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9 Fun Exercises to Practice Mandarin Chinese Tones


There's no doubt about it: nothing turns more people away from learning Chinese than tones.  You'd be amazed at how many people try pronouncing Chinese tones ONCE, decide it's too hard, and quit.

That's crazy!  Think about the first time you try to play an instrument or ride a bicycle.  Of course it's difficult and unnatural the first time you try, but with regular practice - even just for 15 minutes a day - you are guaranteed to get better.

It's the same thing for mastering Chinese tones.  As you spend time each day going through the lessons and reviews in our Beginner Conversational Course, you are training yourself to make these sounds, little by little.

But we know students are always looking for more ways to practice tones, and so I made this series of videos to give you a TON of practice.

These short lessons are designed to help you work on making these sounds, while also memorizing the correct tones for key vocabulary words.  Bookmark this page and try work these practices into your daily routine whenever you can and watch your tones improve!

1. Practice Speaking English with Chinese Tones

Most people think of tones as something totally foreign that just isn't a part of your native language.  But that's simply not true!

You use tones in your native language to express emotion, with your voice rising our falling to convey the 'feeling' of your words.  In Chinese, tones are more essential to the very meaning of the words, but the point is that the physical part of making these sounds is something you are already able to do!

In this practice video, you'll practice Chinese tones by speaking English:

2. Practice with Chinese Numbers

In this lesson I'm going to teach you a fun way to practice tones AND practice Chinese numbers :)

Even with something as basic as counting to 10, it's not uncommon for me to meet students who have been studying Mandarin for years and still don't use the correct tones. 

Focus on these tones right from the beginning, so you have a solid foundation going forward:

3. Practice with 听说吃喝 (tīng shuō chī hē)

It’s true: part of mastering Chinese tones comes down to putting in some memorization work and practice. Practicing with short poems or phrases is a really effective way to make the Chinese words you are learning and their tones stick together in your memory.

In this video I’ve got a handful of fun little phrases with some of most common Chinese words for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4 tones.

Practice actually saying these out loud, over and over again. You’ll drive everyone around you nuts, but speaking these words with the right tones will start to feel totally natural to you

4. Practice with 冰茶可乐 (bīng chá kě lè) 

Here's another fun tone practice video with two more fun 1-2-3-4 phrases. I bet as you go about your day, they'll be bouncing around your head (and that's a good thing)!

5. Practice with 讲 口音 标准 (jiǎng kǒu yīn biāo zhǔn)

6. Practice with 超级玛丽 (chāo jí mǎ lì) - Super Mario!

Practice your Chinese with the help of 超级玛丽 (chāo jí mǎ lì) - Super Mario! It's another fun way to memorize your Mandarin tones.

Even if you don’t care about Super Mario (or never heard of the guy), you’re going to learn a useful Mandarin expression in this video. Check it out:

7. Practice with 酸甜苦辣 (suān tián kǔ là)

Spend 3 minutes right now practicing tones with me using the very smart-sounding Chinese phrase 酸甜苦辣 (suān tián kǔ là). Do you know what it means?

This phrase will get stuck in your head and keep you practicing your tones all day:

8. Practice with 中国炒面 (zhōng guó chǎo miàn)

You know Chinese fried noodles - 中国炒面 (zhōng guó chǎo miàn) - are delicious, but did you know 中国炒面 (zhōng guó chǎo miàn) can also help you memorize Mandarin tones??

A little bit of practice everyday will train your mind and voice to speak Chinese naturally, so watch the video and spend 5 minutes learning these fun phrases with me:

9. Practice with 生活很累 (shēng huó hěn lèi)

This time I get a little help from my dog 豆腐 (dòu fu)!  I’ll teach you two fun/useful phrases with the 1-2-3-4 tone combination to help you practice tones... and remember the correct ones for these characters:

Don't let tones scare you off learning Chinese.  Our unique curriculum is designed to help non-native speakers get past the challenge of making these sounds!

You can sign up and go through the first 5 units of our Beginner Conversational Course for free, so you have nothing to lose!  Start here with lesson 1.