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Essential Tips for Improving Your Mandarin Speaking Skills

Updated: Apr 21

To speak Mandarin fluently, there's a lot to focus on. Let's explore four essential areas.

  1. Pronunciation: When speaking a sentence in Mandarin, it's important to pronounce each word correctly, especially easily confused words. For example, in the sentence 我今天晚上出去吃饭 (wǒ jīntiān wǎnshang chūqù chīfàn) - "I'm going out to eat tonight," the word 出去 (chūqù) - "go out" should be clear, otherwise it might sound like 不去 (bù qù) - "not going."

  2. Intonation: Intonation is crucial when speaking Mandarin. It conveys your attitude, emphasizes important points, and delivers key information. This is especially true in long sentences with many words grouped together. For example, the sentence 我昨天收到了在北京学习的朋友发来的电子邮件 (wǒ zuótiān shōudào le zài běijīng xuéxí de péngyou fā lái de diànzǐ yóuxiàn) - "I received an email yesterday sent by my friend who is studying in Beijing" - should be spoken with certain words grouped together. The key information, "I received an email" (wǒ shōudào le diànzǐ yóuxiàn), should be stressed and emphasized. Therefore, learners should learn about sentence stress and how to use pauses effectively.

  3. Speed and Fluency: The ultimate goal of speaking Mandarin is to achieve fluency, which sounds like a native speaker. Speed: Speak naturally at a reasonable pace. The average native Mandarin speaker speaks at 180-200 words per minute (each character is one syllable). For example, an 800-word presentation in Mandarin should take about 4.5 minutes. Beginners can practice speaking a bit slower, at 140-160 words per minute. Fluency: Fluency and accuracy can sometimes contradict each other, especially when you're unsure of the exact word to use. Here's some advice for speaking Mandarin fluently: * Have a strong vocabulary base. * Use correct sentence order, especially in long sentences. * Employ conjunctions or linking words to connect different ideas. For example, the sentence 不管你喜不喜欢社交网络,我们都得认识到它影响了年轻人的生活方式。虽然这种基于网络的社交方式对老年人来说有点奇怪,但是我们就是生活在这样处处有数字技术的时代 (bùguǎn nǐ xǐbùxǐhuan shèjiāowǎngluò, wǒmen dōu děi rènshi dào tā yǐngxiǎngle niánqīngrén de shēnghuó fāngshì. Suīrán zhè zhǒng jīyú wǎngluò de shèjiāo fāngshì duì láonianrén lái shuō yǒudiǎn qíguài, dànshì wǒmen jiùshì shēnghuó zài zhèyàng chùchù yǒu shùzì jìshù de shí대) (no matter what, although, but) expresses different opinions using conjunctions.

  4. Listening and Reading: Finally, and most importantly, you cannot improve your speaking skills without listening and reading. Listening helps you learn how to say simple words and phrases correctly. However, sometimes you can say words without understanding their meaning. Therefore, reading authentic texts, dialogues, or articles is crucial for improving your speaking skills. Reading exposes you to the right way to say things and provides rich and useful vocabulary and a wide range of grammar and sentence structures which you can use as in your own speech.


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