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Lesson Transcript


Hi everybody! Yinru here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Chinese questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: What are the different tones in Chinese?
Many Chinese learners find the tones quite difficult, because the intonation in Chinese is very special and very different from most other languages.
There are four stressed tones in Chinese. Let’s run through them now.
“First tone” 一声 yī shēng is high and steady. ā
“Second tone” 二声 èr shēng starts with a little lower pitch and goes up. á
“Third tone” 三声 sān shēng is even lower. It first dips down, then rises. ǎ
“Fourth tone” 四声 sì shēng starts high then falls sharply. à
In addition to the above four tones, there’s a special one called “neutral tone” 轻声 qīngshēng. It doesn’t come with any marks on top. To make the neutral tone, try to say it as in the first tone, except that you say it in a more light and short way, like a.
It’s not only important but crucial to master the different tones in Chinese. There are so many words that come with the same pinyin spelling. If you don’t get the tones right, it’s very likely that your mispronounced tones will lead to misunderstandings or even embarrassment.
A quick example: the pinyin and tone for 汉语 hànyǔ is with a fourth falling tone on 汉 hàn. 汉语 hànyǔ. The pinyin and tone for 韩语 hányǔ has a second rising tone on 韩 hán. 韩语 hányǔ. They sound quite close, right? But 汉语 is “Chinese language,” and 韩语 is actually “Korean language.” Don’t get them mixed up and be very careful with the tones!


How was it? Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below, and I’ll try to answer them!
我们今天就到这里。wǒmen jīntiān jiù dào zhèli. (That’s all for today.) 下期再见吧!xiàqī zàijiàn ba! I’ll see you in the next episode!