Speaking is usually the #1 weakness for all Chinese learners. This is a common issue among language learners everywhere. The reason for this is obvious: When language learners first start learning a language, they usually start with reading. They read online articles, books, information on apps and so on. If they take a class, they spend 20% of their time repeating words, and 80% of the time reading the textbook, doing homework or just listening to a teacher. So, if you spend most of your time reading instead of speaking, you might get better at reading but your speaking skills never grow. You get better at what you focus on.
So if you want to improve you speaking skills, you need to spend more of your study time on speaking. Here are five tips to help you get started:
1. Read out loud
If you’re listening to a lesson and reading along, read out loud. Then re-read and speed up your tempo. Do this again and again until you can speak faster. Try your best to pronounce the words correctly, but don’t obsess about it. Read swiftly, emote and put some inflection on the sentences. Reading aloud helps to train the muscles of your mouth and diaphragm to produce unfamiliar words and sounds.
2. Prepare things to say ahead of time.
As you may know from experience, most learners run out of things to say. But, if you prepare lines ahead of time, you won’t be at a loss for words in conversations. This will help you not only to learn how to say the words, but how to say them in the right context. A good way to prepare yourself before conversations is with our Top 25 Questions Series, which teaches you how to ask the most common conversational questions, and how to answer them, in Chinese:
3. Use shadowing (repeat the dialogues as you hear them).
Shadowing is an extremely useful tool for increasing fluency as well as improving your accent and ability to be understood. Shadowing helps create all the neural connections in your brain to produce those words and sentences quickly and accurately without having to think about it. Also, as mentioned in tip #1, shadowing helps develop the muscle memory in all the physical parts responsible for the production of those sounds. Depending on what your primary and target languages are, it’s quite likely that there are a lot of sounds your mouth just isn’t used to producing. Shadowing can be done, for example, when watching TV shows or movies or listening to music.
Each one of our lessons begins with a dialogue. Try to shadow the conversation line by line, and you’ll be mastering it in no time.
4. Review again and again.
This is the key to perfection, and we can’t emphasize it enough. Most learners don’t review! If you review and repeat lines again and again, you’ll be speaking better, faster and with more confidence.
5. DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES!
You’d be surprised by how many people try to avoid talking! The more you speak, the faster you learn – and that is why you’re learning Chinese. Practice speaking every chance you get: whether it’s ordering coffee, shopping or asking for directions.