Tones, Tones, Tones
Congrats! You’ve finished week one of our Chinese Starter Kit. With your pinyin foundation laid down, you’re feeling pretty good and getting the hang of things. This is the week we start really getting down to business, with tones!
This week with tones we’ll continue with our course and apply everything you’ve learned from week one. You will implement all the pinyin knowledge you have and learn to coordinate them with the correct tones.
As we mentioned before, the Chinese language has 409 different combinations of syllables, divided into 4 tones plus one “neutral” or “toneless” tone.
This is an important fact because the English language has more than 12,000 different combinations of possible syllables, but lucky for you, we only need to learn 409 different sounds. Although there are a few things to take into consideration:
- *Every syllable with different tones has a different meaning, for example, (马, mǎ, horse) doesn’t mean the same as (吗 ma ), the particle for questioning something. They have the same pinyin but not the same tone, and that can make a world of difference.
- *Some words have the same syllable and the same tone, but what’s the difference? The difference is the character and the context it is used for when reading. For example: 他 tā means “him” and 她 tā means “her” An example of this would be: 她是我妈妈和他是我爸爸 tā shì wǒ māmā hé tā shì wǒ bàba which translates to “She is my mom and he is my dad,” This sentence is using the same words with the same pinyin and tone (tā, 他, 她)”
Don’t let this intimidate you, with practice you’ll improve your skills and get the hang of it all. It’s a matter of practice, practice, practice.
This week, we’ve rounded up the top 4 online resources to help you start improving your tones today!
1. Standard Mandarin
Standard Mandarin is a powerful app with a lot of pronunciation exercises and includes comprehensive drawings and animations of the anatomy involved in producing the Chinese sound. It also includes a pronunciation guide which includes every possible pinyin syllable and is accompanied by a thorough description of how to use your tongue and facial muscles.
It’s available for iOS for phones and windows for desktops.
The iOS version is free and includes:
- All Pinyin Sounds
- Pronunciation Guide
For Windows you can get the software for $39.99 which includes:
- All Pinyin Sounds
- Pronunciation Guide
- Pronunciation Comparison
- Pinyin Drills
WaiChinese is a web platform and APP that will help you speak Chinese more confidently and gives you feedback. WaiChinese lets you listen to, speak, and get feedback on your spoken Mandarin anytime, anywhere. With their 3-step process where you get to practice commonly used phrases with audio samples from native speakers, get a visual graph of your tones with their proprietary Mandarin visualization technology, and then you get your teacher to listen to your tones and then give you feedback via text and audio responses. It’s a great out of the classroom resource for anyone who wants to make sure they’re keeping their tones in tip-top shape.
3. Chinese Sound 汉语语言助教
Meet the user-friendly APP, Chinese Sound that helps with Chinese tones, pinyin, pronunciation, and spoken Chinese. It’s a phonetic teaching APP designed and developed to assist teachers to teach Chinese and to help learners study Chinese pronunciation. So, you can be your own teacher and a student. It’s a great APP for beginners learning Chinese to help lay down a solid foundation that includes training of Chinese tones, pinyin, and pronunciation of basic words.
Laokang is an APP from the Laokang family of APPs. The Laokang Tone Test is a diagnostic test of tone proficiency for students of Chinese at all levels. This free APP gives you the answer in under three minutes. Take it again and again as your studying progresses.
This APP focuses on diagnosing and evaluating two important points in the Chinese language:
- Test listening
- Test speaking
Each session takes less than 3 minutes and is evaluated by stars. 3 stars being the minimum to pass every lesson. You’ll also be able to save your recordings after the session if you want to check it.
The APP suggests you take at least 3 minutes a day to practice, But you can use the APP for hours on end to help improve your pronunciation and listening.
Now with 4 more Chinese language learning resources on hand, you’ve laid down a solid foundation that will help you down the road to become the Chinese language superstar that you know you were always meant to be! We’ll see you next week.
If you’re interested in some study tips, you can check our first week of our starter kit, Chinese Starter Kit Week 1: Pinyin or our article on How To Study The World’s Most Frustrating Language .
If you’re prepared to be 100% immersed in the world of the Chinese language and culture you can apply for our programs here!