Chinese Tones: 3 Tips To Master Them And Sound Like A Native

Chinese Course Singapore

No matter what language you are looking to pick up, tones will certainly have a part in it in one way or another. This fact remains especially true with Mandarin. When delivering one’s words, the intonation plays a significant role in how your conversation partner understands the meaning of what you say.

If you’re determined to ace the HSK test in Singapore or just become fluent in expressing yourself in both written and verbal Chinese, tones are something that you can’t afford to neglect. If you’re ready to step up your learning to the next level, here are three tips to help you remember the Mandarin tones and sound more like a native.

Incorporate gestures when saying the tones

If you’re a beginner when it comes to tones, incorporating gestures while familiarizing yourself with them is an excellent idea. This helps to keep your pronunciation of the various tones in check – the gestures associated with them trigger your memory of what type of emphasis you need to place on a given character. With that, below are the five tones in the Chinese language and the helpful gestures to accompany them with.

  • First tone

For the first tone, use your fingers to draw a long line above your head to signify that your pitch must remain high and hold a constant intonation.

  • Second tone

Gesture a diagonal line that starts from bottom left to top right to signify a slight increase to your pitch.

  • Third tone

Draw the letter “U” or “V” to serve as a guide that you need to decrease or drop your pitch and raise it back up again.

  • Fourth tone

While similar to the second tone, draw a diagonal line that instead, starts from the top left to the bottom right.

  • Fifth tone

For the fifth and final tone, a simple dot will suffice to know that a soft articulation of the character is needed.

Practice the tones in pairs

After enough practice, you’ll realise that the five tones are relatively easy to pronounce by themselves. However, the real challenge begins once you use a combination of multiple tones. But before you tackle more complicated combinations, go one step at a time and stick to two pairs first.

As a way to keep your progress steady and linear, start with the most straightforward tone pairs first, such as the combination of the first and fourth tones. Afterwards, move on to more challenging pairs that people tend to be confused with, such as the second and third tone pair. You’ll eventually encounter varying tone combinations in your learning journey, so consider forming sentences with the words you want to practise, and then proceed to recite these sentences as a whole.

Don’t be afraid to exaggerate your pronunciation

To better remember how each tone sounds, don’t be afraid to exaggerate your pronunciation of them whenever you practise. Adding that extra energy will also help you learn the pronunciations by heart and, over time, bring your tone pronunciation to the next level.


When learning Chinese, tones are a crucial aspect that lets you fully grasp and convey yourself properly in the language. Moreover, knowing the proper pronunciation of tones is a significant factor that affects how you’ll sound like a native when speaking Mandarin.

To offer yourself that extra boost in mastering Mandarin speech, be sure to check out comprehensive Chinese courses in Singapore that cover everything you need to for proficiency, including tones and proper pronunciation. With qualified instructors to guide you, you’re sure to reach your desired level of proficiency in no time.

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