Laowai Chinese—Mastering the 4 tones
Ahhhh yes, the dreaded Chinese tone. As we launch this Laowai Chinese podcast series for all you beginner learners out there, we’ve got to start with the basics. In my experience, tones are one of the most dreaded and intimidating parts of learning Chinese but training your ear to differentiate between them will be what sets you apart from the majority of laowai. In this show, we’ll spend a couple of minutes debunking the fear factor of tones, learn the four basic tones, and practicing a couple of tricky tone combinations that’ll get you well on your way to speaking like a pro.
If you can’t hear the difference of the four tones, yet, it’s OK! Go easy on yourself and keep practicing.
In this episode
- An explanation of why learning the tones is so important
- Learn the difference between the four major tones
- Practice tricky combinations (3/2 and 1/2)
3/2 combination practice
1/2 combination practice
Learning to master the tones in the Chinese language is important but it’s a process. Go easy on yourself! Chances are you’re not going to be a tone rock star yet but to get you well on your way to being able to differentiate the tones, we’ll spend all of our time today in practice. In this follow up show to the tones lesson, we’ll first go tone by tone and then get into a couple of quizzes with individual sounds and combination. Lastly, I want to review those tricky 3/2 and 1/2 combinations we covered in the lesson above. And if you missed the lesson and need a refresher, go on back to the last episode and have a listen.
Covered in this show:
First tone: That’s the one that goes straight across as a higher pitch than you probably are used to.
Ma fang jian ji yi xian tian ting hun ba shu fa
Qi xue xi dong jia zhuan xie tou zhuo yao xu dao
Moving right along to second, going straight up:
Ma fang ji yi xian tian ting pi shi shen xue zu
Ting zuo ti tou huo nao shi mei de tong pu chen
And onto third tone, down and up a bit:
You jiu xiao zhong zen wan ju yong xi zuo mei zhe
Da zhen nao ba gan xue ti ma zhi fa can lan
And finally, fourth, straight down:
Dao yue yang shang xie wen xian zhu zai yao wei huo
Qi fang yi pi hun jiu wan yong zuo zhong mo le
Alrighty, now here’s a bit of a quiz. I’ve mixed up the tones with different sounds. Work to identify the tone first and if you really want to challenge yourself, go ahead and try to imagine the pinyin spelling as well. This list will be available online so you can see how you did. I’ll give you the tone right after a bit of thinking space.
Xing1 mei2 you3 de2 dao4
Fang1 pi2 shi2 yue4 shen2
Bang1 xue2 xi2 jiu3 jian1
Yi1 hun1 xiao3 shu1 zhong3
Zhi1 zu2 zen3 wan3 yang4
Shen1 shang4 ju3 yong3 xie4
Ting2 xi3 tian1 zuo3 zuo2
Yuan2 mei3 wen4 ti2 xian4
Zhu4 zhe3 zai4 da1 che1
Yao4 da3 wei4 ba1 bo1
Jia1 qi4 yi2 zhen3 tou2
Qi1 huo4 ba3 nao3 zhuo1
Here are 25 different combinations. I’ll give you the numbers after you have time to think. It may be a good time to get your phone out if you want to be able to pause for a bit:
Zai4jian4 qi4che1 fang1fa3 mei2you3 shi2yue4
Fu4huo2 jia1ting2 tong2xue2 gong1yuan2 huo4zhe3
Bang1zhu4 Shi2jian1 xing1qi1 xue2xi2 ju3xing2
Yong3yuan3 gan3xie4 shen1ti3 can1jia1 de2dao4
Mei3tian1 zhong3zu2 xian4jing3 da4jia1 jie2hun1
Finally, scroll up to see the words that follow the pronunciation clips from the lesson on those two tricky combinations. Practice pronouncing them together to get your ears trained on them.
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