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Getting started with Chinese 1
Getting started with Chinese 1

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3 Tone changes

There are two common tone changes you need to be aware of, but please do not worry if at this stage you find them difficult to detect:

1. When two 3rd-tone syllables are together, the first syllable is usually changed to a 2nd tone. For example, the greeting nǐ hăo, although transcribed with two 3rd tones, is pronounced with a 2nd tone followed by a 3rd tone: ní hăo (hello). In most textbooks, this change is not reflected in writing. Click below to first listen to how and hăo are pronounced in isolation, and then when they are together: ní hăo.

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2. When (no, not) is followed by another 4th tone syllable, it is changed to a 2nd tone in actual speech. For example, bù xiè (lit. no thanks) is pronounced bú xiè (not at all, you’re welcome). In many textbooks, this change is reflected in writing. Click below to first listen to how and xiè are pronounced in isolation, and then when they are together: xiè.

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Activity 2

Now listen to the expressions you have already heard in previous activities. This time, listen carefully, paying attention to the tones. Select the option with the right tones as they are pronounced (i.e. the option that reflects the tone changes) in each expression.

Note: Pause after each syllable and listen to it as many times as necessary. Only reveal the transcript after you have made the choices.

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ni hao

Select the correct option below.

a. 

nǐ hăo


b. 

ní hǎo


c. 

ní hāo


The correct answer is b.

xiexie

Select the correct option below.

a. 

xiēxiè


b. 

xièxiè


c. 

xièxie


The correct answer is c.

nin hao

Select the correct option below.

a. 

nĭn hào


b. 

nín hǎo


c. 

nīn hǎo


The correct answer is b.

zaijian

Select the correct option below.

a. 

zàijiàn


b. 

zāijiàn


c. 

zàijiăn


The correct answer is a.

bu xie

Select the correct option below.

a. 

bù xiè


b. 

bú xie


c. 

bú xiè


The correct answer is c.