5 Ways To Sound Like A Native Chinese Speaker

5 Ways To Sound Like A Native Chinese Speaker

One of the best complaints when language learning is being able to hold a conversation and sounding like a native speaker.

For anyone learning to speak Chinese, being complimented on how native you sound is a huge deal. 

If you are looking to sound more like a native Chinese speaker, we are here to help! Here are five helpful tips for you.

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1. Focus on pronunciation

Pronunciation is the foundation of learning any language because the basic function of language is to communicate. 

You can go through some guides to mastering Chinese pronunciation and getting all the concepts of tones, intonations, and spelling rules clear. 

a) Be careful with tones

4 Chinese tones

Chinese tones

An extremely important thing to remember when you speak Mandarin is that there are four different tones

  • The first tone: The first tone is high and level. When pronouncing the first tone, keeping your voice even (almost monotone) across the whole syllable is important. It can be represented by a horizontal line (ā) above a letter in pinyin (or sometimes with the number “1” written after the syllable).

  • The second tone: The second tone slightly rises. In English, we sometimes associate this rise in pitch with a question. The second tone is represented by an upward sign above a letter (á) in pinyin (or sometimes by the number “2” written after the syllable).

  • The third tone: The third tone falls and then rises again. When pronounced clearly, its tonal “dipping” is very distinctive. It is represented by an upward and downward sign (ǎ) above a letter in pinyin (or sometimes by the number “3” written after the syllable).

  • The fourth tone: The fourth tone starts high but drops sharply to the bottom of the tonal range. English speakers often associate this tone with an angry command. It is represented by a downward sign (à) above a letter in pinyin (or sometimes by the number “4” written after the syllable).

  • There is also a neutral tone which means there is no tone or sign on a letter (a). 

Being able to master these tones allows you to sound natural when speaking Chinese. 

And tones matter because even if two words sound the same except for the tone, a different tone brings a different meaning. For instance, the phrase “wǒ xiǎng wèn” (我想你) means “I want to ask you something” while the very similar “wǒ xiǎng wěn” (我想你) means “I want to kiss you.”

b) Emphasize the right words and syllables

In general English speaking, certain words are commonly emphasized, and certain words have less emphasis. For example, when we say “Good morning!”, in most cases, the emphasis falls on “Good MORN-ing!” or “GOOD morning?” with a little rising intonation at the end of the sentence to make it more playful and fun. But we never say “Good morn-ING!” because it just sounds wrong. 

The same thing happens with Chinese speaking. Here is an example: “ (gěi wǒ yī zhāng zhǐ)” – “Give me a piece of paper.” The words to emphasize are 给 (gěi),一 (), and 纸 (zhǐ), and the words to deemphasize are 我 () and 张 (zhāng). 

Unfortunately, there are no clear rules to determine which words are the right ones to emphasize. 

The best thing you can do is watch various Chinese movies (horror and fantasy are the most popular) and TV shows such as game shows or dating shows that are available on Netflix or Roku to listen to native Chinese speakers' natural word emphasis,

2. Use filler words

Every language has its own filler words. In English, we tend to say “well,” “um/er/uh,” “like,” and “actually/basically/seriously,…”. In Japanese、 they say “えーと (eto)” and “あのう (ano).”

The same logic is applied in the Chinese language. They say “嗯 (ēn).” Sometimes, it sounds more like a closed mouth humming the sound “Mmmm.” Here are some popular filler words: 

  • 那个 (nèi ge) – “That one…”;

  • 我想想 (wǒ xiǎng xiǎng) – “Let me think…”;

  • 怎么说 (zěn me shuō) – “How do I say this….”

Using Chinese filler words will give you time to let you find the right words rather than having a long awkward pause. And if you can do this, you will speak Chinese way more naturally and fluently. 

3. Learn common Chinese phrases

Learning the common phrases is extremely helpful in improving your speaking skills. These phrases are simple, common words and sentences that are used all the time in social conversation. 

Knowing some handy phrases will help you avoid social awkwardness, build great new connections with people, and even make your Chinese conversations more interesting. 

This table gives you the everyday Chinese phrases that you will hear a lot in Chinese conversation:

Chinese phrases

English meaning

Nǐ hǎo (你好)


Nǐ hǎo ma? (你好嗎?)

How are you?

Wǒ hěn hǎo (我很好)

I’m fine

Nǐ ne (你呢)

And you?

Nǐ jiào shénme míngzì? (你叫什麼名字?)

What’s your name?

Wǒ de míngzì shì… (我的名字是…)

My name is…

Hěn gāoxìng rènshí nǐ (很高興认识你)

Nice to meet you

Nǐ cóng nǎlǐ lái? (你從哪裡來?)

Where are you from?

Wǒ cóng … lái (我從 … 來)

I’m from…

Zǎoshang hǎo (早上好)

Good morning

Xiàwǔ hǎo (下午好)

Good afternoon

Wǎnshàng hǎo (晚上好)

Good evening

Wǎn’ān (晚安)


Zàijiàn (再見)


Zhù nǐ jīntiān yúkuài (祝你今天愉快)

Have a nice day

Chī ba! (吃吧!)

Let’s eat!

Xièxiè (謝謝)

Thank you

Bù kèqì (Boo kuh-chi)

You’re welcome

Wǒ bù míngbái (我不明白)

I don’t understand

Wǒ míngbái (我明白)

I understand

Duìbùqǐ (對不起)

Excuse me

Bàoqiàn (抱歉)


Zhù hǎoyùn (祝好運)

Good luck!

Lǚxíng yúkuài! (旅行愉快!)

Have a good trip!

Xǐshǒujiān zài nǎ? (洗手间在哪)

Where’s the restroom?

Zhège duōshǎo qián? (这个多少钱?)

How much is this?

Hĕn piàoliang (很漂亮)

Very beautiful

Hào chī (好吃)


Hěn hào chī (很好吃)

Very delicious

Nǐ zěnme shuō … yòng zhōngwén? (你怎麼說 …用中文?)

How do you say …in Chinese?

Nǐ néng bāng wǒ ma? (你能幫我嗎?)

Can you please help me?

Qǐng zàishuō yīcì (請再說一次)

Please say that again

Nǐ néng dài wǒ qù … ma? (你能帶我去 … 嗎?)

Can you take me to…?

Nǐ zài zuò shénme? (你在做什麼?)

What are you doing?

Nǐ jǐ suì? (你幾歲?)

How old are you?

Wǒ bù zhīdào (我不知道)

I don’t know

Qǐng (請)


Shì (是)




Hǎo (好)


Bù hǎo (不好)


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4. Learn Chinese idioms

Chinese people started to learn 成语 (chéng yǔ)—Chinese idioms at a young age and continue to learn them in school and beyond. As a result, many Chinese native speakers use idioms in daily conversations. Using Chinese idioms in daily conversation certainly helps you speak Chinese like a native speaker. 

5. Immerse yourself in a Chinese environment

If you are learning how to speak Chinese like a native, keep in mind that the real environment may connect you more tightly with this language. 

Try to immerse yourself into this language with three simple tips below! 

a) Use handy Chinese flashcards

Flashcards are scientifically proven to improve your language skills, especially in learning Chinese. 

You can create a batch of flashcards under particular topics, such as “Daily Conversation,” “Weather,” “Food and Drink,” “Travel,” and so on. Don’t forget to put the Hanzi, Pinyin, the English translation. Bonus: You can even add related facts or illustrations to help you remember better.

Prepare a set of physical Mandarin flashcards and put it in your bag. When you have a moment to spare, like drinking a coffee or waiting for the bus, pick it out and review it anywhere.

You can try Pandanese—an SRS Chinese learning platform that offers unlimited Mandarin lessons along with mnemonics to help you memorize Hanzi. It will time your Chinese character review based on how well you can recall each Hanzi.

b) Practice Chinese as much as you can

You can make some sticky notes and attach them to the stuff around you. When you see the object and its corresponding Chinese character, your brain will subconsciously connect the two.

Another helpful way to sound like a native Chinese speaker is to think and talk in Chinese as much as possible. This method is a simple yet effective way to improve your language reflex. When you think in Chinese, you will be able to speak in Chinese. 

You can also practice by repeating Chinese speakers from radio, TV shows, or movies. Listen to a phrase or a sentence, then try to imitate the intonation. You can even record yourself to compare. If you get the rhythm of the language, your tone will improve, and your choice of words will also become more native-like. If you enjoy interacting in Chinese and getting in the flow, your Chinese speaking will improve. 

c) Get a language partner

It is a great idea to have a Chinese language partner.

Since you want to practice Chinese and the other person wants to practice your native language, it’s okay when you don’t know a specific word or have a perfect sentence structure. Again, everyone is here to learn. As learners, you can understand each other’s shyness and embarrassment and help each other improve them. 

You can also make a connection with overseas students, any online/offline Chinese communities/forums, or even join a Chinese-speaking social platform

Final thoughts

Hopefully, you can apply these tips to sound like a native Chinese speaker. 

Don’t worry too much about trying to master Chinese in the beginning. To build up confidence, simply practice daily, and allow your brain to get used to the language. You shouldn’t rush this process, just speak without fear and trust your instincts, and you will reach your goal eventually. 

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