Learn Chinese Language Tones – Learn How to Make Your Synapses Chinese!


Do you struggle with Chinese tones? If so, you do need to know the answers to the following questions:

  1. Which parts of the brain help you to understand speech?
  2. Is there any difference if you hear English or Chinese language?
  3. How should this affect your learning of Chinese language?

Chinese Language and Your Brain

Researchers recently analyzed brain scans Synapse xt of English speakers and Mandarin Chinese speakers. They discovered that when English speakers heard English, their left temporal lobes became active.

However, when Mandarin Chinese speakers heard their native tongue, there was a buzz of action in both the right and left temporal lobes! Why? The reason lies in the way the brain processes the information that our five senses supply.

Scientists have concluded with reasonable certainty that different regions of the cortex apparently help one to hear words, see words, and speak words. The left temporal lobe is normally associated with piecing sounds together into words; the right with processing melody and intonation.

Learning Chinese Tones

So why when Mandarin Chinese speakers hear their native tongue, both the right and left temporal lobes become active? Because in Mandarin Chinese the correct intonation is essential to the meaning of any word! On the contrary, English (or Italian, French, Spanish, etc.) is not a tonal language, then there’s no need to use the right temporal lobe.

In Mandarin Chinese the same “syllables” can be pronounced in four different tones (plus the neutral tone), so that, for example, the syllable “ma” pronounced in the first tone would mean “mummy”, in the second tone would mean “pitted”, in the third tone would mean “horse” and in the fourth tone would mean “curse”.

It means that if you by mistake change the tone of the word for “mummy”, you might call her “horse”!

How should this affect your learning of Chinese language?

I know by experience that a lot of students are inclined to take Chinese language tones lightly.

Please don’t.

Make a conscious effort to focus your attention not just on words, but on melody and intonation. Don’t let your right temporal lobe sleep!

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