Mistakes Are Good, They Give You A Chance To Learn
Here is what you’re facing: You’re starting off learning Mandarin, you don’t know much about Chinese pronunciation yet, or perhaps you’ve just finished our Pronunciation Mastery course. Your voice sounds different in your own head than it does to other people, so how do you find & fix your pronunciation mistakes?
There are a few different methods for doing so, but first remember that while it is true you need objective feedback from time to time, do not let that be an obstacle stopping you from practicing. The muscles in your mouth need time to grow, so as long as you get objective feedback at a regular interval, you aren’t going to be engraining mistakes too badly. Suppose you get feedback weekly. Well, the worst case scenario is that you practiced something totally wrong for a week. That’s considerably more fixable than practicing incorrectly for 6 months.
How to Get Objective Feedback
1. Record Yourself
Right off the bat, this helps you hear your voice outside of your own head. A lot of people don’t like listening to their own voices in recordings, and we get it. That’s an overcome-able problem, however, and like anything you’ll eventually get used to it. Without even getting a teacher involved, you’ll very quickly be able to compare your recording with the recording of a Chinese person saying the same syllable or word. For syllables, you can check out Yabla’s Pinyin chart which has native audio for every syllable in every tone in Mandarin. Use your phone’s voice memo app or download Audacity (free) to get audio of your own voice.
If you want a bit more feedback, WaiChinese has an excellent service where you upload your recordings, compare them to the good audio of a native speaker, and also get personalized feedback from that teacher. We’ve both used it and it’s great.
Naturally, a tutor will at least have some training on how to fix your pronunciation, and any Chinese person will know if you are saying something right or wrong. For this reason, tutors are comparably more reliable than language exchange partners, so we’d recommend basing the decision on economics. If you don’t have any extra room in your budget, language exchange partners have that lovely $0 price tag, and hey, maybe you find a great one. If you have the cash, you’ll save yourself time by going somewhere like TutorMandarin and getting a competent tutor who can help you right away.
It’s crucial not to avoid the feedback part of the pronunciation journey. For the reasons stated in the first paragraph, there are some things you simply can’t know without help. You need that feedback, so record yourself or find an expert, but either way, make sure that the feedback process isn’t a self-fulfilling feedback loop.