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Top 8 Ways to Improve Your Chinese Spoken Language

eloise1 May 04.2015 12:51 Comments (24) + Add your comment
Tags: Expat Tales, Expat Rants & Advice Category:My Blogs


Whether it’s to impress your mates by directing the cab driver to the next bar, having a conversation at a work banquet, or bargaining for the best price in a Chinese market, it helps to speak some Chinese.

It could help you score extra points with the boss, your mates, or that cute girl you’re trying to impress. Besides the usual tricks and tips, here are a few unique and fun ways to enhance your Chinese language skills:

1. Have a Chinese word of the day or week. And use it! All week long and in all kinds of situations. Try Zhen bang=excellent, Zan= amazing.

2. Learn a Chinese phrase. Try this yì shí sān niǎo, Chinese translation “Catch three birds with one stone”, the English translation to have an excellent idea. Apply “Mr Wang’s” words of wisdom, they have some insightful meaning, who knows you might just be able to use them to the right situation. How philosophical!

3. Use English words, or ‘link words’, to associate with new Chinese words. Yi Bei (one cup) sounds exactly like Ebay. Create a sentence like “I buy one cup of tea on Ebay” to help you remember. Pronunciation doesn’t get much simpler than that!

Even though Mandarin Chinese and English are completely different languages, try to associate words and sounds to ones you know from the English language.

4. Go to KTV! There’s nothing like listening to Chinese tones and sounds through singing and music. There’s no better way to practice either!

5. Watch Chinese TV, movies and cartoons. Whether it’s sport, weather or a Chinese soap drama. You’ll be sure to pick up some Chinese vocabulary.

6. Try shopping at your local market for groceries, but in Chinese! Use the words you have learned to purchase the vegetables /fruit/groceries and make a meal with what you’re able to purchase – guaranteed to be an interesting outcome!

7. Volunteer- Try volunteering a local Chinese School or Community Centre to practice your Chinese.

8. Attend a Chinese Class – but not a regular class.  Try a calligraphy class. It’s not only a beautiful form of art; you might enjoy learning how to write Chinese characters. Calligraphy not your thing? Take a cooking class, try Tai chi, chess or karate

Q: How do you learn another language? How do you make it easier?

I hope these little tips help; I know what it’s like to learn a new language.  If you’ve even been ripped off, ordered the wrong meal –numerous times, or gotten completely lost on the other side of Shanghai, I feel you. But, besides all the frustrations and epic language fails, as daunting and confusing studying and learning another language may seem, it helps to try different methods of learning Chinese to make it fun and interesting.

The extra time and effort you put in to learn Chinese or another language has many rewards. Like the simple things, getting your point across in conversation, giving directions or sharing a joke with a friend it’s completely worth the investment and the challenge.

Learning another language like Mandarin Chinese is incredibly valuable as it’s one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and the learning process is proven to have its benefits.

Written by Eloise de Jong, Marketing and PR.

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About eloise1

Motivated Australian living in Shanghai with academic business knowledge and three years of experience in marketing, events and public relations. Areas of specialization include education, languages and internships abroad.

See eloise1's profile Find more interesting blogs from the eChinacities community

24 Comments ( Add your comment )


don't waste your time. "ting bu dong," "bu ming bai" or either getting ignored or laughed at when you speak Chinese is the SOP of people here. Don't waste your time.

May 09, 2015 15:34


May 09, 2015 18:19

Your Chinese obviously isn't that good. Keep practicing and one day maybe people will understand your Chinese.

May 11, 2015 10:39

My chinese is not good enough to have a deep conversation on the ups and downs of maos policies, it certainly is good enough to say " i want....." too which the reply is.....”“哈哈哈笨蛋老外。你不明白普通话。中国人是很好”

May 11, 2015 12:39

Nice assumption there, buddy. My wife is Chinese and understand me. How are is "火车站" to understand when I am in a taxi or "有苹果" when I am in a fruit stand? Typical aloof netizen hiding behind a computer screen. Go awayQ

May 11, 2015 15:24

Just pointing out the fact that if the Chinese typical response to your speaking Chinese is "tingbudong" or "bumingbai" as you yourself admitted, odds are it's because they can't understand your pronunciation.

May 11, 2015 15:41

if the chinese persons first language is 普通话 then they will understand me, which is less than half the people i meet.

May 11, 2015 15:51

Then they need to get off their lazy, xenophobic asses and put in a littler effort. I don't say "I don't understand" when these people speak English, nor do I laugh at them like these people do me. Stop defending the indefensible. Better yet, stop responding to me. I have no patience anymore for double standards.

May 11, 2015 16:01

Don't feel so offended, just pointing out the obvious. Chinese people can understand my Chinese most of the time. "tingbudong" and "bumingbai" are not typical responses. Being "ignored" or "laughed at" doesn't equal not understanding.

May 11, 2015 16:18

Good for you. Want a medal? Stop responding to me. You know nothing of my life here. Go away with your assumption, buddy!

May 11, 2015 23:14

Sure I'll stop responding, but I just want you to know that thinking that "tingbudong" and "bumingbai" are SOP to the majority of foreigners who actually can speak Chinese is utter bollocks, and using that as an excuse not to learn Chinese is just deceiving yourself.

May 12, 2015 09:52

Bollocks? Now I know why you are as haughty and arrogant as you are. Stop responding me. Seriously, stop trying to get the last word, Lime boy!

May 12, 2015 10:01

I thought bollocks was a nicer word than my original choice, but whatever. Keep thinking all Chinese are conspiring to not understand the laowai if that makes you feel better.

May 13, 2015 09:06

At my University, I'm regarded as a teacher that cares, in public conversing with people I show that, too. Because I care, people care what I am saying. Try it.

May 13, 2015 16:34

Good for you. Same with me at my international school. However, it's when dealing with the normal proles on the street does it get annoying. So, instead of talking down to me and giving me a lecture, come down off your cross and high horse and realize you don't know anything about what I put up with where I live the second I step off campus and my Chinese wife is not with me. Because these people magically understand me when I speak and my wife stands next to me.

May 13, 2015 21:53

ROFL, hypocrites here, you can't deny that the Chinese mind is twisted to assume that any Asian must speak Chinese, while non-Asians can't master their "profound" and mysterious language. That is the very reason why even though a non-Asian can speak perfect standard Mandarin many people in China will refuse to acknowledge and thus understand them, "They can't possibly speak our language!". This and because most Chinese themselves can't speak proper Mandarin only some no name dialect from their hometown. This satirical strip is a good summary of what happens when the Asian person is not a local and thus can't speak Chinese, while the non-Asian has been around for long enough to speak it fluently:

May 15, 2015 22:46

Just go slow... say jay ga.... Do you know the "boxer rebellion" or "shadow dancing" The boxer rebellion, Chinese guys believing they were faster then bullets and the spirits helped them... Same thing with native Americans and shadow dancing.. It is from cultural stress...feeling that their culture is being overrun, invaded, or lost. Those behaviors are a result of stress. You seem stressed, too. Also, I was talking about on the street, in the market, I never have any problems. I'm not special, my Chinese is horrible. But, I just calmly look them in the eye, laugh when they laugh say I'm sorry, I speak little Chinese, in Chinese.

Jun 13, 2015 13:33

As someone who is having a VERY HARD TIME learning Chinese I appreciate ANY advice. Anyway, the suggestion of watching "any" TV show, movie or cartoon may be pointless for a beginner as if what you are watching doesn't have subtitles then it is impossible that you can pick up any new vocabulary, although that practice can help to reinforce words that you already know (however, Chinese has many very similar sounds, many sounds which have different meanings and many meanings that are completely contextual, so it very easy that you think you recognize a word but the real intended meaning isn't what you are thinking off...). I assume that when it is suggested to take a Karate lesson as an example of joining ANY lesson of anything (Karate is Japanese, so it would make more sense to attend to Sanda or Kung Fu lessons.

May 11, 2015 10:38

Try that game Chinese bubbles, it is on the windows phone, maybe is helpful

May 13, 2015 16:35

Thanks a lot! I will definitely look for it and give it a try!

May 15, 2015 14:14

I've spent a lot of time, money, and energy learning Chinese. The thing I find frustrating is that there is really not a lot of middle ground between the widely-held assumption that Chinese is really hard (what language isn't!?) and OH MY GOD YOUR CHINESE IS SO GOOD, when all you have said is an address, 谢谢, or something like that. As for the article, 真棒! But I have to disagree with one point. KTV has definitely grown on me over the years, but as a singer I can tell you that when you are singing a Mandarin song, you're not using the four tones, but rather the tone of the song (ie the melody). In many ways it's actually easier to sing Chinese than to speak it. That said, learning songs is a great way to learn any language.

May 11, 2015 21:01

I am not trying to prove anything here but when ever i speak in chinese most of the chinese people understands my chinese never heard bumingbai(不明白) or tingbudong(听不懂), but yes many time got compliments that goes like this " you speak Chinese better than we Chinese do " , "i bet most of people in Guangdong would not be able to speak Chinese as good as you do " and yes i am agree with writer here about the learning Chinese in easy way. connecting words with something funny makes you never forget that word i think. and by the way my English is not as good as my Chinese,so forgive me for grammar mistakes.

May 15, 2015 20:38

this will really help. Im going to give it a try this week and see how it goes. xie xie ni pengyou

May 23, 2015 23:26

In any language I've ever learned, one of the most useful techniques was watching tv/movies/videos with subtitles. I recommend yabla or fluentu. Try the 8 bucks subscription for one month, best 8 bucks ever spent on language learning.

Sep 19, 2015 01:00

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