If you’re reading this article, then I’m going to take a not-so-wild guess and say that it isn’t your first attempt to learn tones in Chinese.
In fact, it’s likely that you’ve been told that you need to work on tones, have realized that you were taught incorrectly in school, or just want some more practice.
So instead of me harping on about what tones are and how to learn them, I instead turn to the many resources that we have available to us online.
Here’s a tip though.
Even if you think you know how to pronounce all of the tones correctly, I implore you to double check – particularly when it comes to the third tone as many language learners, of all levels, make mistakes with it.
7 Resources for Learning & Practicing the Basics of Tones
1.) [Video] The Most Effective Way to Learn Mandarin Tones by Yangyang Cheng
The first ten minutes outline the tones with a neat comparison to words in English, so it feels very relatable and is easy to understand.
The next 15 minutes are focused on tone pairs, meaning when two tones are placed side by side to create a word and Yangyang provides plenty of excellent practice for a combination of tone pairs. I really like how she represents the third tone as it actually is, which is a low tone, as opposed to the typical falling-rising tone presented in textbooks.
I searched through tons of other videos and couldn’t find any with the same quality of explanation and accuracy as hers.
You can find the tone pair sheet in the video here: Lecture Notes
2.) [Article] Tips on How to Learn Chinese Tones by Luca Lampariello
If you’ve been having trouble with tones and you’re not sure what you’re doing wrong, Luca explains a more methodical approach to learning tones in full sentences as opposed to learning them as individual words…which is what we’re used to doing.
3.) [Article] A Smart Method to Discovering Problems with Tones by Olle Linge
Olle is an expert in Chinese pronunciation and has committed his online space to helping Chinese learners achieve clearer pronunciation (along with learning the language, of course). I absolutely trust his judgment, and his article on how to find the problems you are have (because there are always problems) is worth trying out. It also helps you get out of your bubble to speak with natives.
4.) [Article] Focusing on Tone Pairs to Improve Your Mandarin Pronunciation by Olle Linge
Tone pairs are essentially two tones side by side to create a word in Chinese. Olle lists 50 combinations of each tone pair for you to practice and provides some useful links as well to other areas for practice, like Sinoplice’s tone pair drills. http://www.sinosplice.com/learn-chinese/tone-pair-drills
5.) [Audio + Recording] Chinese Learn Online Tone and Pinyin Practice
Chinese Learn Online provides eleven different scripts with audio to practice tones, and it’s great because they’re in full phrases, so you get a better idea of the flow of the sentence. What’s more, you can record yourself using their software and play it back so you can hear yourself compared to the native speaker.
6.) [Game] Pinyin Practice
This is a quiz site where you can choose the tone pairs you hear after listening to the audio. I recommend only using the games Choose Tone Combo and Enter Tone Combo. http://pinyinpractice.com/tones4.htm
7.) [Course] Hacking Chinese Pronunciation Course by Olle Linge
Olle has developed a course that marries the feedback you need for your pronunciation with tangible steps to improve it. I’ve personally taken this course and can’t recommend it enough. There is a fee associated with it because Olle personally listens and responds to each assessment, and it only opens up at certain times, so get on his newsletter list to know when the next round opens.
Have resources to add? Leave them in the comments below!