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Tricks to Speaking Chinese Fluently

If you are learning Chinese, you may hope to one day speak Chinese fluently. While the definition of fluency can vary from person to person, you can absolutely reach a level of fluency in day-to-day Chinese. However, there is no “magic pill” you can take to make yourself fluent. Becoming fluent in Chinese requires hard work and a multifaceted approach in order to succeed. With that in mind, here are some of the things that I have personally done to achieve fluency in Mandarin Chinese.

1. Take Chinese Classes

Never doubt the power of a good teacher and regular Chinese lessons. Having Chinese lessons weekly or even more often will also keep you accountable for studying and practicing your Chinese regularly. As they say, practice really does make perfect.

If your teacher follows the HSK or another curriculum, this will also be a good way to measure your progress. You can use the textbook or mock HSK exams to gauge how your fluency in Chinese is improving.

I highly recommend that you check around for a school or private teacher that meets your needs and style and start studying. You will want to make sure you choose a good Chinese teacher

2. Get a (one-sided) language partner

Do not fall into the trap of a language exchange. Often, speaking Chinese part of the time and another language for the rest of the time means that neither you nor your language exchange partner will improve very much.

Instead, find someone who is willing to speak only Chinese with you. This will ensure that you will have plenty of opportunities to speak Chinese, make mistakes, and learn from them.

Having a language partner also gives you a safe space in which you can practice new vocabulary and grammar that you learned in your Chinese classes.

3. Immersion!

Yes, you have almost certainly heard the immersion recommendation before. However, I do not mean simply traveling to China. I mean full-on, total immersion. For everything you do, do it in Chinese.

Listening to music? Choose Chinese songs. Want to watch some Netflix? Pick a Chinese series. Reading a book? Pick up a Chinese one for your level. Even try changing your phone settings into Chinese if you are feeling brave enough!

If you are already located in China, avoid going to areas that are popular among foreigners. If you go to spend time where all the foreigners in your city hang out, you will inevitably end up speaking a language other than Chinese, which will certainly not help you achieve your goal of Chinese fluency.  It may be difficult at first to speak to strangers completely in Chinese, but if you try your best, you will find that people are friendly and often very happy to chat with you.

If you see other opportunities in your life where you can use Chinese, go ahead and make the switch. The more you immerse yourself in a Chinese environment, the more your Chinese fluency will increase.

4. Take notes

Remember all the Chinese music, television, books, and friends you will be immersing yourself with? Make sure to keep a notebook and pen on hand to jot down the new information you come across.

Do not trust yourself to remember every new word or phrase you encounter; there will be too many, and you will forget them all very quickly.

This also means it is very important that you learn how to handwrite Chinese characters.

Review your notes at the end of the day or go through them at the end of the week and practice the new Chinese words or grammar structures with your Chinese teacher or language partner for maximum retention.

5. Be consistent

People can often underestimate the power of consistency when it comes to achieving fluency in a language, especially Chinese.

Staying consistent with your studies means that you will constantly be progressing and improving. Some days you might be able to do more, and some days you might do less, but the trick is to keep Chinese fresh in your mind.

Even if you do not have a lot of time in which to learn Chinese, make sure that you are studying and reviewing at least a little bit every day. It is important to keep your brain primed and in learning mode.

If you are struggling to find motivation to study Chinese consistently, you want to consider some more ways in which you can integrate Chinese into your daily life.

6. Don’t give up

Learning a language can be difficult, and Chinese is definitely not a language for the faint of heart!

There will be days when you speak Chinese with little to no difficulty. On those days, you will feel unbeatable! However, there will also be days when you struggle to string a sentence together, even with words you mastered long ago.

This is a natural phenomenon and to be expected during the language-learning process. It will take determination and a stiff upper lip to power through the hard days.

The difficult days may be disappointing, but if you remember that there will be ups and downs along the way, it will help you to push through the tough times. Eventually, the hard days will grow fewer and farther between, and those moments of triumph will happen more and more often as you become more fluent in Chinese.

These are some of the tricks that helped me achieve fluency in Chinese. While there is still a lot that I do not know when it comes to Chinese, I am continuing to use these methods to improve and maintain my Chinese fluency.

If you can take Chinese lessons, get a language partner, immerse yourself completely, and take notes on all you learn, you are certain to see an improvement in your fluency in Chinese. If you can only do one or two of these suggestions, that is also fine.

What is most important is to stay consistent in your studies and never give up! Now get out there and get fluent!

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Eden Lunde

Eden is a language and culture enthusiast who has been learning Chinese for 15 years and has spent six years in China. She speaks both Chinese and Spanish fluently. She is co-owner of Culture Yard, an online Chinese language school based in Beijing.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. HI ! Skype is also a very useful medium in todays modern world to connect yourself worldwide with your family, friends and even with Tutors.Through Skype,you can learn many languages worldwide. I am learning chinese on skype I have found a very good Native chinese Tutor. Now, I regularly practice chinese on skype with my Tutor.

  2. I don’t speak Chinese (though I do know a number of phrases, quite a few individual words, and have a basic albeit minimal understanding of the writing system.) But I do have fairly extensive experience learning languages other than my native English and must respectfully disagree with several of your suggestions and the order in which you seem to prioritize them. It is true that foreign learners often learn the grammar of an adopted language better than many “average people on the street,” but on the other hand, reasonably well-educated native speakers do usually understand the grammar of their native languages fairly well, even if they couldn’t recite the “rules” in the exactly correct linguistic terms. And really, there’s no reason people should not strive to learn “foreign” languages at the level of their ability to speak their native language. Of course that can take a long time for older students who are well-educated and more articulate than average, but if those people don’t learn their new language’s grammar and syntax as they go along, their skill in their second (or additional) language will lag far behind their ability speak their native tongue.

    But first, I do agree completely with your points numbered 2 (“Practice Speaking Chinese Aloud”), 4 (“Immerse Yourself”) and 5 (“Expand Your Vocabulary”). Indeed, I would go even further than your number 2 and suggest that people not only practice speaking “out loud”, but even practice “speaking to themselves” as they go about their daily activities (NOT out loud of course, or people will think they’re crazy!:)) ), describing things they do and see to themselves in Chinese.

    But I must respectfully disagree with several of your other suggestions, or least disagree with what seems to be the emphasis you place on them:

    1) I sincerely think it’s a very poor idea to actually “encourage” people not to focus on/”worry” about grammar. I’m not by any means saying that students should, let alone must, learn “every” grammar rule, but in my experience those who learn languages without understanding the grammar tend to be poor speakers and even worse listeners, never advancing beyond a low level of language acquisition that really amounts to know a lot of “phrases.” Faced with new vocabulary or even slightly complex language, they become very quickly confused and cannot extend their ability. Which may be fine for those who are content to learn only the most casual of conversational skills, but is not very helpful for more educated speakers who quickly become frustrated when their “foreign language” skills lags far behind their ability to communicate in their native language.

    2) With respect, I think it’s a bit silly to tell people who can barely understand or speak a language to “think” in it, especially anyone with more than a very modest amount of education in their native language. “Thinking in” a language is a skill that comes only with proficiency, and of course, any “thoughts” beyond those involving the most basic physical needs require much more language proficiency than one might think at first glance.


    3) Your suggestion that people “stay positive” is of course well-intended, but concerns me slightly because unless people take some care to learn a thing correctly at the beginning, “staying positive” may simply encourage them to ignore their mistakes and develop bad “language habits” that can haunt their future ability and become very difficult to correct later on.

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