Lots of Mandarin learners think that learning Chinese tones is impossibly difficult. There is no doubt that mastering the four (or even five) Mandarin tones is absolutely crucial for all students of Mandarin. If you can’t distinguish and reproduce the tones you will find it difficult or impossible to understand and be understood. Most Mandarin students know this and therefore find the tones both intimidating and off putting. But if you persevere they are not impossible. After a couple of months of listening and imitating you can distinguish the tones quite easily and produce the individual sounds fairly accurately.
Mandarin Four Tones (or five)
First tone, or high-level tone: a steady high sound, as if it were being sung instead of spoken.
Second tone, or rising tone, or linguistically, high-rising: is a sound that rises from mid-level tone to high (e.g., What?!)
Third tone, low tone, or low-falling-raising: it has a mid-low to low descent; if at the end of a sentence or before a pause. It is then followed by a rising pitch.
Fourth tone, falling tone, or high-falling: features a sharp downward accent ("dipping") from high to low, and is a shorter tone, similar to curt commands.
Fifth Tone: Neutral tone
The neutral tone is also called the fifth tone or zero tone. The neutral tone is sometimes thought of incorrectly as a lack of tone.
Mastering Chinese tones in syllabic isolation is fairly straightforward. When these syllables are placed into a sentence, however, Chinese tones and the intonation can change dependant on the sentence rhythm. Both the words used in the sentence and the context of the sentence will affect the overall sentence rhythm.
English is also having intonation, but with practice most English learners achieve fluency in English without achieving 100% accuracy in pronunciation, or word stress (if 100% accuracy exists). The difference between Mandarin and English is that you need to have a higher percentage of accuracy in order to be comprehensible.
Here are some tips to learn Chinese tones
1. Try to remember the Chinese tones, the more the better.
2. Liston some native speaking Chinese audios.
3. Always practice, try to speak to Chinese native speakers.
To find out more about Master Chinese Tones click here.