Mandarin tonesMany Chinese characters have the same sound, so tones are used to differentiate the meaning of words from each other. This is why when we learn new vocabularies, we must take note of the correct tones and practice pronouncing them. This is essential as the wrong tone pronunciation can change the meaning of words and sentences.
The four Mandarin tones are:
1. first tone － high level
2. second tone － rising
3. third tone － falling rising
4. fourth tone － falling
Note: In writing Pinyin, you can either use numbers (1~4) beside the syllables or diacritic marks ( ā á ă à ) above the vowels to indicate the tones. I hate the tones. Cant we just get rid of them?:lol The tones are a huge headache....! I'M TONE DEAF ....for me it is very difficult.....I can write (a little) in Pinyin....I know words, when i speak most people don't understand me.....if they don't know Pinyin then I can't write what I want...:@ snappysammy, A friend of mine once told me that he did not really pay attention to the tones while speaking, he just paid attention to how Chinese would speak, and go with the flow. That's how he got to be understood by Chinese.
Now, on my side, I didn't really try to put the right tones outside of my classes in college. Not long ago a Chinese friend of mine said : Oh it's nice, you put the tones on...Now he did not say if they were right or wrong.
Go with the flow!:P i agree, the tones are not so important in the beginning. if you've got the gist of it, they can guess what you're trying to say. at least it's true for me. if you've got the basics, once you start using mandarin everyday, you'll get the tones automatically...most of my chinese relatives can speak more than one chinese dialect...once you've got one of them, you can pick up the other dialects by ear if you hear it everyday....well, that's my theory anyway.