How do I improve Chinese tones?
Step 1: Learn Chinese tones correctly
Step 2: Improve your Chinese tone strength
Building a good habit is like treading a path. The more times you walk it, the more trodden and clear the path becomes. Soon, it’s easy to follow your newly made path. Tones are learned and practiced through pinyin. Each time you learn a new pronunciation you should practice it with the 4 tones. Now you’re learning the tones and pronunciation together and not just as a separate component. This is key. Getting used to saying all the phonetics in all the tones. Think of it like learning music scales in all different keys so eventually, you can write songs and play in any key!
Step 3: Improve your Chinese tone listening comprehension
One big problem for many people is hearing the difference between tones and hearing the difference between tones during a sentence when words are said very quickly. If you’ve got a poor ear, you can still learn Chinese. You need to get used to listening to a language that’s unfamiliar to you. However, this can be fun!
If your goal is to get better at listening to Chinese, find some fun ways to listen to Chinese. Watch Chinese movies. Listen to Chinese songs. Watch Chinese TV shows. Listen to Chinese news. All of these are good and can be done somewhat passively. It really does take a long time to listen to how correct Chinese should sound. Use this opportunity to explore an aspect of the culture that you enjoy (Kungfu? History? Economics?) and get some language practice at the same time.
Our app has tons of Chinese youtube videos and blog articles in it for you to quickly explore your interests!
We also have several Chinese songs in our blog as well.
Step 4: Speed up your Chinese tone fluency
The last thing to worry about is being able to speak tones fast and smooth. This should be done ONLY after you’ve got the tones studied correctly. Once you’ve got your tones down at a slow pace, you can start work on reading sentences fluidly and quickly.
One great tip is to mimic how native speakers sound and imagine yourself as a native speaker. Similar to how baby’s just copy the sound, it’s important to try to sound as native as possible. Sometimes, we get too bogged down in thinking about the tonal lines and pitches. The goal is to not have to think too much, but to be so familiar with the tones that they come out naturally.
So, how to practice? There are tons of ways:
- Read to a native Chinese speaker.
- Record yourself reading and listen back
- Practice familiar sentences so you can get really good at them.
- Try talking to older Chinese speaker (who might require perfect pronunciation!)
- Write and give a speech in Chinese
- Memorize a speech given by someone else
- Try saying flashcards then listening to the audio of the word
- …the list goes on!