Tone Features of Chinese and Teaching Methods for Second Language Learners


International Journal of Chinese Language Education; Jun 2019; Issue No. 5; p.45 - 66

Department of Chinese Language Studies, The Education University of Hong Kong
Chinese Language Program, Columbia University
Chung Hwa Book Co. (H.K.) Ltd.

Chinese is a tone language, i.e., pitch cues are used to distinguish different lexical meanings. Chinese tones are important but difficult for foreign learners who acquire Chinese as a second language (L2). This paper provided a systematic discussion on teaching methods, including the teaching methods and materials as well as the teaching sequence of Chinese tones. Based on the tone categories and pitch features of Chinese tones, this paper proposes several effective methods of teaching tones to second language learners. From the perspective of tone categories, there are two methods to enhance tone teaching: (1) applying minimal pairs, which consist of same segments of consonants and vowels but different tones; (2) applying meaningful phrases in the tone order. From the perspective of pitch features, there are three effective methods for tone teaching: (1) utilizing the similarities between musical tones and linguistic tones; (2) utilizing the visual assistance of pitch contours; (3) utilizing multimedia assistance of simple acoustic measurement, which can be realized by a free software called Praat. In addition to tones in isolated citation form, the teaching sequence for tones in non-canonical forms are also discussed. The teaching materials and methods proposed in this paper can help to enhance the efficiency of teaching Chinese tones to L2 learners.

tone Chinese second language pedagogy multimedia assistance


2520-7733 (Print); 2521-4241 (Online)

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