Tips For Learning Intonation In The Chinese Language

27 Aug Tips For Learning Intonation In The Chinese Language

learn chinese language

Just like in English, and a lot of other languages, intonation in Chinese is essential for communicating properly, and tones change the meaning of what you want to say. From a simple “yes” answer, a different tone can change it to a “yes?” question. Tones are present in almost every language and Chinese is no different. Here are four tips on how to master the different intonations and be a Chinese language expert in no time!

Practice with gestures
For beginners, this strategy will keep pronunciation changes in words in control. All you need to do is express with your fingers or hands like you would in an orchestra as a conductor. Although it can look senseless, the gestures indicate the type of emphasis placed on the character. We know that Chinese has four tones and a fifth neutral tone, for characters that must be added to other words.

Here are symbols for different gestures you can use when characters are read in different tones:

  • First tone (-) – consider drawing a line with a high pitch. Characters in this time are longer.
  • Second tone (/) – draw a slanted line, going from left to right and up while you increase your pitch
  • Third tone (V) – draw a “V” or “U” for lowering and then increasing you pitch
  • Fourth tone (\) – draw a slanted line, going from left to right and down while you stress the pinyin
  • Fifth tone (.) – make a dot for short and concise words

Practice in pairs
The intonations are easy to say when you say them separately. Reading and speaking in pairs is when it gets tricky. Therefore, when you are practising, always practice them in pairs.

You can get easier pairs with the first and fourth tone, and then go to the harder pairs (1st/4th with 2nd/3rd tone). Most people find the second and the third tones the most difficult; therefore, it helps to make these pairs a part of your practice so that you can use the different combinations and the correct sentences expressed in real conversations.

You will find numerous tone combinations while you are learning; be sure to choose your words in oral practice according to what you want to talk about. Furthermore, if you want to use exercises, there are many online sources that give you a lot of practice material.

Once you have had some practice with just pairs, practice speaking complete sentences that use the combinations you have learned.

Speak the tones with exaggeration
When practising, speak up the tones with more enthusiasm than necessary. This will look silly in the beginning, but as you continue and refine your speech in the Chinese language, this will help you remember how each tone should actually sound like. When you switch to speaking normally, you will find it easier to use the right tone.

The tones in a language represent a ‘feeling’ like the first tone may represent happiness while the third may represent confusion. When practising, feel free to sound like you are in a theatre, and every sentence has to sound super-dramatic!

Mark tones with colours
While this technique may not be for everyone, those who learn better with visual aids would find this very easy to get used to. As your vocabulary grows, it might become more and more difficult to keep all the tones in check. This is where colour coding comes in.

If you do prefer a visual approach, highlight words and characters that relate to a certain tone and use it to remember how they are pronounced. Everyone may associate different tones with different colours, based on their own preferences, be sure to do your own colour coding!

Finally, be sure to have ready access to a dictionary for times when you might have difficulty talking to a real person. This is a very good way to learn on the go. Furthermore, listen to Chinese radio and television to try and understand how the natives speak each word. Alternatively, you could learn the chinese language in singapore by attending Chinese language courses!

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