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Chinese Tone Practice

About this Website

Richard Jefferies

When I started learning Chinese a few years ago I looked around for a website (or a program, or a book and CD set) like this but found nothing exactly like what I was looking for. The idea is an obvious one, but until now, with improvements in speech synthesis technology, it would have been impractical for the sheer number of recordings you would have to make using human voice actors. The total number of recordings to represent all the two character pinyin combinations in these questions is 46,985. Having said that, I actually think using a speech engine is even better than a human actor for this kind of exercise because the essence of a minimal pair is that its two parts have to differ in only one phonological aspect, something a human actor could never consistently achieve. As the API for generating the sound files gets better, or I get better at using it, I will update the recordings.

Users of the website will quickly notice an imbalance in the number of multiple choice "tone pair v. tone pair" type questions and the "name that tone" type questions, compared with the harder sentence based questions. At the moment there are 123 sentence based questions (and counting). The reason for this of course is that these questions have to be thought up, while the other two categories are generated by database queries. The site lets you upload your own sentence pairs to share with the community of users. Since minimal pairs are a kind of low level pun by definition there is obviously scope for some humour, especially when they relate to misunderstandings that could occur in real conversation.

All the definitions used here are from the community maintained and regularly updated CC-CEDICT dictionary.

What is New in Version 2.0

I have completely updated the speaking part of the testing process to create a useful tool for students and teachers. It requires both student and teacher to log in on their respective devices and go through the questions together. Try it a few times and you will soon get the hang of it! As with the listening tests all your progress is saved so you can see how you improve over time.

About Me

I am originally from the UK but since 2001 I have lived and worked in Spain where I am a programmer and database designer in an energy company. I have been studying Chinese since 2007. I have only ever been to China as a sightseer and this is what is behind my interest in devising tools like this for developing speaking and listening skills without prolonged immersion.

- Richard Jefferies
Valencia, Spain