Speak Chinese: Step by Step

Today we’re going to take three tiny but important steps to rapidly improving your spoken Chinese.

Here’s a video to go along with the ideas in the article:

All three of these steps are totally free and will form the foundation of a great speaking practice habit.

These three steps are:

Step 1: Commit to Speaking from Day 1

Step 2: Download HelloTalk

Step 3 : Set up an iTalki account

Each of these steps takes less than 2 minutes to complete. Just by completing these three small actions today you’ll have set yourself up for success in your spoken Chinese studies.

Let’s look at all three and flesh out your action plan.

Step 1: Commit to Speaking from Day 1

“Speaking from Day 1” is a concept I’m cribbing from Benny Lewis, the Irish Polyglot.

One of Benny’s critically important messages for language learners is to get away from your textbooks ASAP and start speaking to native speakers.

In fact it’s only when you start talking to native language speaker that you can really start to learn the language. Everything else is either a waste of time or at the very best vastly inefficient compared to talking with native speakers.

Following this logic the best time to start speaking Chinese with native speakers is… Day 1!

And if you have been studying and haven’t yet started speaking with Chinese native speakers then the best day to start speaking to them is… today! Not tomorrow, not some time next week and certainly not “after I’ve studied more Chinese”. The best time is right now.

It’s only by making mistakes and receiving correction and feedback that you can ever hope to improve. This is in fact the definition of learning –  learning is really a process of getting stuff wrong, receiving a correction and doing better next time.

So right now I want you to commit to the idea of speaking to native speakers.

If you want to get over the blocks and fear you might feel when thinking about this then Benny Lewis has a free email based course that is worth your time.

It’s a series of daily emails to bust through the fear and get you talking, no matter your level. You can get the free email course here.

I bet you feel resistance to the idea of speaking with a Chinese person in Chinese today. In your head it’ll be rationalized as “I’m not ready” or “I need to study more” or “I won’t be understood”.

These are ways of your brain rationalizing the fear of trying something new, something that will be difficult. But talking with Chinese people in Chinese is the only way you are ever going to learn Chinese. The sooner you get over the resistance and starting the talking the faster you will reach your language goals.

Action #1

So your action point right now is to make the simple decision: “I will speak Chinese today”.

If you aren’t ready for this (you are, you just don’t know it yet) then your action point today is to sign up to get the free email course mentioned above.

That course will bust straight through your resistance and get you to a place of confidence where you can declare that “I will speak Chinese today”. Then and only then should you move to Step 2.

Step 2: Download HelloTalk

Now that you’ve made the decision that you will speak Chinese today you need someone to speak to!

If you have Chinese friends or family around you good job! Start talking to them in Chinese today.

If you don’t (or even if you do!) grab your phone and download HelloTalk.


You can download the app and set up a free account in a few minutes and have at your fingertips thousands if not tens of thousands of Chinese speakers looking for language exchange.

To learn more about the functionality and best practices for HelloTalk check this review/guide over on I Will Teach You a Language.

Once you are set up with the app, start speaking! And no cheating here – remember we’ve pledged that we will be speaking; not typing which is much easier!

In the bottom right of the chat screen there’s a small icon of a microphone. Tap that to bring up the recording interface. Tap record, speak Chinese, tap send and that’s it – you’ve successfully spoken in Chinese to a Chinese native. Job done!

The time from reading this article to successfully sending a voice message to a Chinese native can be done in less than 5 minutes.

Do it now. 5 minutes from now you would have achieved your goal of speaking Chinese today.

Technology has made it possible to talk to people anywhere in the world instantly so the excuse of “oh, well there are no Chinese speakers in my area” is no longer allowed!

Action #2

So your action point is to download HelloTalk on your phone, set up an account and send your first message.

Step 3: Set up an iTalki account

HelloTalk is amazing for short informal chats you can fit in during your normal life. But you’ll also need to practice speaking for more extended period of time. This is where the wonderful iTalki comes in.

italki_logo_medium[1]iTalki is similar to HelloTalk in that it gives you access to thousands of native Chinese speakers who want to talk to you.

It’s different to HelloTalk in because the normal way of communicating is via a Skype call. This means the interaction is longer than simple voice messages sent back and forth on HelloTalk.

This extended interaction is a better way to practice your spoken Chinese because in most cases you’ll be using Chinese in extended conversations rather than 30 second bursts. Always make sure your practice matches your language goals!

iTalki is totally free to use for finding conversation exchange partners and very cheap for finding professional teachers ($5-10/hour).

Once you’ve set up an account and a profile the friend and language exchange requests will come flooding in – just take some time to go through them and arrange some times to talk. These extended Skype sessions with language exchange partners are the fastest way to get practicing immediately and reach communicative fluency.

Action #3

Your action point right now is simply to head over to iTalki.com to set up an account.


If you are serious about learning spoken Chinese these are the three single most effective steps you can take today.

Each will take less than 5 minutes and all are totally free.

Therefore the excuses of “not enough time!” and “not enough money!” no longer work.

Taking these three steps will put you on the path to Chinese spoken fluency. So, what are you waiting for?

Action #1 : Decide that you will Speak Chinese today. If you keep making excuses get the free email course mentioned above and break the resistance.

Action #2: Download HelloTalk on your phone.

Action #3: Head over to iTalki.com to set up an account.