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Lesson Transcript

Amber: Hey everyone, welcome back to chineseclass101. I am Amber.
Victor: 大家好 (Dàjiā hǎo), I am victor.
Amber: And today is an extra special episode of our pronunciation series.
Victor: Yes it is.
Amber: The series that will help you perfect your Chinese pronunciation. Now all of you are probably getting to be PROs at the four tones, five. However you want to look at it but there maybe something that our listeners noticed, Victor.
Victor: What is that?

Lesson focus

Amber: That is that no tone is an island. That’s what I think because you know, although there are some Chinese words that standalone, most of them end up being combined with other characters or you know, in a sentence with other characters and in turn, other tones.
Victor: Right. There are a lot of – if you will endless combinations of tones that can end up in a word together.
Amber: Yeah and that’s because Chinese characters – each character is one syllable and most Chinese words are made up of compound words.
Victor: Yep like 美 (měi) means “beautiful”.
Amber: Right and 国 (guó) means “country”.
Victor: Yeah. So put them together, 美国 (měi guó) and you get
Amber: “America”. Okay, so that’s the thing right. Here you have your 国 (guó) like second tone all down path and then along comes this 美 (měi) and you are suddenly feeling like you can’t wrap your mouth around it. I remember trying to learn the word for America and it was really hard for me to pronounce, Victor. It was fine to say 美 (měi), it was fine to say 国 (guó) but then to put them together, you are going down and up and you don’t know where to go.
Victor: 美国 (měi guó). Yeah there are a lot of directions.
Amber: Yes.
Victor: Today is a treat though because we are going to give you an extra easy way to wrap your mind around the tones.
Amber: Yes, because Victor and I have developed a new cutting edge pronunciation technology.
Victor: Mostly Amber. I am just here to support. Yes.
Amber: Well basically what it means is that we are going to goof around and give you some really easy ways to relate to the tones and actually to relate them to things that you already say in English.
Victor: You know, I’ve never – you know, all of these years of teaching Chinese, I’ve never heard anyone who teaches like the way you are about to. So listen for this. I think it’s really exciting.
Amber: Let the listeners be the judge.
Victor: Right.
Amber: Okay. The truth is though, people don’t have to be scared because in English, you are already using the tone
Victor: Without even knowing it.
Amber: You just don’t know it yet.
Victor: So if you just make the conscious effort to recognize what you are doing and translate that to Chinese, you will be pretty much all set.
Amber: Yeah. So we are going to point out today how you are already using Chinese tones even though you didn’t know it.
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: Okay. So let’s start with the obvious first one being first tone. So Victor is going to give us a word to start with that will cheer you on in your Chinese tone combination learning.
Victor: Yeah this is a Chinese favorites
Amber: Yes.
Victor: And here it is, it’s 加油 (jiā yóu)
Amber: And as everybody know, it’s a famous cheer in Chinese.
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: If you are at the Olympics, you definitely heard.
Victor: Everybody says that.
Amber: Everyone saying this. It’s kind of like the Chinese equivalent of our “Go for it”, “Go go!”…
Victor: Right although it literally means “to add oil”.
Amber: Yeah which is funny.
Victor: So it’s not going.
Amber: Well like add the gas and then keep going. Don’t give up.
Victor: Yeah add oil.
Amber: Okay so the first word is
Victor: 加油 (jiā)
Amber: Which is the first tone. The second word is second tone.
Victor: 油 (yóu)
Amber: So let’s hear it again put it together
Victor: 加油 (jiā yóu)
Amber: Okay so the tone goes from high and steady being first tone and then you will notice, it doesn’t go up into a second tone from that pitch, but you actually drop down to the bottom of a second tone and let it rise up from there. So that sounds very hoity-toity analysis of tone relationships. So instead now, I am going to give you the cutting edge learning system. Let’s do it how it would sound in English words. Okay I found the perfect equivalents to first tone, second tone combination in English.
Victor: And what is that?
Amber: It’s “nice huh?!”
Victor: Nice.
Amber: See, we do it too. Well how about this? “Come on!”
Victor: 加油 (jiā yóu)
Amber: 加油 (jiā yóu)
Victor: 加油 (jiā yóu) “Come on”, yeah.
Amber: Okay. Let’s hear in comparison. I got another one Victor. You say 加油 (jiā yóu) and I will say mine.
Victor: 加油 (jiā yóu)
Amber: “Yeah, yeah”. It works.
Victor: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Do you see the resemblance? I hope our listeners are listening to this and figuring out the relationships there. Well the cutting edge technology really works right, so…
Amber: Yeah as Victor said so…
Victor: It’s very easy to remember and say when you put it that way I guess.
Amber: Yeah. I mean I feel totally encouraged, I feel totally 加油 (jiā yóu)-ed now. Okay now let’s try another one. Let’s hear how first tone sounds when it’s put together with fourth tone. So let’s have a Chinese word that’s that combination Victor.
Victor: Here is the word for book. It’s 書 (shū)
Amber: Plus first tone 書 (shū)
Victor: And now let’s put it together with the word for shop 店 (diàn)
Amber: Store or shop is 店 (diàn) fourth tone. So here is the commentary. It starts off high and steady. From there, the pitch it falls fast and quickly.
Victor: And it’s 書店 (shū diàn)
Amber: Right but I am analyzing it too much again. I say let’s look at how we say this tone in English and I have the perfect one.
Victor: What is it?
Amber: “No way.” Check it.
Victor: Like 書店 (shū diàn)
Amber: “No way!” It works. Okay what about another first tone, fourth tone word in Chinese Victor. Let’s try it.
Victor: Like 搭配 (dā pèi)
Amber: No way. It totally works.
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: There you have it, ladies and gentlemen.
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: Okay. Now here is another great one. Let’s try one for first tone, third tone combination. So Victor, give us a first tone, third tone Chinese words.
Victor: Okay how about 冰水 (bīng shuǐ)
Amber: Right. That means “cold water”. The first one was first tone,
Victor: 冰 (bīng)
Amber: And the second word was the word for “water”.
Victor: 水 (shuǐ)
Amber: Third tone. So here we go, get this. Maybe ask me how I am Victor.
Victor: How are you Amber?
Amber: So so!
Victor: As in 冰水 (bīng shuǐ).
Amber: Exactly.
Victor: So-so 冰水 (bīng shuǐ)
Amber: So so or how about I got another one first tone, third tone, say it again, 冰水 (bīng shuǐ).
Victor: 冰水 (bīng shuǐ)
Amber: Now what! I think it works. “Now what?!”
Victor: Yeah definitely. I just – you know, I am still kind of amazed by this because I never really thought about this. You know, I think Chinese people do the same too when they try to learn English trying to find the similar sounds in Chinese that copy that. So it is like the reverse.
Amber: Victor, we are revolutionizing the world right now. Okay.
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: We are uniting languages and people.
Victor: Yeah, yeah.
Amber: Okay. Okay let’s try a different one. Let’s take a first tone plus a fourth tone word.
Victor: 阴暗 (yīn àn)
Amber: Oh what does that mean?
Victor: It means “dark”.
Amber: Oh! No wonder it’s a little dark. So the first syllable is 阴 (yīn)
Victor: 阴 (yīn)
Amber: First tone and the second
Victor: 暗 (àn)
Amber: 暗 (àn) Fourth tone.
Victor: Fourth tone.
Amber: Okay let me... this isn’t that hard I think.
Victor: What do you have for this?
Amber: Umm I think that okay, ask me where is it.
Victor: Where is it?
Amber: “In there.” That was a little bit forced.
Victor: 阴暗 (yīn àn). In there.
Amber: In there.
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: Okay how about – okay let’s see if it works. Try okay the word for “to know” in Chinese is another one that’s first tone, fourth tone.
Victor: Oh yeah 知道 (zhī dào)
Amber: In there.
Victor: 知道 (zhī dào)
Amber: If you try and say the right words it really works. Okay maybe that one is a little bit less obvious.
Victor: All right. So let’s see if we can find some that relates to the words that start with a second tone.
Amber: Okay that – let’s think. When that starts with second tone, umm…
Victor: Well let me give you an example. The word for 14.
Amber: Okay that’s a good one. I mean even the pinyin alone is kind of cool for that one. That’s the pronunciation.
Victor: Go for it.
Amber: It’s 十四 (shí sì) right?
Victor: Yes 十四 (shí sì)
Amber: So 十 (shí) is second tone and it is the word for 10.
Victor: Correct.
Amber: 四 (sì) is fourth tone. It’s the word for four. Put together, it’s 14.
Victor: So what do you have for this one Amber?
Amber: Well I think it’s something like a sassy – a sassy comeback.
Victor: Okay.
Amber: Like kid would say, can you do it for us in Chinese and I will say it in English.
Victor: 十四 (shí sì)
Amber: “So there!”
Victor: Brilliant!
Amber: kids think about it you know. So there!
Victor: 十四 (shí sì)
Amber: It works yeah. Okay I’ve got one for second tone plus third tone now.
Victor: Okay give it to us.
Amber: It’s the word for can, Victor. Can you give it to us?
Victor: 可以 (kě yǐ)
Amber: Okay. Now this technically is third tone, third tone.
Victor: Right.
Amber: But there is a special situation in Chinese. When two third tones are together, the first tone will change into second tone.
Victor: Right but we are just using that here for the purpose of showing you the second tone plus a third tone.
Amber: Yeah. So the sound for “can” in Chinese again is
Victor: 可以 (ké yǐ)
Amber: Okay so let’s compare with English.
Victor: What do you have?
Amber: I have – it sounds a bit of a stretch. “Oh boy!”
Victor: 可以 (ké yǐ)
Amber: Oh boy!
Victor: Oh boy!
Amber: Yeah that one is a bit of a stretch but hey, it works sort of. Better than nothing.
Victor: Yeah. Another good example is 沒有 (méi yǒu)
Amber: Oh that’s a very common word. It means “to not have”.
Victor: Right for the second and third tone so…
Amber: The 沒 (méi) is second, 有 (yǒu) is third.
Victor: Oh boy! 沒有 (méi yǒu)
Amber: 沒有 (méi yǒu) Kind of.
Victor: Yeah perfect.
Amber: Yeah. Okay well how about, let’s try one that’s a second tone, second tone word. It’s very common. Quite a few words in Chinese will be second tone, second tone. It can be a stretch. So can you think of one Victor? Second tone, second tone word.
Victor: How about 人民 (rén mín)
Amber: Ah like the square in Shanghai.
Victor: Yeah like “people”.
Amber: Yeah. So the first syllable is
Victor: 人 (rén)
Amber: The second tone, second syllable is
Victor: 民 (mín)
Amber: Also second tone.
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: You know it’s funny as how many of these are like sass back talks but the intonation that Brady Kids use, some of these work that way. I don’t know why Chinese sounds like braty kids but I thought of one for this second second.. which is, “told you!”
Victor: 人民 (rén mín) and there you go.
Amber: That’s right. Okay now back to what we talked about at the beginning which was the tone combination which I personally found particularly tricky which was the one for America, third tone with second tone. What was the word again?
Victor: 美国 (měi guó)
Amber: That’s right.
Victor: 美国 (měi guó) Yes it first must fall and then rise.
Amber: Yeah it kind of goes down to the base of your throat and then rises back up quite a ways because in normal third tone, how would you say third tone normally by itself?
Victor: 美 (měi)
Amber: But 美国 (měi guó) when you put it together.
Victor: 美国 (měi guó)
Amber: Definitely stretches up higher at the end.
Victor: Right 美国 (měi guó)
Amber: Right. So you know what helped me to perfect this tone was actually to think of it like a giant drawn out third tone and you know, once I did that, it made it a lot easier, but I do not have the new revolutionary tone system that I’ve developed back then. So now, you too can say 美国 (měi guó) right away and it’s by saying similar to English like when you are telling a story, you say, “and then”
Victor: And then 美国 (měi guó)
Amber: So like the encouraging way you know if someone is telling a story like…
Victor: Okay well yesterday I went to the store.
Amber: And then
Victor: 美国 (měi guó)
Amber: 美国 (měi guó). See, let’s start with another third second combination and see if it works.
Victor: Okay how about 好玩 (hǎo wán)
Amber: And then?
Victor: And then it works.
Amber: See, it totally works.
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: Okay.
Victor: So now, what about the neutral tone.
Amber: Yes we don’t want to overlook the neutral tone. It often gets overlooked. Well I think that should be easy because lots of English is in neutral tone right?
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: But umm, I think the best one to demonstrate what neutral tone sounds like I found.
Victor: Which is
Amber: “Gimme!”
Victor: Gimme. Exactly.
Amber: It’s like fourth tone, neutral tone, Gimme.
Victor: Yeah or like 弟弟 (dìdi).
Amber: Yeah 弟弟 (dìdi)
Victor: Like 弟弟 (dìdi) as in brother, younger brother.
Amber: Yeah younger brother is 弟弟 (dìdi) fourth tone, neutral tone. “Gimme!”
Victor: 弟弟 (dìdi)
Amber: Actually that works. A lot of 弟弟 (dìdi) it will be like “Gimme Gimme Gimme!” It sounds perfect.
Victor: A younger brother is always demanding.
Amber: Probably or maybe the older sister is demanding from the younger brother. I don’t know. So yeah, neutral sound, it was hard but now it’s easy.
Victor: Thanks to the Amber’s very advanced way of learning Chinese. I have never thought of that before.
Amber: Very scientific.
Victor: Yes.
Amber: Okay right. We are not done with neutral tone though. How about this one? Here with first tone and neutral tone. Give us the word Victor.
Victor: How about 妈妈 (mā ma).
Amber: Okay and I will say, that’s a big “no, no”.
Victor: Yeah that’s one thing that your mom will tell you right?
Amber: Exactly, so it works.
Victor: 妈妈 (mā ma) is mother.
Amber: She’d be like no, that’s a big no, no mama…
Victor: You can always remember, mama.
Amber: No, no…
Victor: Always say, no, no…
Amber: That’s right no, no. Okay well we hope that this cutting edge technology of Chinese tones and English words has made you see that you too can do the tones in Chinese and that you are already doing them.
Victor: Yeah. You just didn’t know it.
Amber: Yeah so practice your “no ways” and your “gimme”’s and you will be fluent in no time.
Victor: Yeah 加油 (jiā yóu)!


Amber: Okay so that’s our tone combinations for today. If you know any good ones, good way to remembering on your own, you can come by the chineseclass101 website and leave us a comment, share with us.
Victor: Yep. See you there 再见!(zàijiàn!)
Amber: Yeah and what was that Victor?
Victor: Fourth-fourth.
Amber: Yeah 再见!(zàijiàn!)
Victor: 再见!(zàijiàn!)
Amber: Goodbye.
Victor: Goodbye.
Amber: Goodbye.