In the Chinese sound system, there are THREE essential elements: finals, initials, and tones. Let’s compare it to English:
Chinese finals are equivalent to English ______ (vowels or consonants) and Chinese initials are equivalent to English ________ (vowels or consonants).
Can you fill in the blanks?
Both finals and initials have their counterparts in English, so that leaves us with tones. Tones are a very important part of the Chinese language and they help make the language quite different from English.
When we add ‘initials’ and ‘finals’ together, we get Pinyin, which is the most commonly-used system of writing Mandarin Chinese with the Latin alphabet. Once we have Pinyin (initial + final), we add the ‘tones’ to get a complete pronunciation guide for Chinese.
Here, I am going to use the character 媽 to elaborate further about the Chinese sound system. Let’s do this step by step – follow me!
– The character for ‘mum’ is written as 媽 (in traditional form) or 妈 (in simplified form). No matter which form you choose to write, that does NOT affect the way we pronounce the character.
– 媽’s Pinyin is ‘ma’, in which ‘m’ is regarded as initial and ‘a’ is final.
– Once we get the Pinyin ‘ma’ for 媽, we STILL need to know which tone is applied to the pinyin ‘ma’, otherwise, we can accidently pronounce the words with a completely DIFFERENT meaning. As you may already know, 媽 is pronounced with the first tone (a.k.a. ‘high-level tone’).
In today’s activity, I am listing characters which have same Pinyin as 媽 but are pronounced with DIFFERENT tones. The number next to the pinyin represents the tone:
媽 -> ma1 -> uses the 1st tone (called ‘high-level tone’ ) => means ‘mother’
麻 -> ma2 -> uses the 2nd tone (called ‘rising tone’) => means ‘numb’
馬 -> ma3 -> uses the 3rd tone (called ‘falling-rising tone’) => means ‘horse’
罵 -> ma4 -> uses the 4th tone (called ‘falling tone’) => means ‘scold’
In today’s activity, I am listing characters which have the same Pinyin as 白 but are pronounced with DIFFERENT tones. The number next to the pinyin represents the tone:
白 -> bai2 / bái => means ‘white’
百 -> bai3 / bǎi => means ‘hundred’
敗 -> bai4 / bài => means ‘lose’ or ‘be defeated’
Which tone is easiest for you to pronounced of the combinations above?
In the pronunciation ‘bai’, I’ve got the initial ‘b’ and the final ‘ai’. The final ‘ai’ is also called ‘compound final’ when there are two or three vowels together. To me, the initial ‘b’ sounds like the ‘b’ in ‘book’. How about the compound final ‘ai’? I’ve listed a few options for you to chose from! Which option below is closest to the correct pronunciation of ‘ai’? Share with me!
The compound final ‘ai’ sounds like:
(1) the first person pronoun ‘I’
(3) as the ‘i’ sound in ‘bike’
(4) as the ‘ye’ sound in ‘byes’
In today’s Chinese tones practice, we’re going to use some simple sounds to help perfect our tones. First, let’s get our pronounciation down:
The initial ‘d’ is pronounced as the ‘d’ sound in ‘down’ but a softer sound. (listen to the demo here: http://bit.ly/1HI6XxP)
The final ‘a’ is pronounced as the ‘a’ sound in ‘art’. (listen to the demo here: http://bit.ly/1ArnVhu)
Can you tell what Chinese tone is applied in these two demo clips?
In the examples, there are three different characters which have the same pinyin: ‘da’, but are pronounced with DIFFERENT tones. The number next to the pinyin represents the tone:
搭 -> da1/dā -> means ‘take’ as in ‘take a train’ or ‘take a flight’
(try to pronounce ‘dā’ as if singing a HIGH-PITCH sustained note)
达 -> da2/dá -> means ‘to reach’
(RAISING your head while pronouncing ‘dá’)
打 -> da3/dǎ -> means ‘to hit’ or ‘to play’ as in ‘play baseball’ or ‘play tennis’
(the tone you use to say ‘REAAAALLY?’ is just like the 3rd/dipping tone in ‘dǎ’)
Any pronunciation tips for the 4th/falling tone in ‘dà’? Does the 4th tone sound like an angry tone to you?
Practice tones in 8-bit game Tone Fu on Catlard