Here's Why Your Tones Matter in Chinese

By That's GBA, March 30, 2020

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Mandarin Mumbles is a monthly column that takes a look at different aspects and topics of one of the world’s most difficult languages to learn.

Learning any foreign language is a tough task – especially Mandarin Chinese. Anyone who has logged in hours practicing the language likely has a story or two of an embarrassing time they butchered a word or phrase, causing people to laugh – and you, to cry.

One decidedly challenging aspect of Chinese is the subtle differences in the four tones to the untrained ear. Below, the lovely teachers at aoe ChinEase share with you some hilarious examples of Chinese tones gone wrong:

Example 1: A student walks into the classroom, and tells their teacher…

classroom
Image via Pixabay

lǎoshī,wǒ juéde wǒ de nǚ péngyǒu yǒu yíge dà mīmī.
老师,我觉得我的女朋友有一个大咪咪.
Teacher, I think my girlfriend has a big tit.

What they meant to say…

lǎoshī,wǒ juédé wǒ de nǚ péngyǒu yǒu yíge dà mìmì.
老师,我觉得我的女朋友有一个大秘密.
Teacher, I think my girlfriend has a big secret.



chinese-tones-ex-1

Example 2: A group of students meet their Chinese teacher at the gate of a zoo, and one student says to the teacher…

Panda-zoo
Image via Pixabay

wǒ yào kàn nǐmende xiōngmáo.
我要看你们的胸毛。
I want to see your chest hair.

What they meant to say...

wǒ yào kàn nǐmen de xióngmāo.
我要看你们的熊猫。
I want to see your pandas. 

chinese-tones-ex-2

To learn more about aoe ChinEase, scan the QR code below:

aoe-chinease.png

For more Mandarin Mumbles click here.

[Cover image via Pixabay]

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