#2 – The Four Tones in Mandarin

There are four tones in speaking Mandarin:

1. First tone is a high and level sound with the volume held constant, as in the word  mā  妈  which means mother. The symbol of the first tone’s pronunciation is a straight line  —  placed above the pinyin of 妈  MĀ.

Note that the word for mother 妈 has the symbol for woman 女 on its left and the symbol for 马horse on its right.

2. Second tone rises from middle register and increases in volume, like the pronunciation of a surprised `Me?’ As in the character 麻  which means numb. The symbol of the second tone’s  pronunciation is a straight line slanting upward from left to right  /  placed above the pinyin of 麻 MÁ.

3. Third tone starts low, then falls lower before rising to a sound higher than the starting point.  As in the character 马  which means horse.

The symbol of the third tone’s pronunciation is a v placed above the pinyin of  马  MĂ.

4. Fourth tone starts high, then drops sharply, like saying `fine’ when agreeing to an order.  As in the character 骂  which means to scold. The symbol of the fourth tone’s pronunciation is a short line slanting downwards \  from left to right placed above the pinyin of 骂 MÀ.

Note that the three characters 妈   马    骂  all contain the radical 马。 Their pinyin is MA for all of them but a listener is able to differentiate between them because of their different tones.

What is Pin Yin?

Pin 拼

Yin 音

As a child, I spent hours copying Chinese characters: a task I hated because it was so boring.  Not only did I have to learn the shape and meaning of a new word, I also needed to remember its stroke sequence in order to reproduce it properly.  After copying a word twenty times with much effort, I often did not know its pronunciation because the sound of Chinese words has nothing to do with their image.

Pin 拼 yin音and computers have changed all this. With 拼音

you learn the sound of a Chinese word BEFORE you type (input) that character on the keyboard of your computer.  Parents in China complain that their children no longer know how to write Chinese words because they text their friends on their mobile phones or send emails.  With 拼音, mobile phones and the computer, YOU too can communicate (in Chinese) with Chinese people in a very short time.   Pin yin enables you to recognize and reproduce Chinese characters by their pronunciation without memorizing the strokes of each character.  Which is easier?  Typing pin yin on your computer and picking out the two characters 拼音 or writing the same two character on a sheet of paper from memory?

Since every Chinese word is a picture, writing Chinese is like reproducing images of different pictures.  One has to place every stroke, dot and line in its proper place.  Mistakes are frequent and almost inevitable.  拼音 and the computer have removed the need to write Chinese words with pen and paper.  This makes learning Chinese characters much, much easier.

This is what I aim to do!  Teach you Chinese via pinyin and the computer.  You will learn to write Chinese characters by typing letters of the alphabet.