Learn Chinese in China
Shelley

Tones over Characters

46 posts in this topic

Prompted by another topic here https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54580-flashcard-app-where-you-can-type-in-answer-in-pinyin/  discussing the correct position and placement of tone marks over pinyin syllabus, I wondered if there was any benefit to tone marks over characters. I ask this because having started NPCR 2 I see that it uses tone marks over characters.

 

Personally I can't see any use for it and is confusing and messy, so much so that when reading I use a piece of paper to cover the tone marks. Is it to remind the learner of the tone? or is it to give a clue as to what the character might be? What use were they intended to have?

 

Tone marks are only used for the main dialogue of the lesson all other characters do not have tones.

Is there any where else that this practice is used?

 

 

 

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It is helpful for reading out loud and getting away from using pinyin as a crutch.

 

if you are not focused on reading out loud , then don't bother with it. 

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Does it make that much difference reading out loud and reading internally? Surely the sound should be the same in my head as it is when I speak? And even if I was reading out loud I would find it confusing.

 

I just wondered if it ever makes an appearance in chinese school books or similar.

 

I suppose I can see how it might help some people, I just wish it didn't look so untidy, my eye is drawn to them and I find it distracting.

 

Oh well I will continue with my piece of paper.

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59 minutes ago, Shelley said:

Surely the sound should be the same in my head as it is when I speak?

 

Hmm, you have never tried reading out loud with a native Chinese speaker listening.

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I did that with one of my native chinese teachers as part of class and we had to read out loud as part of the end of term exam.

 

I read out loud/ speak quietly to my self when studying, sometimes actually at speaking level when repeating (ghosting?).

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5 minutes ago, Shelley said:

we had to read out loud as part of the end of term exam

 

Did you pass?

 

*edit* actually, it doesn't matter if you passed or not. What matters is if you read out loud and a native speaker who cares about pronunciation corrects your major mistakes.  

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Yes actually, 54 out of a possible 70. Don't know why it was out of 70 and not a 100, I asked him and he said that was just the way it worked out - x amount of questions certain amount of marks per question.

 

 

 

 

Certificate.jpg

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Nice. I have had over two hundred hours over Skype, spoken to native speakers, would count myself nowhere near fluent, listen to mandarin radio almost everyday and still get tones wrong when reading out loud.

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Oh don't get me wrong, I wouldn't say I don't make mistakes.

I know i must do, I am still learning and probably will forever as I am always learning.

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I think tone marks over characters could actually be really helpful.  Especially when you are dealing with those pesky characters that have the same pronunciation, but a different tone, depending on the word.  Those ones constantly catch me off guard, and I am at a really early level in my studies.  I can't do the whole characters and pinyin thing, the pinyin is a distraction and I just can't help but look at it.  But tone marks on the other hand could be a really helpful stepping stone.  But that's just me and the way I learn I guess

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I actually used to write just the tone marks into my textbooks over top of characters I was unfamiliar with.

 

I think this is helpful at a level where you already are able to relatively reliably guess pronunciation of characters you've never seen before and just need some form of reinforcement to solidify it in your memory.

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Exactly. There's something about pencil-to-paper that reinforces memorization.

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Yes I would agree with this

1 hour ago, 889 said:

There's something about pencil-to-paper that reinforces memorization.

I enjoy writing to learn characters, but I am talking about printed text books, for me it just adds an unnecessary complication and clutters the page.

 

I suppose I think that by the time you have reached no pinyin you also don't need tone marks.

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"I suppose I think that by the time you have reached no pinyin you also don't need tone marks."

 

Speak for yourself! I've been at this a very long time now and still find tones much much harder to fix in mind than Pinyin readings. This is especially true of the great many characters you encounter often in text but not too often in speech. Ultimately, it's not a dictionary that gives you the right tone, it's all those people around you speaking.

 

Can you mark tones in a newspaper article with 95%+ accuracy? I certainly cannot.

 

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10 minutes ago, 889 said:

Can you mark tones in a newspaper article with 95%+ accuracy?

Never thought about doing this, I suspect I would not do well, but I also can't read newspapers very well.

I think putting the tones on as an exercise makes more sense as something useful.

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An interesting question: why are tones harder to memorize than readings?

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I don't know, that what I was thinking when I thought it would be a good exercise because I can read it out loud with most of the tones correct, but if you made me write the tones cold as it were I would have more of a problem.

I have apps that test me on the tones but that is usually one character at a time, but just to go through a newspaper would be much more difficult.

 

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Probably harder because where as you know the pronunciation of the character, you then have 4 tones to deal with.  You either know how to read the character or you don't, but then you've still got a 3/4 chance of getting it wrong if you don't know the pronunciation!  There are for sure characters I know but forget the tone, but rarely will I be able to guess a character's pronunciation if i've never seen it before, far less likely then that is that I get the tone correct!  Interesting question indeed, that's my take on it hah!

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On 2017/7/16 at 6:34 AM, 889 said:

why are tones harder to memorize than readings?

Because your mental model of the language is incorrect.  The tone is part of the reading, and treating it differently is incorrect and makes it more difficult to remember because you are isolating sound + tone and trying to remember them separately rather than treating them as a single inseparable unit.

 

As an example, take the English words 'bat', 'bet', 'bit', 'bot' and 'but'.  You wouldn't tell someone to learn them as bt + the 'a' vowel, bt + the 'i' vowel, bt + the 'e' vowel, bt + the 'o' vowel and bt + the 'u' vowel, that would just make things unnecessarily complicated, and yet that's what you're doing when to try to learn Chinese pronunciation as reading + tone.

 

You need to drill tones until the different tones are as distinct to your ears and in your mind as 'a', 'e', 'i' 'o' and 'u' are.  Then when you remember the pronunciation of a character, you can use the pinyin to generate the complete sound and then remember that entire 'sound+tone as an inseparable unit'.  When you need to know the tone you can then just recall the sound and compare it against the different tones.

 

This is how native Chinese people will figure out the tone.  If you ask them what tone is "马“ they will say '马' and then 'mā má mǎ mà' to see which one matches the sound of '马' and then tell you that as the answer.

 

If you are not doing this, then you are making it more difficult for yourself.

 

23 hours ago, js6426 said:

Probably harder because where as you know the pronunciation of the character, you then have 4 tones to deal with.

If you don't know the tone, you don't know the pronunciation.  It's like saying you know the pronunciation of 'bt', but just have trouble remembering which of the 5 vowels to use, but that you have a 1/5 chance of getting the correct one.  It's nonsense in English and it's equally nonsense in Chinese.

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@imron You have hit the nail on the head for me,it is the separating of the tones and pronunciation that is bothering me, not just the messy appearance.

 

I have always said this, the pronunciation of a character correctly includes it's tone. I have also said before I don't learn tones, I learn pronunciation. 

 

.

 

 

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