Hacking Chinese pronunciation challenge, December 10th to 31st

November’s reading challenge just ended, and we collectively read almost 900 hours of Chinese, spread out over more than 170 participants. Well done to all who participated and I hope you found the challenge as useful as I did. I read 20 hours of Chinese in November, and without the challenge, it would probably have been one tenth of that…

The next challenge starts on December 10th and is focused on pronunciation. As usual, I provide information and inspiration about the challenge here:

This time, Hacking Chinese sponsors the challenge in the form of personal pronunciation feedback from me and a slot in my upcoming pronunciation course. Enroll, share, and enjoy!


I find this to be the most ambiguous of the challenges you run.

Does say all the words out loud while working through my flashcards count? Thankfully most of my words have audio, so I do have something to mimic, but there’s no feedback.

Does my tutor correcting my pronunciation during a conversation count? It’s not the focus of class, but the tutor does correct me when the mistakes are bad enough to inhibit understanding.

It’s all kinda passively working on pronunciation, not a deliberate 30 minute pronunciation drill…

I was thinking the same although I do think pronunciation drills are important to nailing tones. Are there any free software apps that provide feedback on pronunciation?

Im sure Hacking Chinese has this information somewhere but TLDR!

I would count anything where pronunciation is the explicit goal, whether it’s very active listening in order to focus on some aspect of pronunciation you’re working on, mimicking someone or reading things aloud with comments from your tutor. It’s up to you exactly what you count, but that’s how I would do it!

Does say all the words out loud while working through my flashcards count?

If you’re working on word-level pronunciation, this is not a bad idea. It’s not a bad idea outside of any challenge either! Skritter has manually recorded audio for most common words, and most of it is pretty good quality too. Listening and mimicking while reviewing seems like a nice way to integrate it into your vocabulary routine.

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Not that I know of, no. Or rather, there are apps that provide feedback, but I wouldn’t recommend them because they don’t do a very good job of it. In general, speech recognition is far too good at guessing what you’re saying, which means most apps out there will tell you that you’re right even when you’re not. I did write about that here, but it’s probably too long! :slight_smile:

Reminds me of this great classic

So, I won’t have time to work on my own pronunciation this month, but since I am working on a pronunciation course that should be available early next year, hopefully in January, I will count time I research and prepare materials for the course.

Naturally, I will only count things that are actually related to pronunciation itself, not time spend making sure users can log in, navigate the course and so on!

I’m in the challenge and have a minimum goal of 10 hours.

I even kicked things off with a live recording of a study session on IG yesterday, which is here for anyone who might be interested.

The three main ways I’ll be studying during this challenge are below. I’m working from the book 《這樣學:唐詩宋詞》 for 朗誦 and 朗讀 portion (mostly) and the lecture is something I’m writing and ironing out with my Chinese teacher. I’m not going to be memorizing much of the lecture material, but I’m writing clear and concise notes and a few fixed phrases I’d like to use along the way.

I would 100% count Skritter reps for the pronunciation challenge if you’re making a mindful and conscious effort to read characters/words aloud as you review them (sentences too). One way you could take things to the next level would be to use screen capture software and record your mic as well. Then, listen back on your own audio (and the native audio) and take notes on areas of improvement.

Ooh, you gave me an idea - practice reading things out loud, because reading off a page in languages that don’t have explicit word segmentation is a separate challenge.
Not sure if it fits neatly into pronunciation though.

I don’t run the challenges. But if it isn’t pronunciation practice, then I don’t know what is. It’s way harder than just speaking, or mimicking, but it is a valuable skill to have and hone.

Pronunciation is certainly one pant of reading aloud, and I see no problems counting that as pronunciation practice! I mean, it’s not really up to me to decide exactly what people do, even if I created the challenge, but if you’re interested in my opinion, read on. :slight_smile:

It’s worth noting that reading aloud certainly is a different skill from speaking in general, and that pronunciation is a part of both, but that there are many, many other things that come into it as well. As usual, I have an article about that:

And maybe more relevant for this challenge, I experimented with reading aloud explicitly, with some numbers, here:

While remembering how a certain character is read, which tone a word has or something like that isn’t pronunciation from a linguistics point of view, these things fall well within what normal people would consider “pronunciation” from a practical point of view. Obviously, you have to pronounce things if you read aloud, and as long as you pay some attention to the actual pronunciation, that counts!

I think the main question should be what you (and others) want to improve. If your goal is to speak more smoothly or fluently, I don’t think reading aloud will help as much as mimicking would (far from it), but reading aloud allows you to improve other things that are also useful!

I actually logged 40 minutes of reading 霍比特人 to my wife yesterday, with some feedback on pronunciation. :slight_smile: Admittedly, all feedback was related to the pronunciation of fairly rare characters, which I guess highlights the issues above, but I see no reason not to count it for the challenge!

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Thanks for the much more eloquent reply to this question, Olle!

Also, I’m 100% with you on the sentiment of mimicking vs. reading aloud in terms of improving Chinese pronunciation and where to get max gains in a short period of time.

The conclusion from your article where you did a reading experiment is worth posting.

Based on personal experience, I think most students are unable to read aloud fluently simply because they either don’t know enough characters/words or can’t remember the pronunciation quickly enough. Still, if you’re reasonably good at reading silently, but is struggling with reading aloud, remember that reading aloud is in itself a skill you need to practise!

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