Learn Chinese Tones

The Four Basic Tones

The pronunciation of any character is always a monosyllabic sound, for example "ma".

Taking "ma" as an example, it can be pronounced in four different ways, depending on the intonation given to it - in another lesson you'll learn that there actually are five different ways, including the neutral tone.

ma1: "ma" in the first tone;
listen to it at the following link:
(it would be better for you if you save all mp3 files on your computer)
ma1

ma2: "ma" in the second tone;
listen to it at the following link:
ma2

ma3: "ma" in the third tone;
listen to it at the following link:
ma3

ma4: "ma" in the fourth tone;
listen to it at the following link:
ma4

The following link points to an audio file with all the 4 + neutral tones:
(no need to pay attention now to the neutral tone)
ma12345

To illustrate, we can draw a vertical line to represent the range of the variation of one's pitch. From the low end upward, five points (1, 2, 3, 4, and 5) represent the low, middle-low, middle, middle-high and high pitch respectively.

Tones Chart

In the chart, the first tone is represented by the red line (55, that is from level 5 to level 5);

the second tone by the cyan line (35);

the third tone by the magenta line (213);

the fourth tone by the green line (51).

The neutral tone is not represented because the pronunciation must be short and weak.


If you want to listen to some more examples, in the list below you find more links for the first tone:
an1
ni1
xin1

more links for the second tone:
bie2
ji2
xi2

more links for the third tone:
ben3
bi3
fei3

and more links for the fourth tone:
du4
han4
se4

Now, please read and remember, this is important:

Master tones is not just a matter of remembering how to pronounce them. Your brain needs to EDUCATE your tongue, so repeat loudly what you listen. I'm seriuos now: if you CRY, your progress would be even faster!


WearYourChineseName -
Shanghai, China
Copyright © 2001-2016 All Rights Reserved.