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Tone Introduction – Guide of Chinese Tones

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Thanks for joining ChineseFor.Us’s Video guide of Chinese Tone System. Chinese is a tonal language, and tones can affect the meaning of a character. That’s why to speak Chinese with tones correctly is important. This video lesson is a general guide of Chinese Tone system and the 4 Tones in Mandarin and also the special Neutral Tone. You will learn how to pronounce the 4 Tones in Mandarin and start to be able to speak Chinese with Tones.

How to Get the Best Results of this Course

1. Practice along with the video, do all the Tone Drills
2. Take notes
3. Record yourself, listen to it and make adjustments
4. Finish all the listening quizzes
5. Re-watch and redo all the practice

Guide of Chinese Tone System

Tones in Mandarin are called 声调(shēngdiào). Tones are a relatively fixed range of pitch change. Chinese is a tonal language, different tones of a syllable have different meanings. The chart below shows you the difference that Tones function in a tonal-language and non-tonal language.

(a range of pitch change)
 Affect meanings  Affect emotions and attitudes

How to Master the Four Tones in Mandarin


Speaking requires muscle memory

Speaking is not understanding. Pronunciation requires muscle involvement. We need to able to put the understanding into practice. Being able to understand the Four Tones in Mandarin is like being able to read music sheets. But being able to speak Chinese with Tones correctly is like being able to play the instrument.

Speak with the correct Tones at the very beginning

One thing extremely important is that whenever you learn a new word, make sure you can pronounce the Tones correctly. Don't wait until you've already learned so many words and then go back and correct the Tones one by one. It will take so much more effort that way.


Tones Themselves Are Not Difficult

Tones in Mandarin are not difficult to pronounce. It is surprisingly easy to pronounce the Tones individually. You can master the Four Tones in less than a minute. Then why are Tones in Mandarin so difficult? Here are the reasons:

1. how to remember the tone for each Chinese character
2. how to pronounce the Tones in different combinations
3. switching among the Tones quickly during conversations


How to Pronounce the Four Tones in Mandarin

There are four Tones in Mandarin Chinese Tone system, along with a special Neutral Tone. Sometimes when speaking, Tones get modified or changed. We will discuss Tone changes later in this course. Please practice the Four Tones along with the video.

The First Tone: It starts high and maintains high the whole process.
The Second Tone: It starts medium high and goes up.
The Third Tone: It starts medium high, dips down and then up again.
The Fourth Tone: It starts high and then immediately goes down.
The Neutral Tone: It is not a real tone, it is a way of pronunciation that is light, vague and short.

The Four Tones in Mandarin: A Video Guide of Chinese Tone System - starting from here, you will start to speak Chinese with Tones correctly and comfortably!
The Four Tones in Mandarin


Why Is It Important to Speak Chinese with Tones Correctly

Tones in Chinese can affect the meaning of a character or a word, this means that with different Tones, the same exact syllable can mean two different things. That's why getting the Tones correctly is important to communicate with people.

一直 yì zhí  always 
已知 yǐ zhī  already known 
上海 shàng hǎi  the city of Shanghai 
伤害 shāng hài to hurt; to damage 
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