Pronunciation Challenge Accepted! Initial Views on WaiChinese

Yesterday I signed up to the Hacking Chinese Pronunciation challenge that runs from the 10th to the 28th of February.

I decided it was a good idea to get some extra work done on the way I sound before I take the leap into sea of native Mandarin speakers. I’ve never neglected pronunciation but I haven’t focused on it properly since way back when I first started learning Chinese.

WaiChinese

The challenge suggest WaiChinese as a good tool to use to assist with pronunciation, as the app provides real human feedback on how accurately you are hitting the tones and sounds.

I’m limited to the desktop version for now as my phone has been sent off for a repair (already getting withdrawal symptoms of not being able to use Skritter). When the replacement arrives I’ll write about the mobile app too.

WaiChinese is a really good concept and I’m actually a little annoyed to find out it existed after recently day-dreaming about making something frighteningly similar. But dreams aside, I couldn’t code an app to save my life and I couldn’t afford to pay someone to make it, so putting my jealousy aside I’m super happy to have discovered it.

The mobile app looks pretty polished based on the promotional content I have seen for it online, but again I’m not going to commit to that statement until I’ve tried it myself.

The Good

  • Easy to use interface, smart technology
  • Visual representation of pitch helps to see how you’re doing with the tones.
  • ​Large library of tone pair drills, sentences and tricky single sounds.
  • ​Feedback on submissions comes back in a timely manner
  • ​I was emailed with a welcome to the course and complimented on this blog. Friendly customer service with a personal touch.
  • Later received more emails with more tips. Suggests that the teachers actually care about the users improving.
  • For complete beginners, getting feedback on pronunciation is incredibly beneficial, this would provide that.

Here’s what the web-version dashboard looks like, as you can see you aren’t overwhelmed with dozens of options and using it didn’t require me to read up or watch any instructional videos.

The Bad

  • At first glance pricing is a little off-putting, thought it’s worth it for learners serious about improving.
  • Feedback could be a little more constructive when you’re close to perfectly matching the audio, but unable to pinpoint what is making it sound slightly off.
  • pinyin doesn't always match what the speaker is saying

How it’s helping me

On the whole I’m very happy with it so far. The teacher has managed to pick out a few areas in which my pronunciation needs to improve.

For example, I have been pronouncing “he” (和,合) with too much of an “ah” sound rather than “uh”. There’s a very small difference but I now notice it and keep correcting myself when this sound pops up in my studies.

There’s a few corrections that I’m struggling to work out though.

一生一世 (yī shēng yī shì), I received feedback on this one that my second “yī” sounds like a second tone, but I’m sure in the recording of the native speaker for this particular phrase that she is also making it a second tone, which is what I am mimicking.

I’ll send an email asking about it and see what my teacher thinks.

I also believe it will help me in the long term by giving me more confidence, knowing that I can be understood by native speakers.

Will I continue using WaiChinese?

You can probably guess after reading the above what the answer to this is.

Once I’ve had a go with the iOS app on my phone I’m fairly sure I’ll pony up and try out the paid version.

I’m likely to go for the $25/month “Accelerate” package, mainly because I’m too impatient to wait up to 48 hours for the feedback if choosing the $10/month option.

Getting feedback every day means I could set a small chunk of time and put in some work on a daily basis, fresh in my mind what I had been submitting on the previous day.

Stay tuned for more about WaiChinese after I’ve used the phone app and finished the pronunciation challenge.


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