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2 Simple Exercises for Improving Mandarin Chinese Pronunciation


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Anybody have tried these two exercises before?

Exercise #1: Mirror

Learning Pinyin will help lay the foundation for pronunciation. Chinese Pinyin consists of initial consonants (b, p, m, f, d, t, n, l, g, k, h, j, q, x, z, c, s, r, zh, ch, sh) and finals or compound vowels (a, o, e, i, u etc). How can we make sure that we are pronouncing them accurately? Watch ourself in the mirror! When we try to imitate the pronunciation of the written Pinyin, check our mouth’s appearance, along with our lip and tongue positions as we make the sounds.

Here is an example of what to look for in the mirror:
For initial consonants: n, m 
● When you pronounce the “n” sound, your lip needs to be kept slightly open, exposing your bottom teeth.
● While you pronounce the “m” sound, you need to keep your lips closed. Check your lips in the mirror to make sure your pronunciation is correct.

Chinese General Pronunciation2

Finals: a, o, e
● When we pronounce the “a” sound, open our mouth wide, put our tongue in a centered position and slightly raise the middle of the tongue blade (just behind the tip).
● When we pronounce the “o” sound, push our lips forward into a small circle, with our tongue at the bottom of our mouth, leaving a hollow space just above it.
● To produce the vowel “e” sound, first pronounce “o”, and then change the shape of our mouth from rounded to unrounded. At the same time, spread our lips apart, as if we were smiling.

Chinese General Pronunciation3

Maybe we can do this in the privacy of home, so that we don’t have to feel silly in front of others!

Exercise #2: Paper

Prepare some small and thin papers in a plate, and pronounce “b” and “p” initial consonants toward the plate. Of course, make sure our mouth is close to the plate, as the following image shows. If we pronounce “p” correctly, small papers will be blown away. On the contrary, the papers will be kept stable if we pronounce “b” correctly towards the plate. It’s as simple as that! A good way to imitate and distinguish aspirated consonants and unaspirated consonants is an exercise that I call “paper game”. 

Chinese General Pronunciation4

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