Are you afraid of learning Chinese because you will never sound like a native Chinese speaker?
Or are you learning Chinese now and cringing every time you hear yourself trying to pronounce a sentence?
It is true, Chinese is a tonal language and can be hard for native English speakers who may not have any language learning experience, let alone tonal languages. The four tones are essential to the Chinese spoken language. If you use the wrong tone, you may end up saying something opposite of what you meant.
With a little work, it is possible for you to master the four Mandarin Chinese tones. If you are just learning the tones or need some extra practice, try this:
- Start out with saying each tone separately aloud.
- Repeat. Focus on the pitch and listen to your highs and lows.
- Try and exaggerate each tone. Do not be worried that someone will laugh at you. In fact, it is quite the opposite as once you master the tones, people will be looking at you in awe.
- Once you feel that you have mastered the inpidual tones, you are now ready to combine tones. You should start out with the simple tone pairs of the first and fourth tone, and make your way to the harder second and third tones.
- Get feedback. You may think you are saying the tones perfectly, but you should let a native Chinese speaker be the ultimate judge to that.
- When you think you are ready, move on to longer sentences and phrases. Really focus on emphasizing the differences between each of the four tones.
Below are some basic tone pairs you can get started with, these will also help you learn some easy vocabulary!
For more tone pairs, check out this helpful video:
The key to achieving the four Mandarin Chinese tones is to continue to practice. Try going through the tones in your head (or aloud if you choose) when you are taking a shower, in line at the grocery store, or right before going to bed. The more you practice, the more the four tones will feel natural to you.