How do I improve Chinese tones?

How do I improve Chinese tones?

If you’re asking yourself about how to improve Chinese tones, that’s a good thing! Having a strong foundation with great tones and pronunciation is imperative to speak fluent Chinese. Plus, with the tones, there’s only 5 of them! Students should spend time early getting their tones right and to set yourself up for future success.

Step 1: Learn Chinese tones correctly

Make sure you’ve learned the tones correctly! Here’s a video that will teach you all the tones in only 3 minutes through a clever story about going to the dentist. The story is extra useful because it relates Chinese tones to tones naturally found in the English languages.

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!


The Final Step

Still now sure how good your tones are or how to improve Chinese tone problems you have? Try out your Chinese with a professional Chinese tutor with a free trial class. Sign up today!


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