chinese character on a chinese book

The Best Way To Master Chinese Tone Signs and Variations

Chinese characters in a book to learn chinese

Discover the rules of tone variation in chinese.

◼︎ Always mark the tone sign on top of the vowel;
◼︎ Look for the “a” first, and mark the tone on top of it;
◼︎ When there is no “a”, look for “o, e, i, and u” in this order;
◼︎When “I” and “u” are together, always mark the tone on the later one;
◼︎ “ü” can only be associated to these five initials: “j, q, x, n, and l”. It keeps the two dots on the top when it is after the “n” and “l”, the two dots are deleted after “j, q, and x”.

2. When to use the neutral/light touch chinese tone?

As I have said in my previous article, other than the four chinese tones, there is also a neutral tone (or you may call it a light touch tone).  There are some occasions where you pronounce the character in a light tone: It’s mostly at the end of the word or the sentence.

When a word is duplicated, especially the duplication of two verbs, we pronounce the second character in light touch tone; i.e  妈,爸, 想,抱, 跳

Modal particles at the end of the phrase or sentence
I.e. 好? 好,好,这,你

Other particles which don’t have any particular meaning
    I.e. 看我,没,红色,没吃,跑快,我家,慢慢

“子”或“头”as the suffix of noun
i.e. 桌,椅,鸭,饺,镐,噱,吃,看
Words to describe the position or direction
i.e. 河,天,地,那,北,这

To describe toward which direction

The second syllable of some double syllable words
i.e. 萝,眼,衣,葡,麻,窗

3. “儿”(er) pronunciation in the end of the word

“er” pronunciation is a common pronunciation in northern dialects, especially around Beijing area.  As you know Mandarin is based on the Beijing local dialect. Hence, there are so many words that end up with “er” sound.  But “er” at this occasion is not pronounced as the second tone, it is a light touch tone. You just need to slightly curve up your tongue but not fully. 

✅ Sometimes, a word with “er” or without “er” in the end, can change the meaning.
For examples:“
“盖” is a verb which means cover;
“ 盖” is a noun which means a lid;
“信” means a mail or believe;
“信” means information or message;
✅ Most of the time, adding an “er” sound at the end of a word is an expression of fondness, or a gentle way of expression.  It does not change the meaning of the word, but change the whole expression.  Typically, in spoken language, without “er” in the end, some words just lose their whole purpose.

For examples:
小孩(baby),宝 (baby),喝酒 (drink a bit alcohol),一会 (a moment),办事, 花(flower),景(scenery spot),

4. Multi-pronunciation of some characters

We all know that many Chinese characters can share the same pronunciation. However, some characters can have more than one pronunciation depending on the occasion.

“一” is pronounced at the first tone when it is alone or and the end of the word. 
However, when it is followed by a fourth tone character, it is pronounced at the second tone. 
I.e “”, “一dào
When “一” is followed by a non-forth tone character, it is pronounced at the forth tone. 
📌 “ 
“不” is the forth tone when it is alone or in front of a non-forth tone character.
 I.e. “ hǎo”, “不lái”, “不zhīdào”.
However, “不” changes to the second chinese tone when it is followed by a 4th tone character.
 I.e. “”, “不huì”, “不duì”.

📌“”,  when it is pronounced as “zhāo “ is a noun. and means morning, i.e. “ 朝阳”(zhāo yáng) means morning sunlight.
When it is pronounced as “cháo”, it is a verb and means facing toward certain direction,  i.e. ”朝南”(cháo  Nán)means facing toward the south.

📌 ””,  when it is pronounced as  “qiáng”, it is an adj. and means strong, i.e. “强大” (Qiángdà) means strong and big.
When it is pronounced as “Qiǎng”, it is a verb which means to force, i.e. “强迫” (Qiǎng pò) means to force someone to do something.
 📌 “ “ has two pronunciations also.  
When it is connected with the measuring words, it is pronounced as “ Jǐ “, i.e. 几个 (Jǐ  gè) means how many?
When it pronounced as “Jī”, it means almost. i.e.   “几乎” ( Jī  hū) means almost.

5. Tone variations

When two 3rd tone characters are put together, the first character changes to the 2nd tone.  
I.e. “演讲”, the original pronunciation of the first character is Yǎn , however, the second character “讲” (Jiǎng) is also the third tone. Therefore, when they are put together, the first character’s pronunciation is changed to its 2nd tone Yán. Together the word shall be pronounced as Yán Jiǎng.  
Having said all the above rules and variations, I know it is difficult to remember all of them without long time practice.  But there is only secret, which is practice.  The more you listen the native people talks and the more you practice, the more natural and easy for you it will be to just utter out the pronunciations without even giving it a second thought.  

6. Is it really hard to learn chinese? 

This is a good question, and in my view the most appropriate answer is “Not if you take it as a jigsaw puzzle game (link to article)”. Mandarin chinese is complex, and this difficulty is exacerbated by the expectations many have of finding an easy way to learn fast. Instead, it’s better to think “I have a framework (e.g. 1,000 characters), I have great techniques from EAZZYCHINESE, I have great books to learn chinese and I will put the time. That equation will guarantee you success.

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