新年快乐!(xīn nián kuài lè!) Happy New Year! Time for tones!

新年快乐!Do you remember what this means? I hope so ^_^ Happy New Year!

Chinese New Year will soon be upon us, which means it’s a time for family, overeating, and 红包 (hóng bāo)! 红包 (hóng bāo)—if you didn’t know already—are red packets, with money inside, given as a new year’s gift.

In the Chinese Calendar, every year has a zodiac animal. On the 8th of February, it will become the Year of the Monkey. Since learning tones is pretty boring, let’s use monkeys!

Queue the monkeys!

一声 (yī shēng) First tone

一声 (yī shēng) First tone

Chinese has four tones (and one neutral tone!) and this is the first: 一声 (yī shēng.) In pīnyīn, when you can see a horizontal bar on top of a vowel (a , like on top of the “i”s in pīnyīn!) and it means that word will be pronounced in an even tone, if your speaking pitch is on a scale of 1 to 5, it’s a 5 for the duration of the word.

The first tone is like the outstretched arms of this monkey.

二声 (èr shēng) Second tone

二声 (èr shēng) Second tone

The second tone is: 二声 (èr shēng.) When you see a sort of / above a vowel in a word (like in the word 您, nín) your pitch starts at a 3 and rises, by the end of the word reaching a 5.

Remember the monkey’s arms? Yes, perfect second tone.

三声 (sān shēng) Third tone

三声 (sān shēng) Third tone

The third tone is 三声 (sān shēng.) When you see a little v above a vowel in a word (like in the word 你, nǐ) your pitch starts at a 2, drops to a 1, and then rises up to a 4 by the end. This is the longest of the tones to pronounce.

Whenever you see a third tone, you can think of this monkey’s legs.

四声 (sì shēng) Fourth tone

四声 (sì shēng) Fourth tone

The fourth tone is 四声 (sì shēng.) When you see a little \ above a vowel in a word (like in the word 快, kuài) your pitch starts at a 5 and drops to a 1 by the end. This is the angriest sounding tone in Mandarin.

Monkey is using his whole body to show you this tone. I suppose that’ll do monkey, that last picture was a bit risqué.

轻声 (qīng shēng) Neutral tone

轻声 (qīng shēng) Neutral tone

Last, but not least, is the neutral tone: 轻声 (qīng shēng.) This is supposed to be flat, and relaxed, so you will only find it on pīnyīn words that have no tone marker, like the question particle 吗 (ma.)

Just relax when saying these words, not too high, not too forceful, just flat. Relaxed like a meditating monkey.

Are you all monkeyed out? Enough monkeying around, you should get serious and learn some Chinese today!

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