If you’re a native English speaker, you’re enjoying a luxury.
Not only do many non-English speakers say that learning English is incredibly difficult, but native English speakers also don’t have to deal with tones.
If you’re an English speaker learning Chinese, then you probably know firsthand that learning Mandarin tones is no walk in the park.
To really master Mandarin tones and 拼音 (pīn yīn) — Chinese romanization, you have to undo everything you think you know about language.
But don’t fret! It doesn’t have to be difficult to learn pinyin and tones in Mandarin. In fact, you can spend time playing some fun (and free) online pinyin practice games to improve your pinyin skills.
We made a list of some great games for you to play right now!
How Can Pinyin Practice Games Improve My Chinese?
- Pinyin is a core part of learning Chinese, so using association games to match pinyin with 汉字 (hàn zì) — Chinese characters and English can only improve your Mandarin. Pinyin, hanzi and their English definitions all go hand-in-hand to achieve fluency. Pinyin practice games can help you hone in on your association and comprehension skills.
- Tones can be a tricky part of learning Mandarin, and some of these pinyin practice games focus on listening and speaking pinyin words. Any Mandarin language learner knows that Chinese tones are one heck of a foreign concept, especially if English is your native language. Pinyin practice games are a great way to not only figure out how tones work but also to perfect your speaking and listening skills. Tones don’t have to be scary!
- Making Chinese fun through games and other forms of media, rather than strict adherence to lessons, can help you improve your fluency in your leisure time. Lessons and other concrete forms of language learning are essential to mastering Mandarin Chinese, but playing a fun pinyin practice game here and there is a great way to improve your language skills without being bored out of your mind. Learning Mandarin can definitely be fun!
Searching for more fun ways to learn Pinyin? Check out FluentU!
FluentU takes real-world Chinese videos—like music videos, movie trailers, documentaries, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. It’s an entertaining way to use authentic content in your studies.
FluentU has a wide range of contemporary videos, as you can see here:
Don’t worry about your skill level being an issue when it comes to understanding the language: FluentU makes native Chinese videos approachable through interactive transcripts and subtitles.
You’ll see definitions, in-context usage examples and helpful illustrations. Simply tap “add” to send interesting vocabulary words to your personal vocab list for later review.
The powerful learning program turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your studies and suggests content and examples based on the words you’re learning. That means every user gets a 100% personalized experience!
5 Pinyin Practice Games to Jumpstart Your Mandarin Speaking Skills
This simple, user-friendly pinyin practice game from Arch Chinese is part of my personal Mandarin practice plan! This game focuses on matching spoken words with their correct tone. Simply select single or multiple syllables (we suggest single syllables for beginners), press play and match the word you hear to the correct tone.
This pinyin practice game is free to use and ideal for all levels of learners, especially those who are struggling to memorize how tones sound.
You technically won’t be learning any written pinyin words with this game, but you’ll be able to practice the tones associated with particular pinyin. If you really want to master the listening aspect of Mandarin, this is the pinyin practice game for you.
Chinese Pinyin Game — iPhone
Chinese Pinyin Game from Majestech LLC is a free, must-have app for learning pinyin. This app trains your ear by comparing similar-sounding pinyin words to each other.
Here’s how it works: Choose from three different games: “Choose One,” “Syllable” and “Word.” While they differ slightly, all three games focus on pinyin reading, listening and comprehension. For the most part, each game involves listening to an audio file of a word and selecting the correct pinyin from a list to match it with. You also have the option of exploring the games’ pinyin charts.
Chinese Pinyin Game looks like it’s designed for beginner learners, but intermediate and advanced learners can definitely use this app to brush up on their pinyin skills. Plus, if you love cute graphics, this app has those covered.
Learn Pinyin — Android
Learn Pinyin from Unik Edu Solution Education is an app that’s free to use and offers premium paid features.
This app is designed for kids, making it great for beginners. It uses simple gameplay to help learners understand how tones, consonants and pinyin work. You can also learn how to associate certain pinyin with their respective hanzi through the “Pinyin Chart” game.
This app is unique in that there isn’t a staunch focus on vowels, the part of pinyin where tones usually reside. Instead, the focus is directed at learning consonants in Mandarin, which may be difficult for newbies to figure out. If you want to start from the absolute beginning with pinyin and tones to build a solid foundation, this is a great app to try out.
Chinese Match Game — Android and iPhone
If you like keeping your apps uniform, you should definitely look into Written Chinese’s diverse, useful, free apps. The one that made it onto this list is the Chinese Match Game, which is fantastic for mastering pinyin. If you like traditional matching games and learn well through flashcards, this is the pinyin practice game app for you.
Chinese Match Game is a simple digital version of the classic memory game in which you match pinyin with either hanzi or English translations. The app even offers a “battle” mode in which you can challenge your friends or fellow Chinese learners to a match-off.
You can choose from several genres of words to study, including “living things” and “food.” Then you can choose your game style: match pinyin with English, pinyin with hanzi or hanzi with English.
Even though this app is pretty simple in nature and ideal for children, advanced learners can still benefit from the competitive aspect of the game.
Tone Practice Game — PC
We’ve been covering a lot of beginner-friendly practice games in this list. Here’s something for the intermediate and advanced learners out there.
Guihuazhu’s Tone Practice Game is an in-browser, quiz-style pinyin practice game. Like many of the games we’ve covered, it’s an uncomplicated game that’s easy to access and free to use.
To play, follow the instructions of each question. For example, the first question is “How to say 你好? (Hello)” and a multiple-choice box provides four different pinyin options. Select the correct one to move on to the next question. This pinyin practice game becomes increasingly difficult with each question and includes surnames, adverbs and more difficult grammar.
This isn’t ideal for beginners because you’ll need to have a decent understanding of tones before playing this game. However, if you’re an intermediate or advanced learner who wants to memorize written pinyin, you can definitely benefit from this game.
Did you find some of these pinyin practice games enticing? Why not add one or two to your daily Chinese practice regimen?
After all, it certainly doesn’t have to be a chore to learn Mandarin. Everybody needs to have a little fun to keep learning a new language fresh!
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.