Tips on Chinese Tones
In the last post, we talked about how much tones are like singing AND what each of those tones sound like. So, I’d have to say from my experience, that’s a great place to start. But once you have that done, there are a few other ideas that will help when it comes to speaking Chinese tones.
- You cannot merely speak Chinese, you must sing it.
- There are ways to represent the tones that make them easier to sing.
So, let’s see how to do that…
Ways to Represent the Tones
Tones, since they can be represented graphically, are often diagrammed with the pitch on the y-axis (vertically), while time is the x-axis (horizontally). In this way, you can get a sense of what your voice should be doing over time as you are singing these tones. Since tones can be represented in various ways, you might also see them represented with small tonal marks above the “vowels” or finals of the language.
Those tonal marks, similar to -,/,v,\, help you to know whether your voice should remain level, rise, fall and rise, or fall over time. These tonal marks or symbols are a great help as you are first staring out with the Chinese language. Eventually, you will become so familiar with certain words that you will automatically say them with the memorized tone, even without thinking about it!
Another way to represent the tones is to think of different pitches, such as low, medium, and high. Only one tone begins at a certain pitch level and remains the same. Each of the others move through the entire range or part of the low, medium, and high pitches. (For more clarity, see the specifics on tones).