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Pronunciation Chart - Tones

The Tones of Mandarin Chinese
"Chinese is a tonal language."
Mandarin has four tones--five if you count the "neutral" tone--and as you'll see below, pronouncing the tone just right is very important.
A syllable in Chinese is composed of an initial, which is a consonant that begins the syllable, and a final, wich covers the rest of the syllable.

Description Chinese Character Meaning


High and level.

A mother


Starts medium in tone, then rises to the top.



Starts low, dips to the bottom, then rises toward the top.

A horse


Starts at the top, then falls sharp and strong to the bottom.

To reprove;To condemn


Flat, with no emphasis.

What; a phrase-final particle used in questions
  • And this is very important: If you use the wrong tones, your listeners may not be able to understand you. Those of us who studied Chinese in Chinese-speaking regions remember quite well the frustration of not being understood early on simply because our tones were a little off.






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