6 Pinyin Practice Games to Jump-start Your Mandarin Speaking Skills
If you’re an English speaker learning Chinese, you already know 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 unlearn everything you think you know about language—for the time being, at least.
But don’t fret! Learning pinyin and tones in Mandarin doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, you can spend time playing some fun online games to improve your pinyin skills.
We made a list of some great games for you to play right now!
- 1. Mandarin Chinese Tone Drill (ArchChinese) — PC / Mac
- 2. Chinese Pinyin Game (Majestech) — iOS / Android
- 3. Learn Pinyin (Unik Edu Solution) — Android
- 4. Tone Practice Game (Guihuazhu) — PC / Mac
- 5. Chinese General Vocabulary Game: Pinyin (Digital Dialects) — PC / Mac
- 6. Pitch Perfect Pinyin (The University of Texas at Austin) — PC / Mac
- How Can Pinyin Practice Games Improve Your Chinese?
- And One More Thing...
1. Mandarin Chinese Tone Drill (ArchChinese) — PC / Mac
Available on: Website
This simple, user-friendly pinyin practice game from Arch Chinese is part of my personal Mandarin practice kit. It focuses on matching spoken words with their correct tone.
Simply select “Single Syllable” “Two Syllables” or “Multiple Syllables” (we suggest “Single Syllable” for beginners), hit “Play” and match the word you hear to its correct tone.
This game is 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 game for you.
2. Chinese Pinyin Game (Majestech) — iOS / Android
Available on: iOS | Android
Majestech’s Chinese Pinyin Game is a must-have app for learning pinyin. This app trains your ear by comparing similar-sounding pinyin words to each other.
You need to 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 matching it with the correct pinyin from a list. You also have the option to explore 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 as well. Plus, if you love cute graphics, this app has those covered.
3. Learn Pinyin (Unik Edu Solution) — Android
Price: Free (with in-app purchases)
Available on: Android
Learn Pinyin from Unik Edu Solution is designed for kids, making it great for beginners.
The app 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 汉字 (hàn zì) — Chinese characters through the “Pinyin Chart” game.
This game 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.
4. Tone Practice Game (Guihuazhu) — PC / Mac
Available on: Website
So far, we’ve covered beginner-friendly practice games on 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. To play, follow the instructions for 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. The game becomes increasingly difficult with each question and includes surnames, adverbs and more difficult grammar.
This isn’t ideal for beginners because you 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.
5. Chinese General Vocabulary Game: Pinyin (Digital Dialects) — PC / Mac
Available on: Website
If you’re a beginner, and you felt bummed out by the fact that Guihuazhu’s “Tone Practice Game” is out of your reach (for now), check out this pinyin-based game from Digital Dialects.
Visual learners in particular will enjoy this game. It involves flashing an image and choosing the appropriate pinyin that matches it. Of course, you need to already have a decent amount of vocabulary under your belt to make the most of this game.
In case you want to play around with other aspects of your Mandarin Chinese reading skills, there are two other versions of the game: one with audio accompanying the pinyin (great for beginners) and one that uses simplified Chinese characters (can also work for intermediate to advanced learners).
6. Pitch Perfect Pinyin (The University of Texas at Austin) — PC / Mac
Available on: Website
Looking for a relatively quick refresher on Chinese tones in particular? The University of Texas at Austin has five different interactive exercises designed to help you with the various aspects of pinyin depending on your level:
- identifying tones (beginners)
- matching characters to their corresponding pinyin (intermediate / advanced learners)
- pinyin spelling (intermediate / advanced learners)
- matching similar-sounding pinyin to characters (intermediate / advanced learners)
- matching pinyin to the sound (beginners)
Even though there are only 100 questions per exercise, the questions (or, at least, their order) change every time you refresh the page. That means you can do the exercises as many times as you want without them feeling repetitive.
How Can Pinyin Practice Games Improve Your Chinese?
- Pinyin is a core part of learning Chinese. Pinyin, hanzi and their English definitions all go hand-in-hand to help you 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 games focus on listening to 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 figure out how tones work and perfect your speaking and listening skills. Tones don’t have to be scary!
- Supplementing traditional lessons with fun games and similar media can help you improve your fluency during your leisure time. While lessons and other concrete forms of language learning are essential to mastering Mandarin Chinese, 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 authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Did you find some of these pinyin practice games enticing? Why not add one, two or all(!) of them to your daily Chinese practice regimen?
After all, it certainly doesn’t have to be a chore to learn Mandarin. Everyone needs to have a little fun to keep language learning fresh!
And One More Thing...
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