My pronunciation of Chinese is almost perfect; and this even though I am terrible at studying languages. I am a born and raised Caucasian American. I first started studying Chinese when I was 27 years old. On the phone, a native Chinese almost always mistakes me as a fellow native Chinese. How did I achieve this? More importantly, can you learn how to speak Chinese fluently, as well? I believe you can with the method I’m about to share with you.
Background To My Standard Accent
I have a passion for foreign language, however I am not particularly skilled or talented at learning the. I have a degree in Spanish, and I was able to do very well on tests and quizzes. However, I struggled with speaking in all around conversation.
After graduation, I went to China to teach English for one year. That one year turned into eight years, and during that time I learned to speak Chinese quite fluently and with a near-perfect accent. But, it didn’t start out that way.
I first started learning Chinese from a retired English teacher. She was quite strict and refused to teach anyone unless they were serious about making progress. I was a good student, but my pronunciation was terrible. One day during class she had me recite the dialogue. Of course, my pronunciation was terrible, and on this particular day she decided to lay in to me quite harshly.
I left her house so dejected and depressed. But, I was also determined to not give her the opportunity to criticize my pronunciation again. This happened on a Friday. Over the weekend I discovered a method to master how to speak Chinese fluently and little or no accent. Our next class was on the following Monday. I told myself on the way home that when I read the dialogue out loud on Monday it was going to be fluent in perfect.
The Method – How To Speak Chinese Fluently (or any language for that matter)
My method wasn’t anything new. It consisted of building up, word by word, to being able to recite a sentence fluently. As I was walking home, I knew the trick to being able to recite a sentence fluently would be to first start with the first word. Once I could say it with correct pronunciation and the proper tone, then I would add the next word in the sentence, practicing those two together. Once I could save those two fluently, then I would add the third word, and then the fourth, and so on until I could say the whole sentence fluently.
In the beginning this took a while. It might have taken me 10 minutes just to learn how to recite “I ate breakfast at eight in the morning” in perfect, fluent Chinese with no accent. But I was determined.
To help, I used a double cassette player (this was in 1996). Using the cassette tape that came with the textbook, I recorded each sentence three times in a row onto a blank cassette tape. This way, I didn’t need to keep rewinding the cassette tape while practicing. I would play back the tape, listening and repeating each sentence. I had three chances to work on and master the pronunciation before I had to rewind the cassette again.
After practicing the whole weekend, I returned to class on Monday. The moment of truth. My teacher finally asked me to recite the dialogue. Looking at the dialogue in the textbook, I started to recite. It was flawless. I basked in the praise of my teacher and knew that I had come across a powerful learning tool for learning how to speak Chinese with virtually no accent.
Using Google Translate To Master How To Speak Chinese Fluently
We will be using two features of Google translate in order to improve our spoken language skills. They are the “Listen” function and the Pinyin.
Step 1 – Paste or type the Chinese sentence you want to study, in characters, and the Google translate.
Step 2 – Highlight all the characters in the sentence, except the first word.
Step 3 – Using “CTRL-X”, cut the highlighted characters. This way you will be able to pace them back in later.
Step 4 – Click the listen button and pay attention to the pronunciation and tone. Use the pinyin for help and pronunciation.
You will notice that Google translate will alternate reciting the text at normal speed and then at slower speed. Clicking the listen button, listen and repeat out loud as many times as you need to in order to pronounce the word accurately.
While you are doing this, be sure to think about the meaning of the word. Once you feel that your pronunciation and tone are accurate, move on to the next step.
Step 5 – Paste back in the rest of the sentence. Then, highlight and cut everything but the first two words.
Step 6 – Using the listen button, listen and repeat after the two words.
Again, listen and repeat as many times as you need to pronounce the words accurately with proper tones.
Step 7 – Continue, word by word, until you are able to pronounce the entire sentence accurately.
Some Considerations When Using This Methods To Learn To Speak Chinese
Using this method to learn how to speak Chinese fluently is extremely effective. Pay attention to these tips as you are using this method.
- Keep in mind that this will take some time. Don’t be discouraged if it takes you 10 minutes to master a short sentence. If you use this process daily, you’ll find that it takes less and less time.
- Be strict with yourself concerning pronunciation and tones. Refer to my Chinese pronunciation videos if you are unable to reproduce the words with accurate pronunciation and tones just by listening to Google translate.
- When you are finished with a sentence, close your eyes and count to 10 and see if you can still recite it from memory. I like to have my students give themselves the extra challenge of not allowing themselves to move on to the next sentence until they are able to say the sentence accurately from memory. Keep in mind that you will likely forget the sentence quickly as you move on to other sentences. However, being able to keep it in your short-term memory for 10 seconds is a helpful part of this exercise.
- Use this method with every sentence that appears in your textbook.
- Finally, use this method daily and you will find your pronunciation, listening and fluency rapidly increasing.
I hope you find this method for how to speak Chinese fluently helpful. Please let me know in the comments section below if you have any questions.