Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mastering Tone - 1st to 4th Combinations

For a good first to fourth tone transition, you're required to start with a rock steady first tone. To do this, spend a bit of time to find "your" first tone pitch. How high or low it is depends entirely on your voice and tonal comfort range. A good base first tone is one where you can easily move two notes (steps/levels, if you prefer) up and two down, without straining your voice.

Once you've established your base first tone, practice a clear, confident first tone that does not waiver or falter. I'd liken it to walking in a straight line/on a balance beam, but that's too slow, and implies too much effort. Your first tone is clear and effortless, so imagine you are floating down a river, being carried along by a brisk current in a smooth, tranquil river.

To go from this steady clear first tone to fourth tone, imagine you're gliding down the river, only to suddenly be carried off the edge by the waterfall, landing into the pool "two steps" below.

The trick is the making the pivotal point where you transition from first to fourth as much like a 90 degree angle as possible. You have to totally shift gears and drop like a stone from a clear, melodic sing-song first tone with no hesitation whatsoever.

Some first to fourth combinations to practice are:

bing1kuai4 冰塊 (icecube)
gao1xing4 高興 (happy)
fa1xian4 發現 (discover)
gong1zuo4 工作 (work)
yin1yue4 音樂 (music)
ba1gua4 八卦 (gossip)
sheng1ri4 生日 (birthday)

Also practice 4 - 1 - 4 combinations, where you have to fall swiftly and emphatically from your first tone to fourth, then you have to JUMP UP again to first, only to fall right back down to fourth. The most important aspect of this combination is the jump up to first. If there is even the slightest hint of an upward climb (slide, veer, amble, digression...), you've suddenly made your first tone into second.

So visualize: Falling down - jumping up (like you're Superman, or the superhero of your choice, leaping effortlessly to the top of a building) - then gliding along effortlessly in the river of first tone, only to and fall down again into the cool waterfall!

Some 4 - 1 - 4 AND 1 - 4 - 1 combinations to practise are:

Ni3 yao4 chi1 dan4bing3 ma? 你要吃蛋餅嗎? Do you want to eat danbing?
Yi4 bei1 dou4jiang3 一杯豆漿 a glass of soy milk?
Fei1lv4bin1 菲律賓 The Philippines
Wo3 dui4 ba1gua4 hen3 you3 xing4qu4 我對八卦很有興趣. I'm very interested in gossip.
Wo3 dui4 peng1ren4 hen3 you3 xing4qu4 我對烹飪很有興趣. I'm very interested in cooking.

Try taping yourself and listening with a critical ear. Also, if possible, have a native speaker critique your tones. Repeat until he/she is satisfied with how you're saying times (this could take 5 times or 25 or 50 times - but if you have someone patient enough listen to and correct you, take advantage of this opportunity!!)

Good Luck! 加油!!!

1 comment:

  1. Hi maureen, would like to suggest a resource. Practical Chinese Reader is a great chinese learning material. It is based on daily conversation and incorporates language and culture. Im sure it will help your readers. Thanks