Mandarin Chinese is a tonal languages like a lot of other Chinese languages. There are 4 tones and a neutral tone in Mandarin (Cantonese has 6-9!). I call them highway, surprise, roller-coaster and chopping. The first tone is like going down a highway. It is flat and always stay at 5. The second tone resembles the tone when you say “What?!!” surprised. The third tone is a roller-coaster, meaning that you need to go down and up, fast. The five one really makes everything sounds rough, like when you are chopping something with anger:P
Everyone struggles with Mandarin Chinese tones! Believe or not! Sometimes even Mandarin native speakers have problems remembering the tones after 12 years training in school. So don’t panic or get frustrated if you cannot tell the difference of the tones from the beginning or have problems remembering the tones.
Since most of the Mandarin learners come from a background of non-tonal languages, their ears get lazy to tones from an early age, and thus the reawakening process can take some time. Some learners might not be able to fully recognize tones after years of training. That sounds a bit sad, isn’t it? However, the importance of tones is sometimes exaggerated. A lot of advanced speakers still have problems remembering all the tones accurately in a sentence but native speakers can still understand them. In fact, in Chinese songs, tones becomes impossible as you need to follow the melody of the music but not the tones! Native speakers can still understand the content and the lyrics of the songs. So don’t lose your hope if you cannot get the tones right. It is more important to remember the words and make a proper sentence with the correct structure!
Just something for fun. A Chinese pop called “Chinese“. Enjoy!