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  5. I can't hear any of the tones!


I can't hear any of the tones!

A ạ á à ả sound all the same to me. Only in a select few sentences do I hear some distinctive intonation in à and á, but e.g. between i and ì and í there's no audible difference I can detect. It's only the length that I can differentiate. How can I improve my feel of the tones?

And then uô iê sound like long u i to me. I feel like I need to spend many weeks on my listening alone.

May 2, 2016



I tried Vietnamese... it scared the hell out of me. Totally impossible to learn it :D Mandarin Chinese tones seem like a piece of cake after going through Vietnamese lessons.


Looking elsewhere, Vietnamese script is a breeze while Chinese script is...Chinese.


Viet sounds better to some people tho... Like it just sounds more interesting for me to listen to.


On the bottom of this post, before the comments, this person tells you how to position your arms and change positions to match each tone. And it's also a long explanation of vowels. Helps a lot, though, if you read it word for word. https://www.duolingo.com/comment/15102767


I already read it and had known beforehand how they are supposed to be pronounced, but that doesn't help me. The tonal differences seem to miniscule.


Did you try the exercise that is at the bottom of the post?

"To help with learning the tones, it might help to pair each tone with an action, to further burn it into your memory. Here are ones I have use for association:

Ngang (a) – hands moving forward, just below eye level

Huyền (à) – hands pushing down, starting from chest level

Hỏi (ả) – dipping motion with either hand

Ngã (ã) – forearms at shoulder level and rising, with a deliberate stop midway

Sắc (á) – hands lifting up, starting from just below chest level

Nặng (ạ) – dropping an (imaginary) stone from stomach level"

~ kuah


If you are ok with doing brute force drills, you could try the DLI course here at LiveLingua - scroll to the bottom for the section on phonology.


Just forget about improving your listening on duolingo...I use other resources with better audio to improve my listening and pronunciation.


What other audio resources do you suggest?


Pimsleur and rosetta stone


Believe me, they're quite hard. It's a lot of training and sometimes I don't pick them up either (and I hear Vietnamese at home!)


I learned a lot about tones and other pronunciations from these videos. Tones is the 4th video. :)



I actually find Vietnamese tones pretty easy to tell apart on the Duolingo audio, but I could already speak Mandarin, so I'm used to hearing tones (even though Mandarin tones are a bit easier, as stated in another comment). If you don't have that background, it's probably a bit harder.

Personally - I think the easiest Viet tone to recognise is the low-short (glottalised) one, the one with the underdot (ạ). It's short, sharp and forceful.

The tilde tone (ã) is also pretty distinctive, as it has a croak in the middle.

The hardest for me to tell apart are the low tone (à) and the hook tone (ả).

Duolingo has its limitations - as great as it is, it can only really be part of your language learning routine. I strongly recommend getting the Pimsleur course as an adjunct, even if just to get the sound system solid in your head.


with babies,when they practice speaking, they usually speak alone words ,those words are very easy to pronounce, like 'bố' (father) or ''mẹ'' (mother) ; ''bà ''(grandmothers), so ìf you want to improve your feeling òf the tones you should start at easy tones to you. my idea, you should pratice listening and pronouncing tone 'sắc' and ''huyền''

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