Learn Chinese Tones


This is the first of five free lessons about Mandarin Chinese tones.

Lesson 1:
The Four Basic Tones

Lesson 1
The Four Basic Tones

The pronunciation of any character is always a monosyllabic sound, for example "ma".

Taking "ma" as an example, it can be pronounced in four different ways, depending on the intonation given to it - in another lesson you'll learn that there actually are five different ways, including the neutral tone.

: "ma" in the first tone;
listen to it at the following link:

: "ma" in the second tone;
listen to it at the following link:

: "ma" in the third tone;
listen to it at the following link:

: "ma" in the fourth tone;
listen to it at the following link:

The following link points to an audio file with all the 4 + neutral tones (no need to pay attention now to the neutral tone).
mā­má­mǎ­mà­ma: all tones of "ma";
listen to them at the following link:

To illustrate, we can draw a vertical line to represent the range of the variation of one's pitch. From the low end upward, five points (1, 2, 3, 4, and 5) represent the low, middle-low, middle, middle-high, and high pitch respectively.

Chinese Tones Chart

In the chart, the first tone is represented by the red line (55, that is from level 5 to level 5);

the second tone by the cyan line (35);

the third tone by the magenta line (214);

the fourth tone by the green line (51).

The neutral tone is not represented because the pronunciation must be short and weak.


"Listen and repeat" exercise

Please listen to the following examples in the four+neutral tones, and try your best to repeat the sounds with exactly the same pitch variation.

Examples of first tone:

māo
jiā
chī

Examples of second tone:

qián
shí
lái

Examples of third tone:

jiǔ
guǒ
gǒu

Examples of fourth tone:

kàn
zài
kuàir

Now, please read and remember, this is important:

Master tones is not just a matter of remembering how to pronounce them. Your brain needs to EDUCATE your tongue, so repeat loudly what you listen. I'm seriuos now: if you CRY, your progress would be even faster!

Click here for lesson 2 on Chinese tones.

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