If you are dying to know what methods work well for learning Chinese tones. Then this could be the most exciting and valuable sharing for you.
My name is Michelle Li. I started helping westerners learn Chinese in my spare time since 1990s when I was in my early 20s, my students in those early days are my colleagues in a U.S. company - Sun Microsystems. So I wasn't an mainstream teacher when I started my teaching journey (I was actually a software engineer, believe it or not!). Teaching Chinese was totally out of my passion with the language and wanting to help. Since then I've done lots of 1-1 tutoring and community courses to students of different age, background and levels, including over a decade in Australia.
Because of this background, there is one significant difference between my teaching and others: my teaching has a better learner's perspective than any others. I'm not only teaching what to learn, but how to learn as well.
For adult learners, learning Chinese tones is a fascinating journey, and it could be very long for most of us. However, if you follow my three steps recommendation here, I guarantee you will move your study to the next level soon. Either you're a beginner, or even you have left the beginner stage for long time. Here are the steps:
STEP 1. Match the mandarin tones to your English pronunciation, get the mystery GONE! Tones are pitch differences which indicate different words with completely different meanings. Mandarin has tones; English does not. However, you do use intonation in English for a range of things, such as indicating questions, conveying the emotions and attitudes of the speaker and so on. Although theoretically, tones and intonation are different concepts, but both of them are reflections of your voice ranges. Therefore, from the sound point of view, they can match each other. For example, when you ask a question in English, you're equivalently using the second tone (the rising tone) in Mandarin.
So, the first step in my Chinese Tones Blueprint is to build a tones card to match the Mandarin tones to your English pronunciation. You'll feel NO MORE distance or mystery of tones!
STEP 2. Tone pairs are crucial. Now you've got the basics of tones right in step 1. But how to transform the theory into actual hearing and speaking ability? The answer is obvious, practice! Then, what is the most effective way to practice Chinese tones? - practice tone pairs! Here is why:
Most of all Chinese verbs, nouns and adjectives are two characters, and the natural pattern of speech in Mandarin involves breaking up sentences into two-character pieces. For example, àozhōu(澳洲) is a 4-1 tone combination because ào is 4th tone and zhōu is 1st tone. While měiguó(美國) is a 3-2 tone combination because měi is 3rd tone and guó is 2nd tone. So once you get used to tone pairs, you are on the right track.
Therefore, the second step in my Chinese Tones Blueprint is to teach you practice the most essential 20 tone pairs, it includes all types of tones combination, I've organized them into a tone-pairs card.
STEP 3. Build your own tone-pairs card. After the practice in step 2, you're now familiar with the 20 tone combinations. It's time to make your own tone-pairs card: following the second sample tone pairs card I'm giving you in the blueprint, pick up a two-character word you're most familiar for each tones combination, make sure you can pronounce the chosen word 100% accurate. But how? Mimic the way of a native speaker pronounces the tones from your course material or teacher. Record yourself, compare, try again until you feel it's accurate. Then get feedback from a competent native speaker (your teacher, for example), see if you ARE accurate. If you can go through this process, no doubt you'll be at the next level of your learning journey.
FREE Download my Mandarin Tones Blueprint (with 3 sample cards), and practice them. Now!
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