I have a question regarding how to improve your speaking skills in a particular situation.

Here's my situation: my level of Chinese is somewhat advanced beginner to intermediate, I guess. I'm focusing a lot on reading improvement, by learning characters and grammar, for academic purposes. I live in Hong Kong currently, but most will know that it is not always ideal to practice your 普通话. I was too late to register for any classes, so I'm doing a lot of self-study right now.

I would like to enhance my speaking skills. There are plenty of students from the Mainland over here, and I know quite a few already. So I can find some partners as well, but I don't necessarily have a lot of time to do the classic language exchange every day.

One of my techniques is currently to meet somebody, to take lunch or dinner with him/her, so as to use my vocabulary and so on more actively.

My problem is however that I often feel lost during the conversations. I suddenly rely on the very basic vocabulary, while ignoring the new words I do know. And this disturbs me quite a lot, because I wish to have more interesting discussions than just the casual talk about school etc. (FYI, I guess I'm at around 1200 characters or something: that is, being able to recognise their meanings and possible write them without issues)

Does anyone have experience with this kind of situation? What could I do, to actively use more of the vocabulary I do know? To level up my conversation skills?

  • I'm aware that I've obviously did not master the new characters to the point where I can use/remember them easily. But will this simply go away with drilling exercises?

  • Should I "prepare" my conversations somehow, but designing some vocabulary list?

Any suggestions, constructive criticism is highly welcome. Any of your previous experiences with similar situations as well!

My apologies if this question has been asked elsewhere.

Ask me anything you need to know more about this problem.

  • if u're in hongkong, the rthk has the "普通話 radio programme archive", that you may listen freely, at any time. programme.rthk.hk/channel/radio/index_archive.php#rpth Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 5:46
  • I recommend the techniques I described on Language Learning Stack Exchange, especially the FORCE cycle.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 11:46
  • im a native speaker.I wanna improve my English.So i may help you on Chinese learning.Can i Add you on Whatsapp?+86 15819116361
    – user15636
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 18:20
  • 大概看了你的英文,你说你学中文时候。跟人交流会很迷茫,依赖一些基础词汇,忽视你已经会的新词汇。
    – user15636
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 18:43
  • 对不起按错了,还没发完 接上 你想提高自己的口语水平 我觉得还是要多练,多说,尽量多开口讲话,说错了没关系 还有就是开始要多听,听懂听不懂都没关系,把自己放在汉语环境里,听节奏,知道词语之间的间隔,比如说 我刚才出去吃了一顿饭,假设这句话你不知道什么意思wo gang cai chu qu chi le yi dun fan 每个字应该能听的清楚。
    – user15636
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 18:56

2 Answers 2


I find participating in group activities much more useful than one-on-one as there is not the pressure of having to guide the conversation and someone else can jump in when you have nothing to say.

Two ways I do this; play team sports with all Chinese guys. There is always plenty of conversation before, during and after play.

Join wechat groups, there is a steady stream of people talking crap. You can absorb the conversation at your own pace an either join in or not.


启蒙, growing pains. We’ve all been through that phase and there really is no miracle solution. You can only carry on and practice as much as you can. Even stronger: if you want to get better, there really is just one way. It is all about about real life situations and encounters.

Here are some ideas:

  • useful words you know but forget to use (or new words or expressions you want to start using): make a small list and read them through right before the engagement. Use them once and their status immediately changes.

  • preparing the conversation is indeed useful. Which topic do you want to bring up or broaden?

  • putting to use past engagements. What was it you wanted to say but didn’t manage to? Which expressions did your partner use frequently and seem useful? Keep them in mind, even if you don’t understand them (fully).

  • during the practice: quickly write down the really crucial words you don’t understand. If your partner is patient, ask her or him to write it for you. If not; just scribble it down in pinyin and try to look them up afterwards.

  • Learning to deal with not understanding everything. Focus first on the general meaning of a proposition. Sometimes getting the bigger idea is an accomplishment in itself. It can also help to pinpoint expressions used within a certain story.

  • Also useful: getting an idea of the linguistic rhythm of your partner. Does she/he switches topics quickly? Sometimes people use a lot of words to convey only one idea. This meta-information will help the interpretation process itself.

It is obvious that the more time you spent with native speakers, the more you will be able to learn and getting used to speaking Mandarin naturally . Doing something together, apart from sitting in front of each other and talk, will immediately bring up new chances in a natural way; Becoming real friends will also help you to get into their way of thinking and global linguistic environment. Oftentimes, speaking a foreign language is more a question of knowing how to present an idea, than just translating word by word, which wouldn’t work.


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