Mandarin Tones
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Mandarin Tones

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Mandarin, Cantonese, and all other forms of spoken Chinese are tonal languages. That means that the tones are essential to the meaning of what you are saying. I learned this the hard way growing up, ...

Mandarin, Cantonese, and all other forms of spoken Chinese are tonal languages. That means that the tones are essential to the meaning of what you are saying. I learned this the hard way growing up, as my father spoke Mandarin. He and our many Chinese guests would laugh when I meant to say "hello" but actually said "You are good horse" due to having gotten the tones wrong.

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Mandarin Tones Mandarin Tones Document Transcript

  • Mandarin Tones  By Rosana Hart  LearnLanguagesRapidly.com    Mandarin has four tones plus a  neutral tone, and this can seem  daunting to someone learning  Mandarin, or even just thinking  about learning a language so  Here, my grandfather is  teaching Mandarin to my  different from English. Cantonese  father as a young boy.  has even more tones, but since most  Westerners who want to speak Chinese are interested in  Mandarin, we'll stick with it here.   (Mandarin is the official language of the People's Republic of  China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Cantonese is widely spoken in  southeastern China and Hong Kong. There are numerous other  versions of the Chinese language.)  My father spoke pretty good Mandarin and we knew a lot of  Chinese people. I remember learning early on that if I didn't  pronounce the greeting I had been taught for "hello," I would  accidentally be saying, "You are a good horse." The difference  was all in the tones.   So tones are essential in speaking Chinese.  The first Mandarin tone is a high level. However high your voice  can go without wavering, that's your high level.  Mandarin Tones  Page 1   
  • The second tone is rising. This is what we do in English when we  ask a question. Our voices go up in tone at the end of the  question. In Mandarin, the rising tone sounds like that, but it  does not mean that you are asking a question.  The third tone falls and then rises again. It starts in the middle  of your vocal range, falls deeply, and then rises a little bit right  at the end of the sound.  The fourth tone is falling. It starts at a high pitch and falls. It is  sometimes said that it sound like the person saying it is giving  an order.  The neutral tone, or fifth tone, doesn't rise or fall at all.   If you start learning Mandarin, you will see accent marks  indicating the first four tones in the Romanized pinyin you will  be using. Even if you also learn traditional Chinese characters,  virtually every method of teaching Mandarin to foreigners will  also use pinyin, which uses our alphabet to spell out Chinese  words phonetically.  So that's a simple start on understanding tones. In any Chinese  program or course that you take, you will get plenty of practice.  You won't need to repeat my mistake and tell people that they  are good horses!  Rosana Hart reviews different programs for learning Mandarin  and Cantonese at her website, LearnLanguagesRapidly.com and  on her blog about learning Chinese.  Mandarin Tones  Page 2