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Tips for Foreigners to Learn Mandarin Tones

Mandarin tones are one of the most imperative aspects of the Chinese language. Consequently, it is very important for foreigners to learn Chinese tones. Whether they are beginners or advanced Chinese golden eagles remains important. However, there will be different tone problems. If you want to master Chinese, you must first master the tone, which is not only difficult for foreigners to learn Chinese but also difficult for teaching Chinese as a foreign language. Therefore, it is very important to master tone teaching strategies in teaching Chinese as a second language.

chinese tones
Chinese Tones

01 Reasonable Arrangement of Mandarin Tones Teaching Order

For foreigners whose mother tongue is tonal language or non-tonal language, they have difficulty learning the three tones 214. On the other hand, tone 55 is relatively easy to master. Generally speaking, foreigners should follow the principle of progressive learning when tackling tones. It is also imperative to teach tones in order, following the first, fourth, second, and third tones. For Chinese learners whose mother tongue is a tonal language, We can arrange the teaching order from the characteristics of their mother tongue tones and the differences between them and Chinese initials.

02 Compare Chinese with Your Mother Tongue

By comparing the tones and intonations of Chinese and the learner’s respective ‘ mother tongue, tones will be much easier to understand. For tonal heavy languages, we can determine the key points and difficulties in teaching by comparing the differences between their native tone system and the Chinese tone system. For example, for Vietnamese students, we should focus on expanding their tuning range and strengthening the practice of all-falling tones.

For foreigners whose mother tongue is not a tonal language, we should compare the differences between Mandarin tones and the tone in their mother tongue. This will help them find pronunciation references. The expression in different languages is quite similar to the pronunciation of tones in Chinese. For English-speaking countries or foreigners who know English, they can master the fourth tone by comparing it with “go” in “let’s go.”

03 Picture Method and Action Method

In teaching, we can make use of the schematic diagram of five tones to make foreigners have a distinct visual experience. When demonstrating, we can point to the pronunciation process diagram with our fingers and pronounce it at the same time. For example, teachers can point to the picture and make an accurate high and flat first sound. This method is effective when combined with the gesture method. When pronouncing, the movement of the hand indicates the pitch change. Consequently, it prompts foreigners to pronounce correct tones. While making sounds, we should do some small moves together, and combine body movements with pronunciation to help students master the four Mandarin tones.

① Yinping (55): Ask students to stretch out their fingers and find a point in the air. From this point, draw a horizontal ray. At the same time, read along with the teacher: a55.

② Yangping (35): Please slowly raise your head and read after the teacher: a35.

③ Upper voice (214): Ask students to nod slowly (that is, lower their heads and then lift them up) while reading after the teacher: a214.

④ Qusheng (51): Please pretend to be angry, stomp your feet and read after the teacher: a51.

04 Music Method and Four-tone Singing Practice Method

According to the survey, foreigners who have studied vocal music generally perform well in Chinese tone learning, because they are sensitive to the change of pitch after special pronunciation training and vocal cord control training. This reveals that we can combine tone learning with music in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. The method is quite effective for the Chinese and is inherently musical.

By using students’ auditory sensibility, students can realize that the tone of Chinese is just the change of sound height, straightness, rise, and fall, which is similar to the notes in music.

① The teacher draws a staff on the blackboard and marks the notes 55, 35, 214, and 51 on the staff.

② Connect the notes to form a visually observable picture.

③ The teacher turns into a professional conductor, and his gestures are like a baton, directing the students to make various tones. This cycle strengthens the practice.

When using the four-tone singing method, it is best to practice monophthongs and simple syllables first. After, you can use the four-tone positive sequence and the four-tone reverse sequence of syllables to train after you are satisfied with the practice. Teachers can start by teaching words with four positive tones, such as “山河美丽beautiful mountains and rivers” and “身强体壮strong body”. Following, they can progress to; words with four tones in reverse order, such as “异口同声one voice”, “信以为真believe it” and so on. By repeatedly practicing this regular arrangement and combination of four tones, foreigners’ sense of four tones can be effectively cultivated.

Another advantage of these two methods is that they can avoid the tedium of simple tone practice, thus making the learning process more relaxed and interesting, and arousing foreigners’ interest in learning better so that they can master Mandarin tones faster!

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