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

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

7 Answers 7


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:


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:


Chī pútáo bù tǔ pútáo pí

  • +1 Very interesting... :D Do you mind including the pinyin for the first thing you wrote? I'm curious to try it! :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 22:09
  • @Alenanno - I've added it in to the answer, you can get this by posting Chinese into Google Translate
    – going
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 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
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 23:56
  • Eat grape, don't spit it out! Commented Dec 19, 2011 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
    Commented Dec 26, 2011 at 21:27

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.)
























For practicing Cantonese, try this:







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


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.


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.


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.

  • 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
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 22:06
  • @weiy yea not to mention, watching those shows greatly improves your listening comprehension.
    – mugetsu
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 23:12

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


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.
  • BTW - Complete set of instructions, tools, dictionaries, and more are available on my profile.
    – Tommie C.
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 14:04

JIStone and tbaums both have great answers, studying bopo mofo and "parroting" 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 pronunciation.

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 samurai 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.


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.

  • "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
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 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
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 16:36

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