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Friday

Improving Pronunciation Through Self-Study

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Friday

Does anyone know a book or method for improving your pronunciation that they found works? I've been using the pronunciation sections from New Practical Chinese Reader, but I don't have much confidence that is helping.

I know the pinyin and the tones, but people often do not understand me.

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Yezze

You can record your voice, upload it here, and people will comment on it if you ask them too. But, I won't be the one commenting on them, since i am also learning Chinese and still (virtually always will) need practice with my pronunciation.

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Shi Tong

A few pointers which might help:

You cant learn pronunciation from a book unless you are already completely capable of pronouncing the Chinese alphabet and all of the tones correctly. The only way to hear pronunciation is through communication with a native speaker (or someone who is flawless).

Know how to prononce every sound correctly and apply all tones to each and every one and keep practicing these sounds. If you think you're getting a good grasp, practice by talking to yourself, and hum the tones with every step you take- make sure they're correct first! ;)

Recognise that pinyin is literally a Romanised representation of Chinese, not Chinese itself. Not only are the Romanisations of the sounds sometimes misleading (making you pronounce a sound which isn't actually there), but the words can be stuck together. The solution to this is probably to start reading and writing Han Zi, you'll notice that every Character is one syllable long so words like "pinyin" are made up of two seperate characters (pin and yin) and that a tone has to be applied to both and the y at the start of yin is silent. (practically).

If you think you're pronouncing things correctly, but that other people dont understand you, you're doing one of two things- either you're speaking too quietly (because you said you're lacking confidence), in which case it's that they cant hear you rather than you're saying things wrong (lack of confidence may also affect your tone), or that you're literally pronoucing sounds and tones incorrectly.

I would suggest posting up an audio sample so that some people can offer you advice, because if it's not the tones, it's the pronuciation, and vice versa. If you do this, then at least you know where you're going wrong! :)

Feel free to post anything you want, even simple things like "hello, how are you, my name is x, nice to meet you", this will give us just as much information (maybe more) than trying to "impress people" by pronouncing a poem wrong! :D

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renzhe

Recording yourself saying something, and then comparing it to a native speaker saying something is the best thing you can do on your own. Letting other people comment is also very important, but you too will be surprised at how much you can notice when you hear it coming from a tape or a computer speaker.

Try posting something in this thread. There are easier texts later in the thread too.

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Shi Tong

I was surprised at my own voice too actually, so maybe this is the problem- the voice you hear in your head is correct, but the sound that others hear isn't.

Either way, renzhe has a good point, and there are some pretty easy little texts you can pronounce from. If you're not much of a Chinese reader, either read the pinyin or use an online Chinese dictionary to translate the characters.mdbg is one I use quite regularly. There are plenty of others, but this one is pretty helpful. :)

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JenniferW

I'm a retired language teacher, and there are basic activities you can do for improving your pronunciation for any language. I'm also studying Chinese.

There's an activity called 'shadow reading' which is simple but good. You need a recording and also a written text of the material. Typical coursebook material is fine for this. You could also use the 'Chinese Breeze' readers. All you do is read aloud reading along with the recording. You have to focus on getting your speed, pauses, tones and intonation right. It's not always easy, but if you fall behind you just start again at whereever the recording's got up to. Persevere with this, and you might be surprised how much better you sound after a while.

What shadow reading is making you do is listen in a highly focused way, and at the same time it's rewarding accurate imitation - and not for isolated words, for long strings of language.

Recording yourself is also excellent - talking to yourself, describing what you can see around you, what you've been doing or what you're doing the next day - but don't make this an oral test. What you want to learn is what sounds not too bad and where your biggest problems are, to identify what you need to focus on.

It does take time to get really good pronunciation - but it is possible, don't give up.

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Hofmann

There is a way to improve your pronunciation without human interaction. Actually, in most cases, I find human interaction a limiting factor if you know what you're doing.

The first thing I recommend is that you get familiar with the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). This is a widely used method of writing down sounds produced in human speech. The scripts and transcriptions of many languages are often compared with their notation in the IPA. In effect, being familiar with the IPA lets you get your pronunciation pretty damned close just by looking at the IPA notation of any utterance, in any human language.

Next, examine how Hanyu Pinyin relates to the IPA in the tables here. One might ask, wouldn't it be better to just relate Pinyin to the sounds, and skip IPA? Maybe, but it is highly inefficient. It is better to just learn letters in IPA as the sounds that they represent, e.g. [ i ] means the sound of the close front unrounded vowel. And again, knowing the IPA lets you learn the pronunciation of any language without much hassle.

Anyway, after you have examined Hanyu Pinyin, you should be prepared to read transcriptions of anything in Hanyu Pinyin. At this point, there is probably no way you could be misunderstood due to your pronunciation. However, if you've never heard native speakers before, you'd be lacking complete education on Mandarin phonology. Therefore, I recommend you listen to native speakers read texts. Here are a list of texts with Hanyu Pinyin transcription and accompanying audio recordings. Using these recordings, you can tweak anything in your pronunciation that you missed while looking at the IPA. If you need to hear individual syllables, you can use this interactive table of syllables in Hanyu Pinyin.

Also, do not overestimate how long this process takes! Being familiar with the IPA takes at most a few hours, and relating it with Hanyu Pinyin should take no more than an hour. Using recordings should take only one recording and a few minutes with the table.

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AcuDoc

The suggestion of Shadow Reading is an excellent one, it's the system I've used with good effect over the years. I can't emphasize enough the importance of recording yourself and not relying on the voice in your head. Like singing, listening to yourself on a recording is the only way to align your inner and outer voice.

I've also pulled my recording and a native recording into left and right channels of an Audacity project. What I do is read the text out loud, and record it, while playing the native text on headphones, attempting to keep the same pace as the native sounds. I then pull that file into the left channel of an Audacity project, and the native voice into the right channel. Playing them gives the native voice in one ear and mine in the other, and I can analyze tone and pronunciation from there. It only works for a while, as I can't keep exactly the same pace, pauses and all, as the original native speaker, but for the first part of a text the method works really well. For pronunciation drills, it works even better.

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Glenn
thing in Hanyu Pinyin. At this point, there is probably no way you could be misunderstood due to your pronunciation.

That's a pretty sweet site! I've added to my bookmarks. Thanks for the link!

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carlo

Yes, shadow reading is an effective way to improve pronunciation, both for individual sounds and for connected speech (actually some argue that it's better to study fluent, connected speech *first* rather than words in isolation, and I tend to agree). You can use free software like Praat to break whole sentences up into smaller parts and then try to produce your own recording, one section at a time, then from beginning to end. Do it a few times and you'll start picking up a lot of details that you had never noticed before.

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arreke

Recording yourself saying something, and then comparing it to a native speaker saying something is the best thing you can do on your own. Letting other people comment is also very important, but you too will be surprised at how much you can notice when you hear it coming from a tape or a computer speaker.

That's what I'm trying to do and from what I can see, most of my Chinese friends are not able to evaluate my pronunciation well, although they are native speakers.

It proves again that being able to speak your native language doesn't mean you are able to teach that language.

That's why I'm looking for a good teacher right now, the one who is professional and not boring.

Any ideas where can I find this kind of teacher?

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Shelley

This topic is quite old, as roddy says in the other topic that was quite old that you posted in, you would be better off starting a new topic.

 

They are free and not difficult to do. :)

 

Not checking dates and posting in in old topics was a mistake I made when i first joined this forum. :(

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Flickserve

But still quite a useful thread with useful links.

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