Question about Tones

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Question about Tones

Postby Stan » 2005-05-07, 23:01

I'm thinking about learning Mandarin Chinese and I want to know if learning tones is as difficult as it sounds because I'm just not familiar at all with tonal languages.
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Postby Aurelio » 2005-05-13, 4:46

Yip, tones ARE difficult if you are not yet a speaker of a tonal language!

That does not mean they are insurmountable. After several years of training I've found I'm becoming better at it (not just pronouncing them more or less right but actually hearing them). You might well be faster or slower, depending on how much effort you put.

If you are not a speaker of a language which a large sinitic component yet (Japanese, Vietnamese), you'll find the vocabulary difficult, too, as it has no links whatsoever with any indoeuropean language (that's pretty obvious, but it still slowed me down terribly until I had some basic vocabulary in place).

Still a great language to learn if you're in for a serious commitment.

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Postby Aymeric » 2005-05-18, 12:30

Personally I wouldn't say learning the vocabulary is that difficult.

Being a tonal language and having a relatively limited number of syllables, Chinese words are very easy to remember because they just sound like a musical pattern you would pick up from a song, for example.

Learning the characters at the same time is very helpful too, because knowing how to write a word enables you to understand it even if you had never heard it before.

One advice about tones : try to be very precise as soon as you start learning. Some friend of mine thought they would take care about that once they're ok with basic grammar, and that was a BIG mistake.
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Postby Junesun » 2005-05-28, 11:03

I agree with Aymeric there. I picked up the tones fairly easily (not knowing any tonal language before). In fact, tones are used in European languages, too, but with the difference that in European languages they are used to make slight changes to the meaning of sentences - turning them into questions, making them sound sarcastic or ironic or that kind of habit. So the real challenge is not to learn tones like you would learn a new sound but rather to learn to always use the same tone with a certain word, and not change tones when asking a question or the like.

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Postby Aymeric » 2005-05-29, 10:59

True, one of the difficulties I encountered at first was to ask a question with the last word calling for a falling tone...
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Postby Guest » 2005-05-31, 15:55

tones are as hard as they seem

i've been teaching my friends to produce the tones of Cantonese or Mandarin with some graphs and all of them could make the tones like any other Cantonese person does.

it's better if you know how to use some sound software to help you.

if anyone needs any help with the tones, don't hesitate to ask


Postby (Aymeric) » 2005-06-01, 0:49

Of course it's easy to produce isolated tones.
The hard part is to pronounce entire sentences with the right tone on each and every syllable, without having to think about it. THIS takes years of training.

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