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Introduction to Mandarin Chinese (the Pinyin)


As we learned in our introduction, Chinese language does not use an alphabet but instead uses what are called the Chinese characters. Each character contains a meaning and a sound, which is called pinyin (in Chinese: 拼音). The pinyin is associated with a tone.

Indeed, Chinese Mandarin is a language with tones, meaning that the pitch or tone of a sound will change its meaning. Learning the tones in Chinese is crucial, as a same sound can have different meanings depending on its tones.

There are actually 4 tones in Mandarin Chinese, plus a neutral one.

These are four tones in Chinese mandarin.


The 1st tone is a high and level tone. It is steady, high pitch and is the highest of the four tones. The high level pitch has to be maintained from the beginning to the end of the syllable.

The 2nd tone is a high and rising tone. It begins at about the middle of the voice range and rises rapidly to the top. We need to raise our voice as if we were asking a question.

The 3rd tone is a low falling and rising tone. It starts pretty low, then goes even lower and quickly rises up. So you will need to start your tone at a pretty low level.

The 4th tone is a falling tone. It starts high and goes down sharply and quickly. This tone is held less time than any of the other tones. You will need to make your voice go down as fast as you can.

Contrary to a language based on an alphabet, it is almost impossible to pronounce a Chinese character if you have not learned it beforehand. The PINYIN helps us learn the pronunciation of the Chinese characters.

To be continued…. Please come back soon!!!