Have you wondered “Is it even possible to practice speaking Chinese alone?” or “Do I have to hire a Chinese tutor?”
There are numerous ways to find Chinese tutors online or offline. It’s easy. I am sure many of them are great. If you have the budget, go for it! However, here, I want to talk about how to practice speaking Chinese ALONE.
Having Chinese tutors doesn’t mean you shouldn’t or couldn’t practice speaking Chinese alone. In fact, you’d be wasting your time and money if you don’t.
Growing up in China, my peers and I were all required to learn English in school. Most of my classmates were terrible at speaking English, after years of learning the language. They’ve learned 哑巴英语 or Mute English.
I was way ahead of my peers when it comes to English speaking skills, despite having received exactly the same education as my classmates. I’ve never hired a private language tutor.
How did do it? I practiced speaking by myself. I know it can be done, and effectively done. I will show you how.
I recommend you to start practicing speaking Chinese using Peppa Pig, of course, but you can go beyond Peppa Pig by applying the same principles.
I built this website to help you learn to communicate in spoken Chinese. I want to help you get there regardless of why you’re learning Chinese, and what your budget is. Just do it!
Why it is important to practice speaking Chinese alone
If you have learned an instrument, or have known someone in your life who has learned an instrument, you know that they spend countless hours practicing playing the instrument alone.
Heck, if you know anybody who learned a desirable skill, you know they spent a lot of time honing their skill alone. It is how you acquire a skill like speaking a language.
Acquire the language, don’t be taught. No amount of Chinese language instruction can replace practicing speaking the language by yourself.
Even if you have a Chinese tutor, if you don’t practice speaking Chinese by yourself, you may as well hire a personal translator instead of trying to learn the language yourself!
Practicing speaking Chinese alone is incredibly important for you to learn to speak Chinese. It is how you acquire the language, train both your mouth and your brain.
Mark my words: Without practicing speaking Chinese alone, you’d never be able to communicate in spoken Chinese.
So if you do want to communicate in spoken Chinese, start practicing speaking Chinese by yourself, today.
How to practice speaking Chinese alone
I will discuss three highly effective methods to practice speaking Chinese alone, based on my own language learning experiences, in order of increasing difficulty. It’s up to you how far you want to take this!
Repeat out loud after native speech
To improve your Chinese pronunciation and mastery of Chinese tones, the best way is to repeat out loud native speech. Don’t rely too much on pinyin. They’re only a guide. Pay attention to what the native speakers actually sound like!
Sometimes, pinyin could even be misleading. For example, how would you pronounce the super commonly used character “这”? Listen carefully: S01E45 Part 4.
For every Peppa Pig post on this website, you’re highly highly encouraged to repeat everything the Piggie family has said, while following my four-step method. This is the easiest place to get started practicing speaking Chinese by yourself.
One particular method to do repeats is to perform speech shadowing in Chinese. Peppa Pig broken down into smaller segments is perfect for that because it is simple, clear and slow.
(I know it could still be fast for beginners, but you will get used to it quickly if you keep practicing!)
There are a few variations of speech shadowing, and they can help you hone specific skills. Pick one to start and do a combo of a few.
If you’ve seen the rest of my website, you already know this is the main point I’ve been preaching. I keep repeating it so maybe it’ll eventually get to you! (That’s what preaching is about, haha!)
Among highly effective methods, repeating out loud after native speech is the easiest thing to do.
Yes, I know it is even easier to watch Chinese shows and do passive listening, but they are not as effective when it comes to honing your speaking skills.
Repeating out loud is just a start, there are surely more intense ways to practice speaking Chinese alone, let’s keep going!
Recite sentences and conversations out loud
Reciting is my #1 secret for learning to speak English. It is obviously harder than repeating because not only do you have to repeat, you also have to memorize the speech!
That’s how the magic happens. Once you have recited something, it becomes yours. That’s how you acquire the language. Seriously.
One great feature of the Peppa Pig show is that it is unbelievably practical. You may be pleasantly surprised that you can often use the phrases and sentences you learned from Peppa Pig right away. And in the right context!
Sure, you won’t learn how to say things like “I can’t speak Chinese very well” (In my opinion, it’s usually obvious, so you don’t have to learn that expression.) But you will learn how the Chinese language is spoken in many practical situations.
It’s worth it to recite the sentences and conversations in Peppa Pig. You can also go recite any other Chinese material, but make sure you can hear the native speech first before repeating or reciting.
Don’t just read out loud and recite your textbook by following pinyin. Please! (I wrote about that at length in my article on improving Chinese pronunciation.)
If you follow my four-step method thoroughly while watching Peppa Pig, you will get to a place where you’re essentially reciting the sentences and the conversations out loud.
I encourage you to keep reciting as your goal in mind to begin with! You’ll be astounded how fast your Chinese speaking skills will improve.
Practice speaking in sentences with word substitutions
Vocabulary is important, but languages are not just bags of words. In my opinion, the structure of sentences is even more important than the vocabulary.
I’ve seen way too many people who can only use words in a second language. You are not fooling anybody. You can’t speak the language if you only know the words but don’t know how to put them together.
If you learn a sentence in Peppa Pig, I encourage you to focus on the sentence structure, not just the words.
There are numerous resources on memorizing vocabulary but there is a lack of emphasis on learning the sentences. If you have done your repeats and recites, you are in a position to move ahead with making up your own sentences by replacing words.
Speak them out loud, even if you have to fill the words you don’t know in Chinese with English words!
Say, you learned a new sentence: “那是因为我平时吃了太多的饼干了” from S01E51 Part 6.
You learned 饼干 is cookies. Feel free to replace that with any other kind of food. Could be 面包, 西瓜, 大蒜. Whatever you know. Don’t know any? Use any English word!
“那是因为我平时吃了太多的Candies了“ is fine! You can practice speaking that sentence.
You can also replace “我” with other pronounces such as 你们, 我们, 他. You’ve learned them already.
Now, you know the verb is 吃, try replacing that with some other verb you know. How about 听? What can be used with 听? Perhaps 音乐, maybe country music?!
“那是因为你平时听了太多的country music了” works fine too! You get my point.
I’d like to point out that not all verbs can work with this particular sentence structure, but that’s okay! You can make stuff up. Even if they ‘re not totally correct.
The more exposure you have to the Chinese language, the more your brain will correct yourself and adjust to the proper usage. The key is to have something there about this sentence structure, which allows your brain to get going on it. If there is nothing, there is nothing to improve on.
If you like to check if your made-up sentences make sense, just post on the community forum, or leave a comment to ask!
The more you practice with variations of the sentences you’ve learned from repeating and reciting native speech, the more you will be able to express yourself in spoken Chinese.
Through this process, you get to know the relationship between words in a sentence. You get more used to the word order. You get more used to the rhythm of the language. You can get out of the habit of using words instead of sentences. You can start thinking in sentences, in Chinese!
When you are learning to speak Chinese, keep in mind that you eventually want to speak in sentences and you are not a robot pumping out relevant keywords!!
The effectiveness of practicing speaking Chinese alone
Your ultimate goal is to be able to express yourself in spoken Chinese.
To get there, you need to be able to pronounce Chinese sounds and tones in a comprehensible way.
To get there, you need to accumulate enough building blocks of the Chinese language, the words, and more importantly the sentences.
To get there, you need to be able to say things out loud!
These are precisely the goals of practicing speaking Chinese alone. That’s why practicing speaking alone can be highly effective and essential, if done correctly.
Start with repeating and reciting as much as you can, and then make up your own variations and examples, so you can figure out how to use what you’ve acquired.
All of this can be done by yourself. All of this will directly help you learn to communicate in spoken Chinese.
Don’t underestimate how far practicing speaking Chinese alone can get you!
You would not be able to perfect your Chinese speaking skills without real interactions, but practicing speaking Chinese by yourself is an essential step to help you get there.