So I know plenty of Chinese words and grammar. I know loads, and due to the fantastic listening podcast SlowChinese, my listening is actually great. I'm so proud and happy.

I've contacted my teacher's students in China and when they speak Chinese over the phone, I can easily understand what they say. I can't respond with similar articulation and speed though.

I can say sentences that I have thought of prior to the conversation. I can't say sentences on the spot during the conversation. This is what I need to work on. Creating sentences as I go, being able to be more articulate. I have the grammar and vocabulary, it's just about speed. I need to speed up my brain.


  • How can I develop the ability to speak faster and create complex sentences as I go, rather than spending 50 years thinking of them before I say them?

  • How can I practice being more articulate in conversations?

I should point out that I am able to say more simple sentences in Chines quickly on the spot, and create them easily, but when it is a complex and longer sentence I struggle. It's very hard for me to give in-depth views on something, thus limiting the things I can express.

3 Answers 3


I struggle with the same issue while learning Spanish. My ability to listen and understand is much higher than my ability to speak.

I use the following to improve:

  • Exercise your conversation. Try to get into a conversation in your language of choice as much as possible. E.g. get classes, get in contact with the community, go to the Chinese barber, etc.
  • Exercise speaking out loud. E.g. use a speech based course, such as Pimsleur.
  • Listen to your podcasts and repeat them out loud
  • Read texts out loud
  • Say thing in simple short sentences. Express a complex idea in multiple short sentences. Not in one long sentence.

Try carrying on a running commentary in your mind, or even in a quiet voice, as you walk along the street or do shopping, study road conditions, plan your evening's activities, etc. As you acquire facility in monologue-mode, you'll probably notice increased speed and sophistication in real dialogues. I've used this trick when learning European languages. I see no reason why it wouldn't work in Chinese.


Make mix and match sentences. I don't know what level you are but if you are struggling to get your words out then this should help.

Make simple sentences like
-I like
-I am
-I want

Then get a group of simple words that can fit in these sentence stencils, for example choose sad over devastated. Once you get the hang of mixing and matching these simple sentence you can add in joining words and make longer sentences. Once you can comfortable say the vocab in your list you can add more, either synonyms of the words you've already got or completely new words. If you regularly use these you should sound fluent in no time.

As they say, practice makes perfect

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