Top English Pronunciation Tips for Mandarin Speakers
Founder of Speech Active & Head Speech Pathologist
Sgn up to our free English Pronunciation Short Course to start improving with free videos to your inbox!
Here are our top 4 English Pronunciation tips for Chinese – Chinese Mandarin Speakers.
1. Improve your stress and rhythm (crucial for clear English)
2. Make sure you’re not mumbling!
3. Improve your use of past tense endings
4. Think about English double / diphthong vowels.
Tip 1. IMPROVING ENGLISH STRESS & RHYTHM
Listen to the ‘music’ of your English.
Does it sound flatter and more even than native speakers?
Do you sometimes put the stress on the wrong syllable in English words?
These are common English Pronunciation problems for Chinese Mandarin speakers. This happens because the rhythm and beat or ‘music’ of Chinese is SO different to English.
In English the pitch of our voice goes up and down to make stress. Stress in words is called “word stress”. Making the correct word stress is essential for speaking English clearly.
Here are some words that Chinese Mandarin speakers often use incorrect word stress in.
‘realise’ – the stress is on the first part ‘REAlise’, many Mandarin speakers pronounce it incorrectly and put the stress on the last part (reaLISE).
‘suburb’ – which part of ‘suburb’ do you stress? All the stress should be on the first part ‘SUburb’. It’s not pronounced ‘suBURB’.
Research shows that it’s the most important area affecting how clear your English is to listeners. Flat English is unclear and it can make you sound a little uninteresting or un-engaging.
From today start to pay attention to way that native speakers go up and down with the pitch of their voice (the music). Start to pay attention to the stressed syllable in each multi-syllable word. This will HUGELY improve the sound and clarity of your English.
Tip 2. DON’T MUMBLE
Did you know that Mandarin has a more closed mouth position than English. The jaw doesn’t open much and the lips don’t move a lot.
English has many sounds that require an open jaw position like ‘ar’ in the word ‘dark’ and ‘o’ in the word ‘hot’. Some English sounds also require a lot of lip movement like the ‘ow’ sound in ‘phone’ or the ‘er’ sound in ‘hurt’ or the ‘sh’ sound in ‘shop’.
Many Mandarin speakers don’t open and move their mouths enough and this makes their English unclear. In English, we call this mumbling.
From today try to open and move your mouth a little more when speaking English. Try it – it will instantly improve your general clarity and make your English clearer and your voice will travel better too.
Tip 3. DON’T FORGET THE PAST TENSE!
Obviously there are no past tense English in Mandarin!!!!
You need to check – right now – are you remembering to use past tense endings when you speak English.
So many Chinese-Mandarin speakers I work with either leave off past tense endings or mispronounce them. This makes it sound like they have poor grammar in their spoken English.
Correct and confident past tense endings are especially at work or in a job interview. If you leave these off it’s an obvious grammar mistake and can be confusing for your listeners.
Many Speech Active Mandarin speaking clients find pronouncing sounds at the ends of words difficult. This means that even if they remember to use the past tense – they don’t pronounce it correctly.
Make sure you remember to use the past tense and focus on pronouncing sounds at the ends of your words correctly. You will probably need more help to get this right (see English Pronunciation course for Chinese Mandarin Speakers– but being aware of it from now will start you on the road to improvement.
Tip 4. IMPROVING ENGLISH DIPHTHONG VOWELS
When you say the word ‘coat’, does it sound more like ‘caught’ or ‘cot’?
The vowels in English are very different to Mandarin. When pronouncing important English diphthong / double vowels Chinese-Mandarin speakers often make a single vowel instead of a double vowel.
Another example – when you say the word ‘pain’, does it sound more like ‘pen’ or ‘pan’? Again this is because Mandarin speakers often use a single vowel instead of a double / diphthong vowel.
Also, when you said ‘pain’ – are you making a good /n/ at the end? /n/ endings is another tricky area for Mandarin Speakers but we’ll save that for another day!
For clear English you need to start distinguishing between short vowels, long vowels and double / diphthong vowels.
Join our free English Pronunciation short course. You’ll record an awesome new voicemail greeting, correct lots of commonly mispronounced words, improve your word stress and LOADS more.
Our courses have helped hundreds of Chinese professionals advance their careers with clearer and more confident spoken English.
Many Chinese people tell me they lack confidence with their spoken English. They feel so relieved when they get the help they need to level-up their skills.
If you are serious about improving your spoken English check out our Speech Active English Pronunciation & Fluency course for Chinese-Mandarin Speakers.
We created this course specifically for Chinese speaking professionals living in English speaking countries.
Thanks for visiting our site. Please contact us if you have any questions or comments on our English Pronunciation tips for Chinese-Mandarin speakers.
Have a great day.