Tips and suggestions to improve your Chinese pronunciation

Updated: Mar 27, 2018 Print
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1. Master the basic rules of pronunciation and tones

Knowing basic greetings like “你好” “你好吗” in Chinese is not hard, but advancing beyond the warm up greetings is quite different endeavor. As a beginner, the most important thing is be familiar with all pinyin sounds, spelling rules and tone changing rules. If possible, you`d better find a professional teacher who can speak standard mandarin Chinese and explain the differences among those similar sounds properly.

There are many learning experiences sharing about how to improve your Chinese pronunciation. Regarding the tones, besides the regular tones practice, there are some learners who share their methods like mastering without using tone marks.

2. Having enough input: Make your own language environment

If you are learning Chinese in China or luckily be surrounded by a group of native speakers, just try to talk to them with what you`ve learnt. If you can`t follow them at the beginning, don`t feel embarrassed or upset. It`s a quite common phase. What you need to do is at least distinguishing the words you`ve learnt and be more familiar with the intonation Chinese language make. Gradually you can connect all the words and figure out what they are talking about.

If you don`t have the language environment, make it yourself! There are tons of online learning resources (well, surely you can find them at Dig Mandarin. ) No matter Chinese learning audios or videos, you can make use of your fragment time to listen. Sometimes, the learning content is a little bit tedious, afterwards you can find some Chinese songs to perfect your accent.   Also, learning from movies and TV shows is also a great way to train your sense of the language, and know more about Chinese culture as well.

3. Having enough output

i. Practice in words, phrases and sentences

Don`t just practice the individual characters. There is phonetic change in the flow of speech, especially the tones. When you first begin to study Mandarin Chinese pronunciation, it is beneficial to practice pairs of tones. Begin with a word you already know, such as很好(hěnhǎo, very good). This phrase uses the second then the third tone. Say this phrase out loud several times and listen for the tone and rhythm of the syllables. Studying this natural rhythm of the language will help you pronounce new words you come across. Also, the increased accuracy of your Mandarin pronunciation will help you say sentences more smoothly.The start is of course tough, however after going through it; the longer sentences will be much easier for you.

ii. Slow down and be clear

Pay attention that you do not speak too fast. It`s very natural to speak in a normal speed just like the native speaker. But you are just a beginner who might not pronounce the standard sound. Speed is the last thing you should care about. Just SLOW DOWN! Make your sounds clear and correct. If people can`t even understand you, do you seriously care about your speaking speed? After all, a successful communication is the goal and accuracy is the most important thing.

iii. Practice makes perfect

As we mentioned above, you need to cultivate a keen sense of Chinese language by enough input. Some when you are practice by yourself and not with others, you are creating the illusion that you are speaking Chinese well. The truth might be only you yourself can understand or of course your teacher can guess what you are trying to say exactly. So the only key is practice, practice and practice. If once doesn`t work, then do it twice, triple…… You will finally get it.

4. Learn from your mistakes

As you know, Chinese people are very kind, so encouragement and compliment will be the main trend of their comments to your speaking. Confidence is necessary, but their kindness is not your reason to ignore the mistakes and your foreign pronunciation. Ask your Chinese friends to point out your inaccuracy and specific problems directly. Of course, it can`t be better if the one friend is a professional teacher. Then take down the notes of your common mistakes and analyze them one by one. This process will help you conquer your problems. It may be discouraging sometimes to hear about so many mistakes, but you will learn a lot from them quickly and it will help you to improve much faster than you think.

You also can observe if other people understand you. Regardless their kindness, understanding is a good start anyhow. In addition you can try to prepare a paragraph on a specific topic, then record your own speech. Listen to it several times to see if it`s weird in your perspective. Then ask your Chinese friends or teacher help you checking it. If possible, you can also compare your own recordings with the native speaker`s. It`s very clear to hear the differences of sounds, rhythms and intonation. Adjusting and improving your pronunciation is what you can do naturally. Focusing on the difficulties and repeat it slower. Just make sure you are pronouncing the right way.

5. Review all the time

Acquiring accurate pronunciation is a long-tern battle. Don`t be naïve as if you can master the authentic pronunciation in one shot. Record all your mistakes and misunderstanding of some specific concepts. Review your notes from time to time. It will call your attention and remind you the right way you should act. One day you will finally master them all.

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