This question is for learners. I'm curious to know how do you practice your speaking language while alone (with no partner to talk to)?

The question applies to mandarin, cantonese, or any other languages:

What kind of methodology you use?

What type of materials you like to practice on?

Did you use any special tools to help?

Did you accomplish a lot through the method you used?

What difficulty you're facing while practice speaking on your own?

I found a very effective method that worked very well for me while I was learning English. I shared it here on my blog:

But I'm always wondering what method other people are using. I'd appreciate if you can share yours, thanks!


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hey grace - when i was learning spanish i liked reading books out loud. it felt like there was something different about how one's mind processes the language when you doing that compared to just reading silently.

when i would read silently, most of my focus was on translating the spanish into english words whereas when reading aloud there was an added component of trying to make the sound. that focus on making the sounds caused me to focus less on translating word for word and instead just 'get' what was happening.

i didn't think it was making a big difference until several months later when i was in argentina and all of a sudden the language was flowing out so much faster and easier than it had before. i had internalized all sorts of words & vocabulary without realizing it.

as far as accents & pronunciation  it was usually just trying to replicate native speakers in movies; usually western movies with different language soundtracks. podcasts can help a lot, especially for chinese.

Thanks Brandon for sharing your experience on this. I had the same experience that after all the "home bound" lonely practice, one day when I talk to my English teacher (an American native), I suddenly felt that my voice started to sound "right" and "in sync" with her tones. I was able to suppress my Chinese accent little by little and speak the way a native would speak.

so for all learners, don't wait for a partner to open your mouth. Speak whenever you can, and speak as much as you can, even when you're totally alone!

What a great topic Grace! This is something that's almost never addressed yet everyone who has to learn a language outside of the target culture has to go through.  I read through your blog post How to improve your spoken mandarin without a partner to talk to and you've definitely hit the nail on the head with your method.  

I've done similar things to what you describe in your blog.  I basically memorize dialogue as if it were music.  I think Brandon's method about reading out loud is important as well because it gives you a sort of speaking test.

Again, great topic and great blog post! 

Thanks sikora! 

Hi, great post!

I spend a lot of my time here reading out aloud, books, newspapers and especially the weekly texts we have to learn in our classes. 

I will start by trying to read a text, picking out vocabulary and grammar I do not know as I go along. After that I look up the new words and practise them. I listen to the text recordings that were available with my work book to get familiar. Finally I re-read the text aloud to practise speaking. Further exercises that I practise are making and speaking sentences with new words and grammar that I have learnt in the text, especially for everyday use.

As I also have to focus on my writing I try and make up stories or write diary posts using the new words and grammar. I will also use the recordings as dictation practise. 

Before I came to Beijing I had a listening class following the lessons from my teacher's website. Not only did the lessons help my listening, but speaking my answers out aloud to the exercises helped me a lot.

Hey Zoe,

I love the site that you linked to: it's very compact and looks to be very helpful for listening.  I also like the sentence of activities: listening first, then read the script, do some activities and then concentrate on the important vocab.  Do you find that writing diary posts helps your overall language ability? 

Hi Sikora,

Yes I find that diary posts are the most useful thing I do outside of the classroom. It helps me understand and use the new words and grammar I have learnt to my everyday life. I get my Chinese friend or use to help me correct my mistakes. I find it is good for reviewing before exams and is a good topic to speak with my language partner.

Glad you liked the site, it was created by my favourite SOAS University of London teacher. 

“As I also have to focus on my writing I try and make up stories or write diary posts using the new words and grammar. I will also use the recordings as dictation practise. “ It looks like you’ve got a lot going on other than an already intensive learning agenda. Writing diary posts might be the best approach to enhance writing skills, hope you can keep at it. If you have any stories that you made up in Chinese and not afraid to share, I can’t wait to read them. J


I like to learn jokes by heart.  Then I practice telling them with the same speed and intonation as a native speaker.  It makes me feel as if I can speak mandarin very well (so far from the truth).  In the process, I learn useful vocabulary and I it is a lot of fun to rave and rant in another language, as in this joke that I learned recently:

Afterwards, of course, I test it on my chinese friends.  If they laugh, I am ecstatic.

That's a very original idea Gisele.  I think you're on to something by memorizing jokes.  You get a lot of cultural information out of doing that and it also gives you instant street credibility.  I really like your method!

Haha ... what a smart idea! Agree with sikora, it really helps a lot with deep culture immersion.

I watched the video, I had to admit Dan Shan had done a marvelous job! I've laughed all through the show.  Indeed, being able to tell a joke well in another language is not an easy task at all. I'm here cheering for you, Gisele!

Thanks for the link Gisele, I love the idea of learning jokes. I may start learning using this method :)


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