Blog Language

How to Pronounce Mandarin-Chinese Tones

Mandarin-Chinese is a tonal language. Tones are more like music notes, which guide you on how to pronounce each character. In this sense, speaking Mandarin-Chinese is more like singing.

It sounds fun but might be confusing to English speakers who are never exposed to tonal languages. However, if you know the trick, you will find it is not difficult at all.

In this post, I will teach you the secret, so you will have a better Chinese accent.

Mandarin Chinese has 5 tones, first tone, second tone, third tone, fourth tone, and neutral tone. Each tone comes with a tone mark except a neutral tone.

I noticed English speakers have a common problem when it comes to pronouncing these tones: You don’t exaggerate enough.

What does it mean? It means, when you pronounce tones, you speak too gently.   Actually, in order to pronounce these tones correctly, you have to speak loudly and dramatically.

At the beginning, speak slowly to make sure you speak each tone right, when you feel more confident with each tone, speed up and speak at a normal speed.

Always try to exaggerate with your speaking until you feel natural to speak in this way.

When you do so, your speaking will sound more natural to us native speakers.  At the beginning, you might feel it sounds funny and awkward, When you are used to it, you will feel more natural.

I often joked with my students: After you know how to pronounce Mandarin-Chinese tones, you might get a better idea why we Chinese speak loudly.

Now let’s watch below video to get a better idea about how to pronounce each tone correctly.

In this video, you will hear two sentences with different tones to help you practice tone pronunciation.

1, 我爱吃苹果。(Wǒ ài chī píng guǒ.) (I love eating apples.)

2,你爱吃苹果吗?(Nǐ ài chī píng guǒ ma?) (Do you love eating apples?)

Attention! There are some exceptional rules when it comes to the tones.

1, When two third tones come together, usually the first third tone will pronounce as the second tone to help the speaking easier.

For example, 你好(nǐ hǎo), you should pronounce as ní hǎo but the character is the same.

2, Exceptional rule for the character “一”.

When” 一 ” is used as a counting number, its pronunciation becomes: yī, 1st tone.

When the character” 一” comes before words with tone marks like first tone, second tone, or third tone, its pronunciation becomes: yì, 4th tone.

For example, 一点一滴(yī diǎn yī dī ) will pronounce as: yì diǎn yì dī .

When the character” 一” comes before words with a fourth tone, its pronunciation becomes yí, 2nd tone.

For example, 一样( yī yàng ) will pronounced as ” yí yàng “.

3, Exceptional rule for the character 不(bù ).

When “不” comes before  characters with the fourth tone,   to make the pronunciation easier, its  fourth tone will change to the second tone.

For example,, 不对 ( bù duì ) will be pronounced as “bú duì”.

Note: In some posts,  I might use 1, 2, 3, 4 numbers to indicate the tone mark to help you get a better idea of the pronunciation. If it is a neutral tone, then there is no number.

In my next post, I will talk about a topic that you might be interested: traditional Chinese characters or simplified ones. I will give you my very honest opinion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.