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Arghhh tones! Ranting and questions...


LiLiKe
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Lorenzo - is your teacher telling you WHY your tones are wrong? As I mentioned above, someone who can tell you when you are too high, or too low, or too short, or too slow, is invaluable - but also very hard to find.

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Tones no doubt constitute one of the most difficult aspects of Chinese, along with the characters. That said, however, I think tones can be mastered in a relatively short time.

My advice is never neglect the tones. Try to pay attention to tones right from the outset. It will be difficult at first, and you need to concentrate every time you open your mouth to say something in Chinese. But I believe it pays off in the longrun. Eventually it will become more natural and less of a chore. Now the only time I have problems with the tones is when sandhi appear, and this is usually when several 3rd tone characters are said in succession.

Although I never learnt toneless Chinese, I guess that it would be detrimental to speaking good Chinese in the longrun. The last thing you want to do when learning any language is develop a habit of speaking incorrectly.

However, I don't believe it is necessary to be concerned with the finer details of tones and tonality, as have been outlined in previous posts in this thread. There may be many theories concerned with how tones behave in Chinese, but in my experience of listenning to natives, each person has their own unique way of expression, and most likely will not follow the 'rules' as set out by linguists.

So, try to learn the four tones separately, then learn how they are said in combination, and then take note of the sandhi. The other aspects of sentence stress and intonation I think can be acquired fairly naturally without having to spend too much effort trying to include them consciously.

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Lorenzo - is your teacher telling you WHY your tones are wrong? As I mentioned above, someone who can tell you when you are too high, or too low, or too short, or too slow, is invaluable - but also very hard to find.

I have been thinking about why so few Chinese teachers are able to effectively teach tones. I think the problem is that to a native Chinese speaker the difference between tones is as obvious as the difference between vowel sounds to a native speaker of a English. It just doesn't really occur to them that learning tones could be so difficult.

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This topic is right on board.

In my chinese class recently, we have been having this very discussion on tones, and it is good to hear other peoples views on this.

But here are some notes from a guy learning chinese in Taiwan and what my teachers etc tell me.

1) Many of the tones are different in Taiwan then in the Mainland which is a royal kicker.

2) Many of the aboriginal culture speak in horrendous tones or so my teachers and many of my local friends tell me. And my ears do to, but i am not sure i trust them enough, my ears that is (LOL)

3) I will try the suggestions but has anyone heard much talk of the 1st and 2nd tones being about the same lenght, and the 3rd actually being very short in length? I was intially taught that the 3rd tone was down then up, much like the accent symbol used to show it, but now my new teacher is telling us not to do it that way and that it is incorrect. She got this message from the director of the university (yes, i go to a real school) who has been the editor of some of the Mandarin learning tools here in Taiwan including the Far Eastern Book series. Should i belive them?

To put it mildly this revelation that the 3rd tone might be something completely different has casued many a question to be arised.

I am really trying to work hard on my tones becuase I recently have been having the same probs as the initial poster. Conversations are no problem, but sometiems if i make a direct request or one question without pre-text it gets mis-understood, so I know it is my funky tones.

I will try these things, and any more ideas or thoughts on this would love to hear, especially on this Taiwanese Mandarin 3rd tone?

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Unfortunately, she has a difficult time explaining such things to me in English.

I think you should be able to manage - as long as she can hear the problem in the first place, then the information to get it across - too high, too short, etc - isn't overly complex. It's certainly something worth working on with her - even if it takes you a couple of hours to get the ideas across.

Roddy

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  • 10 years later...

Quick question...

 

wǒ hěn hǎo

 

is pronounced 323 or 223?

 

If pronounced 323, then the "wo" does not rise, right? So it sounds like 423. (Not really, but just to clarify.)

 

I know that 3333 becomes 2323:

wǒ yě hěn hǎo = wó yě hén hǎo

 

But 333 still confuses me.

 

(Sorry for the necro post but I think it's better to have the same subject questions in one place.)

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wǒ hěn hǎo

 

is pronounced 323 or 223?

I would pronounce it 323.

 

 

 

If pronounced 323, then the "wo" does not rise, right?

Correct.

 

 

 

So it sounds like 423. (Not really, but just to clarify.)

For the clarification part, see my answer above.  As for the differences between the falling half tone 3 and the falling tone 4, the former drops from pitch level 2 to pitch level 1; whereas the latter typically drops from pitch level 5 to pitch level 1.  Also, the half tone 3, when stressed, gets louder when it drops into a creaky voice; whereas tone 4 gets much softer as the voice relaxes into the drop in pitch.  

 

 

I know that 3333 becomes 2323:

wǒ yě hěn hǎo = wó yě hén hǎo

This is how I would pronounce this group, but the result of 3333 is not always 2323.  It depends on how the syllables will most naturally group.

 

 

 

But 333 still confuses me.

The basic choice is whether you feel the syllables group most naturally as (1) XXX, (2) X-XX, or (3) XX-X.  The phrase wǒ hěn hǎo allows an optional pause after the first syllable and so groups as X-XX.  You there for treat hěn hǎo as a 23 unit and don't make the change on wǒ.  In the phrase wǒ yě hǎo, such a pause would be unusual, and so it would be better to treat it as XXX, and so the change would be the most natural (i.e.:223).

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Thank you for the reply! I happened to be studying Mandarin again and looking here while you typed, haha.

 

Very informative. :)

 

In the phrase wǒ yě hǎo, such a pause would be unusual, and so it would be better to treat it as XXX, and so the change would be the most natural (i.e.:223).

Ooh, interesting. So if you want to group multiple 3s together without pause, then the first two 3s can be pronounced as 2s? That's good to know, it feels a lot more natural. Especially with wǒ yě hǎo, because the first two syllables are short and easy to pronounce.

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+1 to Altair

 

 

Conversations are no problem, but sometiems if i make a direct request or one question without pre-text it gets mis-understood, so I know it is my funky tones.

 

Also keep in mind "communication hindrances" can be occurring, regardless of language. For example, I once wondered why oftentimes a fast food worker couldn't hear me when taking my order. After working as a fast food worker myself in a couple places, I now know there is often huge amounts of noise and it can be hard to hear some people, even at what appears to be a very close distance (industrial fans? kitchen noise?)

 

Secondly, is there a possibility that you are more soft-spoken in general? Nervousness about messing up tones could then make you even more nervous and soft-spoken, leading to a feedback cycle.... 

 

Thirdly, perhaps your listener has a lot on their mind that particular day and doesn't particularly care what others are saying at the moment.

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