Pronunciation Chart - Tones

The Tones of Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin has four tones--five if you count the "neutral" tone--and as you'll see below, pronouncing the tone just right is very important. A syllable in Chinese is composed of an initial, which is a consonant that begins the syllable, and a final, wich covers the rest of the syllable.

Tone Mark Description Chinese Character Meaning
1st High and level. A mother
2nd Starts medium in tone, then rises to the top. Numbness
3rd Starts low, dips to the bottom, then rises toward the top. A horse
4th Starts at the top, then falls sharp and strong to the bottom. To reprove;To condemn
neutral Flat, with no emphasis. What a phrase-final particle used in questions

And this is very important: If you use the wrong tones, your listeners may not be able to understand you. Those of us who studied Chinese in Chinese-speaking regions remember quite well the frustration of not being understood early on simply because our tones were a little off.