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Tips on learning a Tonal Language?

Hello everyone! I hope you're all having a great day! :)

On Duolingo, my main focus is Vietnamese, a Tonal Language. But recently, Thai (another Tonal Language) has caught my attention.

I know the alphabets/Scripts for both Vietnamese & Thai now, but i have troubles with pronouncing them.

So i was hoping you could give me some tips? Any will be appreciated, even if it's not on Tones :)


April 26, 2017



Hi there! Well, I cannot give you miraculous tips about how to learn a tonal language, moreover I don't know how the tones work and how many tones there are in Thai and Vietnamese language, I just study Mandarim Chinese, which by itself has four tones. Anyway, I suggest you to learn each tone and its rules on how to pronounce it. You'll realize that some tones are not always pronounced in the same way, they kinda change when followed by other tones, e.g: 匹 (a measure word for horses) it is a third tone, however when it is followed by other third tone it becomes a second tone (一匹马 yí pi3 ma3 it's pronounced as yi pi2 ma3. See? It's easier to pronounce in this way that that one. Therefore you don't have to pronounce neatly each tone.

我希望我帮助你了!I hope I helped you :)


I know I could just Google this (please pardon my laziness; it's been a rough month... XD), but what is a tonal language?


A language in which words which contain the same phonemes (sounds) have different meaning depending on the tone at which they're pronounced. For instance, 'ma' in Mandarin can mean 'horse', 'mother', 'to scold', 'to bother' and more depending on whether or not it's pronounced with one of several tones.

There are also pitch accent languages like Swedish and Ancient Greek where the meaning of a word alters depending on the pitch of a specific syllable, but with tonal languages every syllable is involved.


Continuing on to what Mr_Eyl said;

me (tamarind)


(to cut off)

mẻ (fermented)

mẽ (appearance)

mẹ (mother)

It's the same 'Base' (Me) but each tone changes the meaning pronunciation :)


With Thai, I think learning to read Thai using Thai script as opposed to transliteration will be important. For example "mai" can have five different meanings. Using Thai script you can correctly pronounce the word using the right tone and the intended meaning. ง่ายไม่?

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