tones
Pinyin is essential throughout the early stages of learning Chinese. It allows students to focus on their pronunciation while also enabling them to read and write. Learning pinyin will help lay the foundation for sound pronunciation down the line. Once you learn Chinese pinyin you will know how to pronounce any word in Mandarin by simply using a Chinese dictionary.
Chinese pinyin consists of initial consonants (b, p, m, f, d, t, n, l, ɡ, k, h, j, q, x, z, c, s, r, zh, ch, sh) and finals or compound vowels (a, o, e, i, u etc.). Each Chinese character is one syllable constructed by a compound vowel and one initial consonant.
1. Great Chinese pinyin learning tools
- A good online Pinyin chart
This useful Chinese pinyin chart can help you learn Chinese pinyin faster and easier.
- Pinyin input
Getting a pinyin Chinese input method editor (IME) is an essential part of Chinese learning. The one most highly recommend is Google Pinyin.
2. Listen to recordings
We have an expression in English that also applies to learning Chinese: “Open your ears before you open your mouth.” Listening to recordings of native Chinese speakers is a great way to get to know the correct pronunciation of Chinese and its tones. You can access some free Chinese learning podcasts that are aimed at both Chinese learners and natives.
3. Practice consistently
Practice makes perfect. Whether you are in Beijing or Boston, speaking practice is essential to making progress in Chinese learning. Having a native-speaking partner is essential in this process, as you don't want to fossilize tonal mistakes as your Chinese progresses. Weed out any speaking problems and learn from your mistakes.
- Make correct pronunciation a higher priority than speaking speed. Speaking slowly but surely allows you more time to think about what you’re doing. It’s also easier to find mistakes!
- Read text and dialogues very slowly and make sure your pronunciation is correct. Again, having a qualified tutor or instructor is important to grade your tones and highlight any mistakes. Chinese is not an easy language to learn by yourself.
- Record yourself, compare, adjust, improve. I know, no one likes to hear their voice on tape. However, “no pain, no gain”. Endure hours of your own voice and keep focusing on the areas you know you’re having trouble with. If you find yourself pronouncing something incorrectly, repeat it at a slower pace and make sure you get it right.
- Practice with a native Chinese speaker
Chinese is not a language to learn solo. If you don't begin by learning and practicing with a native speaker, you are in danger of getting off on the wrong foot and walking far off in the wrong direction. Having a qualified native Chinese speaker to guide you in the right direction is invaluable. Tones and pronunciation are an essential part of understanding and being understood in Chinese. A qualified Chinese tutor (Get a Chinese tutor) can identify your weaknesses and help you learn the language in a way that makes sense to you. The proper Mandarin tutor will spot your deficiencies and incorporate extra pronunciation and listening practice into the lesson to target your weak areas.
Learning Chinese Words and Phrases
Chinese words and phrases are important for speaking fluent Chinese, but learning them can be challenging. A good strategy is to start from basic words and phrases, such as family members, places, animals, beverages, and other daily useful language.
1. Taking Notes is a great method to remember Chinese characters, phrases and terms.
2. Studying 3-5 words or phrases every day is more effective than studying for a long period. Studying one to two hours each day will make it easy for you to memorize language more efficiently, instead of cramming hundreds of words in each day to speed through the process.
3. Apps such as Skritter, WeChat and Pleco may help you on your way. Add these to your phone and practice in your free time.
4. Make vocabulary flashcards. The physical act of writing reinforces words in your memory as the cards allow you to test your knowledge at any time.
5. Try to use whatever new words you've learned as you go about your day. Slip the words into sentences as naturally as possible. Through this utilization, you'll know you've got not only the definition but different uses of it down. You can also use what you have learned to make a creative story, which could make the learning process more memorable and unpredictable.
6. Although one can learn vocabulary from word lists or frequency lists (which are a bit boring and rote), words in context are a great aid to remembering vocabulary and, in particular, how they are used in daily life.
Speak Chinese in Realistic Conversations
For the Chinese language, being able to speak Chinese properly is an extremely important part of mastering the language. The following are some tips that can help you conduct daily conversations on a wide range of topics in Chinese.
1. Get the Right Materials
First, you can find some free online Chinese resources regarding all kinds of topics.
For example: Order Dishes, Make an introduction, Business greetings etc. (Get More Chinese Conversations)
2. Listen to Chinese Audio and Repeat
Listen to Chinese audio and repeat after it. The more native Chinese you hear, the more language you will absorb and learn passively. Try to repeat new words frequently to make them stick in your memory.
3. Find a Language exchange Partner
It’s good to get a language partner as you can learn each other's languages and culture together. A good language partner will support you and you will have motivation to not give up or slack off! However, beware that some language partners may not be qualified or professional teachers or tutors.
Not everyone has access to a qualified, professional language partner. Regardless of your location, the better choice is to learn with an online Chinese tutor who can meet with you at your convenience. No commute time, no parking problems, no rainy days. Just effective lessons at your own pace and from the comfort of your own home.
Other effective ways to improve your Chinese speaking
Learn Chinese in a fun way. Chinese learners may want to learn some simple yet popular Chinese songs, where they can master some basic Chinese words, phrases and sentences that they can use in daily life.
A wide range of movie genres are covered, including drama and action movies such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, and If You Are the One, among many. TV programs, including situational comedies such as Love My Family and Aiqing Apartment, along with variety shows such as Happy Camp are also ways to practice your listening and pay attention for trendy language that you may not learn from textbooks. Remember, Chinese phrases are always evolving and changing in use!
3. Travel to a Chinese-speaking Country
There is no faster and more efficient way to study Mandarin Chinese than to travel to China and immerse yourself in the Chinese language and the local culture. In addition to improving your Mandarin through the immersion, you will also gain unique insights into what life in China, Chinese culture, and local customs are all about.
If you do plan on going to China for a short or long period of time, it is important that you don't go in totally fresh to the language. Try a useful Chinese immersion program before you depart for China. Preparation will give you a head start in your time in China. You can hit the ground running and avoid cultural taboos and confusion.