Talking Gymnastics

你好! After last week’s triumph(ish) of my first two characters, I’m trying to tell people about my first steps. But the next puzzle of Chinese appears as soon as I open my mouth – how on earth am I meant to say it?

The tones of Chinese are of no means a mystery. It’s one of the reasons it trumps English as the ‘world’s hardest language to learn’. Endless websites are kindly telling me to go up with my voice, down with my voice, stay on a high pitch or slur up and down. I’m practising my neeeee haaaooo when the dog looks up at me like I’ve gone totally mad.

He’s probably right.

The majestic, ancient language of Chinese has suddenly been reduced to what sounds like a drunk cat furiously trying for attention. And now the drunk cat is giggling like an idiot as well.

Complicated graphs are trying to tell me in primary colours and Comic Sans the exact pitch your voice should be on – I’m determined to crack this. First tone is easy – just stay on a highish pitch. Now second tone. ‘Go up with your voice, like you’re asking a question’. What if you actually are asking a question? Do you have to squeak?

Third tone says ‘go down and then up again’. My head seems to be following the pitch of my voice so at this point I’m bobbing around like a total idiot – the dog has totally given up on me now and has gone to bed. I don’t blame him.

Fourth (and final!) tone is to go down right to the bottom of your voice. I think I’m done when more brightly patterned websites tell me that there’s a fifth tone – a neutral one. Oh, I think in fourth tone.

So that’s all the tones! Another hurdle of Chinese bites the dust. Neeee haaooo is suddenly miles behind me. The world’s my oyster (second tone)!

Things I’ve learned this week:

  • Tones aren’t actually as hard as they are claimed to be
  • Head-bobbing is always helpful
  • Dogs are always right about your sanity

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