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how do people remember tones (mandarin)

[deactivated user]

    someone please help me with remembering tones, I just cant remember right. I can easily remember words and even the characters but tones just slip from my mind, if there is a trick to remembering tones please share with me, I can differentiate between the four tones but can't remember which word has which tone

    February 8, 2018



    I pronounce the words with the relevant tones when I learn them and whenever I realize that I've made a mistake I correct myself. And then I practice sentences with them and everything you'd do in non-tonal languages.
    If you can differentiate between the tones, this is all you need to do. I know the correct tones for most words that I know.


    Yep, the best way to learn the tones is to remember them as part of the word. It's similar to learning the gender of words in German or French. Once you get a few hundred words and their pronunciations down it tends to get easier to learn new characters and words, but it can be very difficult in the beginning. Just stick with it and it'll get easier!


    As you explained it is not because you have a bad memory and it is not because you couldn't differentiate them, then the only issue is to do extra work in associating characters with their tone. I understand it may be difficult for people not speaking a tonal native language. Do some notes to remember and practice and practice. It would be better if you can find a language partner who can correct you whenever you make mistakes. In this end Duolingo is not quite helpful.


    I've given up on the Duolingo Chinese course for now since I really don't like it. I've been using HelloChinese which is a phone app that I found really good. My only issue is that there isn't revision or strengthening lessons like Duolingo has and it doesn't focus too much on learning Chinese characters but it is very good in a way that it gives you tons of practice on speaking Mandarin. I would suggest not focusing too hard on remembering each individual tone and try to do a lot more speaking in Mandarin. Repeat the words and phrases you're given in the course and over time you will naturally pick up the pronunciations and tones. It should also go without saying that listening to Mandarin Chinese, even casually, will help you pick up the sounds and tones of the language much more easily. Overall don't sweat it. Children in China simply pick up the tones just by listening to their parents then mimicking back the words. It's no different with adults, by listening and repeating I've picked up the tones much more easily and more naturally than I expected.


    You can use a Bopomofo IME (like Google Zhuyin) to force yourself to remember the tones. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bopomofo


    I have been trying a technique for a few months and it has helped me quite a bit.

    I map every tone to a different part of a virtual room in my head.

    • First tone is at the top of the room, by the ceiling
    • Second tone is on the left side of the room
    • Third tone is by the floor
    • Fourth tone is on the right side of the room
    • Neutral tone sits in the middle

    I chose these parts of the room because they felt natural to me, but you could use any sort of mapping technique you want. All you really need to do is associate SOMETHING in your brain with each of the tones, your brain is an associative machine- condition yourself to remember by using the tools available to you.


    I've noticed that the accents above the vowel are the tone. Ones like "a" are a neutral tone, "ā" is the high tone, "á" is the rising tone, "ǎ" is the falling and rising tone, and "à" is the falling tone.


    Just lots of practice speaking out loud (this is where a speaking audio course like Pimsleur can help), and also flashcard drills (using Anki in my case - I don't mark them as correct unless I get the tone right).


    I think the key to remembering is knowing what to forget. Don't concern yourself with thinking about the tone number (whether a word is first tone, second tone, etc). Just mimic the pitch you hear when you repeat the word. When reading pinyin, the accent marking tells you whether to use high, rising, "low" (falling, then rising), or falling.


    You should use Litao Chinese. He is very professional.

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