Have you learnt Chinese but are still not able to have a conversation with locals? Do you know the words but are unable to put them together in a sentence? You might often understand what native Chinese people are saying but are unable to respond back? All these situations seem frustrating, especially when the fundamental aim of you learning a foreign language is to speak it. Conversational Mandarin being extremely logical, is easier than people think.
With over 13 years of experience, Inchin Closers experts have compiled a list of 5 easy and foolproof ways to get you speaking Mandarin like a native. We’ve analysed the best practices from our classrooms, spoken with students to understand what worked for them and talked with teachers to distill some of their best methodologies to get even the quietest students to speak confidently in Mandarin.
1 The Inchin App
The main feature of the Inchin App is practical, interactive stories that are powered by artificial intelligence based speech recognition. This means that you are practicing Mandarin in context, and are speaking the answers aloud to move the story ahead. By pronouncing the answer correctly you not only sharpen your conversational skills but also ensure that your tones are on point. The beauty of interactive stories is that you can play the same story multiple times, answering differently and therefore navigating the story to new conclusions every time! The Inchin app’s superb analytics helps track your progress to visually display the improvement in your conversational abilities. Whats more, the interactive stories also work on your character reading and listening skills as the story moves forward. All interactive stories on the Inchin App are written by Chinese language students and are graded by levels of difficulty.
2. Record yourself reading conversations aloud
We are often surprised by the way we speak. You might think you’re saying mǎi which means to buy but you might inadvertently be saying mài which means to sell. If you are alone and have nobody to practice with, the simplest way is to read a conversation from your textbook aloud and record yourself speaking. Then play back the conversation to hear if you are pronouncing the words correctly, keeping a sharp eye on the tones. By role playing a conversation that you are already familiar with you will not only aid fluency and fluidity of your language but will be more accustomed to responding if you find yourself in the same situation.
To take this exercise a notch up, you can create your own conversation with text you are already familiar with by changing a few details. This way you personalise the conversation and improve your fluency in speaking.
3. Find a language partner
If you have friends or colleagues in China, find a convenient day and time, choose a topic in advance, prepare yourself with the vocabulary around that topic and speak. The advantage of having a language partner is that they will help you speak like a local replete with slang words, phrases and fascinating cultural nuggets. It’s also much more fun to learn with somebody rather than on your own. At Inchin Closer, we help our students find age and level appropriate language partners with whom they can practice practical Mandarin. The best part is, that its free of cost! All you need to do in exchange is to prepare a similar one hour class to help your partner with conversational English or Hindi.
4. Karaoke and C-dramas
Engaging, content is at our fingertips 24X7 now. If you have a busy schedule and like to unwind at the end of the say in front of the telly, why not watch a foreign language film or belt out a few tunes? Singing karaoke is proven to help students become fluent in Mandarin. While themes and tempos change, singing is one of the most fun and interactive ways to learn a new language. Initially select slow songs, usually love ballads that will help you ease into the groove, but once you’ve got the hang of it or created your own playlist, try some of the faster songs too! If you’d prefer a preselected playlist of Chinese songs, subscribe to Inchin Closers playlist on spotify.
Alternatively, if you prefer audio-visual stimulation, there are hundreds of Chinese movies on OTT platforms that you can watch either with or without subtitles. Chrome also has a subtitle plugin for youtube, which means that you can select any video and change the audio or subtitles into Mandarin. We’d recommend you start with easy childrens movies and graduate to Wong Kar Wai’s films. Lastly, if you are a die-hard bollywood fan, many popular Bollywood films (mostly Aamir Khan’s) have both been dubbed and subtitled in Mandarin. You’re already familiar with the story, now follow the dialogues, diction and drama.
5. Send Wechat voice notes to friends
You have your mobile with you at most times, why not make it work for you? Either have a Chinese friend get onto whatsapp or find a strong VPN to get onto wechat. Wechat is China’s super app with whatsapp, youtube, facebook and google pay all combined. The simplest feature on wechat is sending voice notes. Short 1 minute clips of data with which you can have a convenient conversation with a native Chinese friend. It’s a perfect solution, if you aren’t able to find a language partner, but enjoy the interactivity of actually talking to someone else. Select a topic for the day, it could be about your personal life, current affairs or a topic from your textbook. Wechat voice notes are real-life conversations that you can have with friends in China, but they don’t need to impede on your work life. Every time you get a break, listen to your friends voice note, look up words you don’t understand and formulate what you are going to say. Your native Chinese friend will be able to help you improve conversational fluency, pronunciation, add to your vocabulary and give cultural context. Its the best you can come to talking with Chinese people without actually being in China!