Speaking with authentic Mandarin sentence structure

A common issue for intermediate Chinese learners is speaking with awkward & inauthentic sentence structures. In my latest blog I cover my method for making my Mandarin more 地道: Struggling to Speak Authentic Chinese? This Method Will Help Master Mandarin Grammar – I'm Learning Mandarin

How about you? What do you do to tackle this problem?


Thank you for the insightful article, and for sharing your Mandarin journey in general.

You seem to have found an effective way to address the issue.
But I might as well share an approach I employed years ago, when I worked on improving my English and French. While understanding wasn’t much of an issue; when using the languages, I struggled with the unfamiliar word order and the irregular orthography.

The technique is called Scriptorium, as proposed by Alexander Argüelles. For a recent description see here: Scriptorium Step by Step - YouTube
In essence, carefully transcribing texts while reading them aloud. The whole point of this exercise is to slow down and to focus on the details; e.g. how negations work in Chinese.
I haven’t seen Scriptorium mentioned in the forums here, but I believe this technique complements a listening-reading (LingQ) based approach very well.

Personally I’m not really at the stage where I would want to actively use Chinese, as I feel my level of comprehension is still too low. But I certainly plan on using Scriptorium again in the future.


This is interesting, thanks for sharing.

Maybe I should elaborate a bit, because in the case of Chinese there is a caveat…
While I believe Scriptorium can be employed at any stage of the learning process, in the case of Chinese it’s probably best reserved for the intermediate to advanced stages. The reason, of course, are the characters. The danger is that one sinks a lot of hours into learning how to write, hours that could be spent more productively on improving comprehension. This is actually a mistake I made when I first started out, I had identified the characters as a difficulty, so I set out to go at them right away, I made it a habit to write every day, first thing in the morning. In the end I spent many hours writing, but I fear I don’t have much to show for it, probably a lot of this time was wasted. Certainly my comprehension didn’t improve.

On the other hand, for more familiar languages using an alphabet, I found this technique really helpful for internalizing grammatical concepts like inflections, right from the get-go.
But again, in the case of Chinese, an advanced learner will probably want to learn how to write anyways, so this exercise makes a lot more sense at this stage. Especially if one starts to output, be it written or spoken.

1 Like