Take the 2-minute tour ×
Chinese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Chinese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Are there any recommended resources or methodologies to improve your Chinese pronunciation?

Besides having a native speaker at your disposal, are there any tools that can help to correct pronunciation?

share|improve this question
add comment

8 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted
+50

For beginner level:

I have some children's textbooks with short stories / poems (around 20 - 50 characters). Chinese children in years 1/2 spend time practicing by reciting these short stories until they get them perfect.

Here is an example of the first lesson from the school text book:

一片一片又一片,两片三片四五片,六片七片八九片,香山红叶红满天

Yīpiàn yīpiàn yòu yīpiàn, liǎng piàn sān piàn sìwǔ piàn, liù piàn qī piàn bājiǔ piàn, XiāngShān hóngyè hóng mǎn tiān

Try reciting these until you get fast and clear.

Something else that worked for me was listening to music. You can easily get songs with lyrics from the Internet. Aim for pop songs where the singer has clear pronunciation. Then practice singing along.

For intermediate level:

I suggest regularly practicing reading aloud. This may sound overly simplistic, but if you get a book that has pinyin so that you can read at a reasonable pace without getting too caught up in the meaning. This will help you exercise your mouth and will improve your pronunciation.

For advanced level:

Try searching the net for some Chinese tongue twisters like:

吃葡萄不吐葡萄皮

Chī pútáo bù tǔ pútáo pí

share|improve this answer
    
+1 Very interesting... :D Do you mind including the pinyin for the first thing you wrote? I'm curious to try it! :) –  Alenanno Dec 13 '11 at 22:09
    
@Alenanno - I've added it in to the answer, you can get this by posting Chinese into Google Translate –  xiaohouzi79 Dec 13 '11 at 23:43
    
Yes, I'm aware of that, and although I didn't think of it honestly, when possible I prefer more reliable sources... :) –  Alenanno Dec 13 '11 at 23:56
    
Eat grape, don't spit it out! –  Lee Louviere Dec 19 '11 at 22:56
    
+1 for the music idea. My mother has been a Chinese professor teaching at an American university for the past 25 years. Her students love learning Chinese songs with simple lyrics since they're less intimidating and more fun. –  Jin Dec 26 '11 at 21:27
show 1 more comment

a good way to improve pronunciation is to listen to natives speak. And when you don't have such a thing at your disposal, you can fall back on TV shows, news, radio, etc. This will get you used to hearing natives speaking so that you will learn to know the difference between what is pronounced right and what isn't.

Of course you also need to practice. An easy way is to have some recorded show, audio of a native speaking that you can practice with. Just listen to what they say, pause and recite it. You should also record how you sound like so you can do a full comparison later.

As for tools, there probably are some programs out there that does this for you. But it's not that difficult to do it on your own.

share|improve this answer
    
Whenever I visit my grandparents in China, I always end up spending lots of time with my grandmother watching daytime soap operas on TV. I've found that my vocabulary and pronunciation are both greatly improved afterwards! –  weiy Dec 13 '11 at 22:06
    
@weiy yea not to mention, watching those shows greatly improves your listening comprehension. –  mugetsu Dec 13 '11 at 23:12
add comment

Have you tried practicing with tongue twisters (绕口令)?

They can help with both listening and pronunciation. Repetition is really the only way to go if you want to master pronunciation.

Here are a few to try:

(My personal favorite.)

吃葡萄不吐葡萄皮

不吃葡萄倒吐葡萄皮


四是四

十是十

十四是十四

四十是四十

四十四是四十四

四十四隻石獅子是死的

老师是四十四,是不是?


梨和泥

樹上有梨

地上有泥

風刮梨

梨落地

梨滾泥

泥沾梨


扁擔長

板凳寬

扁擔比板凳長

板凳比扁擔寬

扁擔綁在了板凳上

板凳不讓扁擔綁在板凳上

扁擔非要綁在板凳上


For practicing Cantonese, try this:

白石白又滑

搬來白石搭白塔

白石塔白石搭

白石搭白塔

搭好白石塔

白塔白又滑

Pronunciation (wasn't sure how to format this):

baak6 sek6 baak6 jau6 waat6

bun1 loi4 baak6 sek6 daap2 baak6 t'aap2

baak6 sek6 t'aap2 baak6 sek6 daap2

baak6 sek6 daap2 baak6 t'aap2

daap2 hou5 baak6 sek6 t'aap2

baak6 t'aap3 baak6 jau6 waat6

share|improve this answer
add comment

One thing that helped me was to not focus too much on individual characters and their tones. On learning material they tend to be a little over-pronounced, and when I practiced I would overemphasize things even more.

By focusing on phrases instead of syllables I was able to make my speech more natural. Also listened to some native speakers instead of relying too much on learning materials. Repeat any phrases you recognize while listening.

Conversely it can be helpful to just go through the bo po mo fo alphabet repeatedly to get the different consonants into your head. Many of them blend together for me. For example, distinguishing between a zh and j, or remembering the difference between zou and zuo, took quite a bit of practice.

share|improve this answer
    
"or remembering the difference between zuo and zuo" Could you add the Chinese characters to clarify? (I am guessing 作 and 做, but I don't know) –  Orion Dec 15 '11 at 4:05
    
Ah, I meant to say zou and zuo. Mostly it is the uo vs ou and which is pronounced what way that I have trouble with. –  JIStone Dec 15 '11 at 16:36
add comment

When I was learning, I spent a lot of time counting to ten. You get a great mix of all 4 Mandarin tones, plus you get good comparison opportunities, as well. It's also relatively mindless, so you can recite on a bus/subway/walk to school, etc.

一,二,三,四,五,六,七,八,九,十

yi1, er4, san1, si4, wu3, liu4, qi1, ba1, jiu3, shi2

The 1-4-1-4 pattern at the beginning is really helpful, as is the 3-4 pattern at 五,六.

Much of mastering tones is not only learning the tone, but also learning to transition fluidly between different tones. I found this method really helpful.

share|improve this answer
add comment

JIStone and tbaums both have great answers, studying bopo mofo and "parrotting" are both great. I would like to make an addition.

Listening to tv and radio are both ok, but will mainly increase your understanding of spoken Chinese, and possibly add some vocabulary. So don't count on it as a way to improve your pronounciation.

I did the following a lot:

  1. Listening to textbook material I would get hooked on some phrases, not really sure what the reason was, could be because they were funny, difficult, exaggerated etc etc.
  2. Anytime that you are not listening to the recording, keep these phrases or sentences rolling in your mind, and imitate the recording out loud as well as you can.
  3. Then go back to listening to those passages and see if your imitation was getting close to "perfect".
  4. Now, start to restructure those passages on your own by exchanging words, or changing the order. Check with a native speaker or teacher if your "mash-ups" are grammatically correct.
  5. Go on with practicing these phrases, with and without your modifications.

In this way you get a base of words and sentences you can pronounce very well, and use as fallback context if you want to insert new vocabulary.

For tones, I would use head swaying and hand waving a lot. 2nd tone goes all the way up nazi-salute style, 4th slashes down like a samuraj sword etc. All of a sudden I noticed I could do the movements inside my head instead. Thus looking less like a moron in the street.

share|improve this answer
add comment

同志,你知道世界上有一档节目叫新闻联播吗?这个节目发音十分标准,语速并不是很快,而且很容易找到的。

share|improve this answer
add comment

Software Tools

I use MacOSX 10.9.2 and one free tool that I've discovered is a Chinese language system voice that can speak Beijing Mandarin, Taiwan Mandarin, or Cantonese. I use this tool to listen to any highlighted Chinese text on my computer or the web. Although translate.google.com also supports speech, the site will sometimes translate improperly so I find it better to use Google+ and sites like this one to review posts from Chinese language users (this helps me assess good contextual phrases). Okay so back to using the tool, please follow these instructions to enable Chinese language speaking on MacOSX 10.9+.

  1. Navigate to System Preferences > Dictation & Speech
  2. Select the Text to Speech tab Text-to-Speech
  3. Select the System voice popup button Popup
  4. Select Customize... (at the bottom of the list of voices)
  5. Search "chin" (no quotes) Search

  6. Select all of the available Chinese voices (Sin-ji speaks Cantonese, Ting-Ting speaks Beijing Mandarin, Mei-jia speaks Taiwanese Mandarin)

  7. After you click OK; Change the System Voice to the appropriate Chinese dialect you want using the voice names described in step #7
  8. In Safari and elsewhere, use the default context menu on highlighted Chinese text and system will speak in the current Chinese dialect selected

Simple Automator Service

You can take this a step further by creating a set of automator services that will speak in any language you desire. To set this up is very easy:

  1. Complete the steps from the first eight steps above (adding as many speaking voices in different languages that you'd like)
  2. Open Automator (comes standard with MacOSX 10.9+ and can be found by typing in Spotlight)
  3. Click New Document
  4. Choose Service as the document type Service Type
  5. Search for Speak Text Action Search Speak Text
  6. Drag the Speak Text Action to your workflow Drag Speak Text
  7. Save your new service to a name like Speak Beijing Mandarin SaveAs

Your new service will be available when you highlight a piece of text and right click the selected text. A sub menu with the language Services is available at the bottom of the context menu.Services-SubMenu

NB: If the highlighted text is not English the voice will speak the language used by the service (otherwise it will speak English) and mixed language will speak both English and the foreign language where appropriate.

Service Menu

Bonus

You may want to try adding a keyboard shortcut to the Services you've created above. To do this you can:

  1. Navigate to System Preferences > Keyboard
  2. Select Shortcuts Tab
  3. Select Services on the left side Services-Tab
  4. Double-click into the add shortcut area next to the spot where you see your service (this may also have the word "none" shown) Service-Shortcuts
  5. Type a hot-key combinations that you want to use
  6. You will want to confirm that your hot-keys speak when you have some highlighted text in the dialect/language that you desire. Different applications may use the same hot-keys. In any case if your text is highlighted then these services should always be available in the service menu of the app.
share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.