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Written by New Concept Mandarin
Do you feel frustrated that Chinese people cannot understand what you say because of using the wrong tones? Although it is quite difficult to totally get rid of your “accent” and make your Chinese sound just the same as a native speaker, there are still some ways for you to improve your Chinese tones.
1. Start simple
Begin with 一，二，三 (1,2,3 in Chinese) as A, B, C when you learn English. The sounds of Chinese numbers are simple, thus it should be a good start. (Watch a video of how the numbers can be learned in a fun way.) You can move on to simple Chinese words, simple phrases and then simple sentences step by step.
2. Practice the tones of numbers
Numbers from 1 to 10 contain all the four tones. If you can say these ten numbers with the correct tones, it lays a good foundation for future learning.
Just practice speaking 一 (yī)三 (sān)五 (wǔ)七 (qī)九 (jiǔ)，二 (èr)四 (sì)六 (liù)八 (bā)十 (shí) again and again.
3. Remember the tricks of pronouncing tones
The first tone is the flat tone. You will pronounce it in a high and steady voice like singing, do re mi.
The second tone is the rising tone, like you are saying, yes? what?
The third tone is falling rising tone. You can move your head to help you to pronounce it correctly.
The fourth tone is falling tone, like you are very angry and say no.
4. Practice all the Mandarin syllables
Use Mandarin Pronunciation Table to practice all the sounds of Pinyin. Just click on the Pinyin and you can read after the standard pronunciation.
5. Listen to real-life Chinese
Besides following the standard pronunciation of the Pinyin, you should also listen to what Chinese people say in daily life. These are real-life Chinese which can make your ears get more used to Chinese sounds. Watch Chinese movies, listen to Chinese news or just listen to what people say on the subway.
6. Speak slowly
You will find that when you speak Chinese slowly you will not make so many mistakes as you speak fast. It’s because you think more and are more aware of using the right tones. Give it a second thought before you say the word. You can say it correctly!
7. Ask your friend for help
If you have some Chinese friends, ask them for help. Talk with them in Chinese. Ask them to point out when you say the tones wrong. Pay attention to the tone mistakes that make people confused about what your meaning is.
8. Find a professional teacher
If your Chinese tones are really a problem and want some help from a professional teacher, you can sign up a Chinese course. Take a Pinyin course or ask your Chinese teacher to spend more time on pronunciation practice.