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Chinese Four Tones – Chinese Pronunciations

Except for the pronunciation of each alphabet, tone is another difference between Chinese and English. Many foreigners complain that they are so hard to master. Today, I will explain you what Chinese tones are and how to distinguish them.

To learn Chinese, pinyin is an essential part that you have to master. Pinyin consists of two or more alphabets, and we can usually see a pinyin has more than one pronunciation and meaning. If you can’t distinguish them, you might make a fool of yourself.

1. Types of Chinese Tones

Chinese includes four tones: 1st tone, 2nd tone, 3rd tone and 4th tone.  Each tone has a distinctive pitch contour which can be graphed using the Chinese 5-level system.

2. Chinese Four Tones

1). First Tone

The first tone is high and level. To articulate this tone correctly, you need to keep your voice even when the whole syllable across. It is represented by a straight horizontal line above a letter in pinyin. For example:





2). Second Tone

The second rises moderately. In English we sometimes associate this rise in pitch with a question. The second tone is represented by a rising diagonal line above a letter in pinyin. For example:



3). Third Tone

The third tone falls at first and then rises again. When pronounced clearly, its tonal “dipping” is very distinctive. It is represented by a curved “dipping” line above a letter in pinyin. For example:




4). Fourth Tone

The fourth tone starts out high but drops sharply to the bottom of the tonal range. It is represented by a dropping diagonal line above a letter in pinyin. For example:







Tones below are for your practice:

1. bō       bó        bō       bò

2. fān     fán       fǎn       fàn

3. shēnɡ      shénɡ      shěnɡ       shènɡ

4. piān      pián      piǎn      piàn

5. fānɡ     fánɡ     fǎnɡ      fànɡ

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