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At least most people have heard that Chinese is a tonal language. What does this mean? Simply put, tones are the way you bend the noise of your pronunciation. For example, when you ask a question, the pitch of your voice tends to rise, such as when answering the phone, "Hello? Who is it?". In the previous sentence, most people will first use a rising tone for "Hello?", and then perhaps an arching tone through the phrase "Who is it?". While it might sound funny, it is completely understandable to also speak monotone, and others will still understand you. In Chinese, however, it's not the case. If you use the wrong pitch, you'll say the wrong thing. One time while I was teaching in China, it was a rainy day outside and my students wanted to go out to play. I tried to encourage them to stay and play games inside the classroom. When a student, in Chinese, said that it was boring in the classroom, I, also in Chinese *tried* to say "Well, outside... read more

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