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How to Master Chinese Tones?

Jan. 7, 2010

How to Master Chinese Tones? 

Questions: I've just started to learn Mandarin. How could I master Chinese tones?  

Answers: Chinese tones are usually challenging for the beginning-level Mandarin learners. There are several suggestions for you on Chinese tones: First of all, memorize, memorize, and memorize. Try to remember the Chinese tones as much as possible. The tone chart (see below) and hand signals help you remember how four tones are pronounced.

Find some simple Chinese audios and listen to them. These options can expose your ears to native speaking Chinese.

Practice makes perfect. Grasp every opportunity to speak with native Chinese people. Read Chinese words or short stories aloud and try to hear the words to reinforce your memory. Record yourself and play it back later, and ask yourself: "How does it sound?"

Or you can get a tutor directly from China. She/he can help you get accustomed to the tones that are crucial to communicating in Mandarin Chinese.

The Four Tones in Mandarin Chinese

There are four tones in the Chinese language: the first tone, the second tone, the third tone and the fourth tone. The first tone has a high and even pitch. The second tone has a rising pitch while the third tone has a pitch that falls and then rises. The fourth tone, as the name implies, has a dropping pitch. You may wonder why there are four tones in Chinese. Chinese is a tonal language with four pitched tones. The reason for having these tones is probably that the Chinese language has a limited number of possible syllables — approximately 400 — while English has about 12,000. For this reason, there may be more homophonic words in Chinese than in most other languages. Apparently, tones help the relatively small number of syllables to multiply. Now you can understand how the Chinese people use only one syllable "da" and yet can tell the difference between "搭 () to hang over," "答 () to answer," "打 () to hit" and "大 () big." Yes, the secret lies in the tones. The tones determine the meaning of the word or syllable. For example: "睡觉 (shuìjiào)" means sleep, but "水饺 (shuǐjiǎo)" means dumplings.

Related Posts:

Learn Chinese Four Tones

You’ll Blush with Embarrassment if You Use These Wrong Tones!

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Found this on Yahoo and I’m happy I did. Well written article.

I wish I could write like you as Margaret Laurence once said “When I say “work” I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.”

nice post. thanks.

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