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Lesson Transcript

Hi everyone.
Welcome to The Ultimate Chinese Pronunciation Guide.
In this lesson, you'll learn about the tones in Chinese.
Tone is the use of pitch to distinguish meaning and it is an integral part of the Chinese language.
Just like how mispronouncing a sound or misreading a character can have a huge impact on meaning, using the wrong tone can drastically change the meaning of a word or sentence too.
It is therefore crucial that you learn how to use tones correctly.
"CHINESE TONES"
There are theoretically a total of 5 tones in Chinese. 4 main tones, which inflect a change in relative pitch and 1 tone which is completely neutral.
The tones are...
Neutral 吗
High tone 妈
Rising tone 麻
Falling and rising tone 马
and falling tone. 骂
As you can see, using the wrong tone can be detrimental to communication!
So let's go through them one by one.
"0: NEUTRAL"
吧 ba "final particle"
Though it isn't officially recognized as a tone in Chinese, we should talk a little bit about what it means to be neutral.
To deliver something in a neutral tone, is to say it in the most comfortable range without any changes in stress or pitch during delivery.
了 le "final particle"
It's the least amount of effort required to deliver something.
You must realise that all other tones are relative to the *neutral tone*.
What this means is that a high tone is only high relative to the speakers normal, neutral range.
So the neutral tone is like the *base* for all other tones.
Neutral syllables do not need to be marked with any accents in written notation.
"1: HIGH TONE" The first tone, is the high tone. It's marked with a horizontal line above the letter.
It sounds like this...
书 shū "book"
It's pronounced high and steady, and the pitch should be kept at the highest range that's comfortable for you.
包 bāo "bag"
The key point here is to keep it even across the whole syllable.
书包 shūbāo "school backpack"
Now you try!
书包 shūbāo "school backpack"
"2: RISING TONE" The second tone, is the rising tone. It's marked with a rising diagonal line going from left to right.
It sounds like this...
人 rén "people"
It has a rising intonation and kind of sounds like your asking a question.
烦 fán "to annoy/to be annoyed"
You should start from a comfortable range and then rise from there.
烦人 fánrén "annoying"
Now you try!
烦人 fánrén "annoying"
"3: FALLING AND RISING TONE" The third tone, is the falling and rising tone. It's marked with an upwards semi-circle.
It sounds like this...
好 hǎo "good"
This tone is often the most challenging for many students of Chinese.
Starting from around mid-range, dip to the very bottom of your range until you feel like something is stuck in your throat and then rise quickly to clear it! 脚 jiǎo "foot"
Using hand gestures while trying to pronounce this tone really helps.
The key point here is *bouncing off* from the *deepest* part of your range.
雪 xuě "snow"
Now you try!
雪 xuě "snow"
"4: FALLING TONE" The fourth and final tone, is the falling tone. It's marked with a falling diagonal line going from left to right.
It sounds like this...
下 xià "next/down/to get off"
It sounds like a fast, sharp drop. English speakers often associate this tone as being angry sounding.
课 kè "class/lesson"
It might help to imagine a pencil dropping as you're pronouncing this tone.
下课 xiàkè "to finish class"
Now you try!
下课 xiàkè "to finish class"
Now you know how to produce tones in Chinese!
In the next lesson, we'll cover tone change rules in Chinese.
Do you have tones in your Language? Please comment and share your thoughts.
See you in the next Ultimate Chinese Pronunciation Guide lesson!

7 Comments

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😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Friday at 06:30 PM
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Do you have tones in your Language? Please comment and share your thoughts.

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Friday at 07:46 AM
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你好 王可妮,


Great to hear that! 😇 Thank you very much for your message.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Good luck with your language studies.


Kind regards,

雷文特

Team ChineseClass101.com

王可妮
Friday at 11:04 AM
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My biggest struggle is the falling and rising tone. Your suggestion to use hand gestures really helped me improve! I hope to reach the point where I don't have to move my hands anymore.


Thank you!

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Wednesday at 11:35 PM
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你好 robert groulx!


不用谢。(Bú yòng xiè.) = No need for thanks. You're welcome. 😇


谢谢 (Xièxie) for studying with us, it's great to have you here!


Let us know if you have any questions.


Kind regards,

雷文特 (Levente)

Team ChineseClass101.com

robert groulx
Tuesday at 10:45 PM
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thank you for the lesson transcript


favorite word isit! 脚


robert

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Thursday at 07:19 PM
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Hi, Augusto,

Thank you for your sharing.

I think your opinion is almost right.

"Most Chinese people, in normal conversation, NEVER produce it like a dipping and rising tone", there are two reasons.

The first reason is because only in standard Chinese, the third tone characters are pronounced in the third tone, and the fact is most people for different areas can not speak standard Chinese. They speak with accent. So that's why listeners can not hear the third tone clearly for most of the Chinese people. If you want to learn standard Chinese(Mandarin), please try to learn for the people who can speak good Mandarin.

The second reason is we always say the third tone character very fast, so it is hard for the listener to hear clearly.


Cho

Team ChineseClass101.com

Augusto
Saturday at 06:51 AM
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Maybe it is a good idea to include some notes or another video on the third tone, showing how most Chinese people, in normal conversation, NEVER produce it like a dipping and rising tone, but just as a low flat tone, with a hint of "vocal fry" or creakiness. The dipping and rising pattern only shows up when one wants to emphasize that particular syllable, or ennunciate it in isolation.