Mandarin is a tonal languages, which means two words in Mandarin with same sound but different intonations will have different meanings.

For example mā (ma with first tone) means mother and mǎ (with third tone) means horse.

There are four main tones in Mandarin Chinese. They are not completely new to English speakers. When we speak English we change our intonations to express different emotions.

For instance, when we are surprised by seeing something unexpected we might pitch high and say “Whaaat”.(like Stewie Griffin in this video ) That is the first tone.

When we are unsure of something we might rise our pitch and say “what?”. This is similar to the second tone in Mandarin.

The third tone is falling deep and rising up again. It is like when someone asking you a question in deep subject and you are like “well…”.

English speakers find the fourth tone like the intonation of making angry commands. Such as “No!” and “Stop!”

At Mandarin Quarter we think in learners’ shoes when we design the courses and provide interesting and effective explanations and exercises to help our students to hand on quickly.

Let’s try out a tongue twister:


Māmā   qí mǎ,
妈 妈     骑 马,

Mother is riding a horse.

Mǎ  màn, māmā  mà  mǎ。
马   慢 ,      妈妈     骂   马。

Horse is slow, mother scold the horse.

Easy? Email us your recording of this tongue twister and win a£5 voucher for your next course booking!  (

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