Hacking Chinese Tones:
Speaking with Confidence

The resources and methods
you need to learn Mandarin tones


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Tones are essential; get them right now
and save yourself a ton of trouble later

Learning the pronunciation of a new language can be fascinating, opening a whole new world of sound.

But it can also be frustrating, especially when dealing with something you have never encountered before, such as tones.

Many students feel discouraged when native speakers don’t understand what they’re saying, or when they realise what they were taught about tones is actually wrong. Some even quit learning entirely because of this.

I started learning Chinese in 2007, and misunderstood how the third tone is supposed to be pronounced. No one pointed this out or tried to correct my pronunciation until I had studied for almost two years, even though I was enrolled in several different courses during this time! It took a lot of hard work to fix this problem, and I was a bit upset that no one had explained this earlier.

Now I know that this was not an isolated case, bus that the teaching of pronunciation and tones is in a poor state in general. This is why I decided to create Hacking Chinese Tones: Speaking with Confidence.


Struggling with tones? You’re not alone!

With the right resources and methods, learning the tones is just a question of time, but if you have misunderstood something fundamental, practising more will just cement bad habits and will make it harder to fix these problems later. Better to take action now and learn the tones properly!

Then this resource is for you!

In a survey of more than 300 students, many said that they should have focused more on tones from the beginning. Here are some of the things that students said about learning tones:

I should’ve focused more on hitting the tones of every new word I learned.

Get the basic tones down before you do anything else!

Why is the third tone taught so badly? This is why people get frustrated. This is why people quit.

I should have spent more time with pronunciation, especially the tones.

Much later, I found out that I had mixed up the second tone and the fourth tone, and I had to work hard to reverse that.

Don’t listen to the people who say “don’t worry about the tones”!


Clear and pedagogical presentation

Many teaches and textbooks don’t teach tones properly, either because there’s not enough time or space to do so, or because they don’t know how tones really work. Native speakers can of course pronounce tones correctly, but few can describe what they are saying.

For example, the third tone is often described as a falling-rising or dipping tone, but it’s rarely pronounced like that. Instead, it’s usually just a low tone.

High-quality audio by male and female native speakers

In order to master tones, you need to listen and mimic. This requires having suitable audio available. Textbooks and other educational material often uses exaggerated and unnatural audio, and the synthetic voices used in many apps is not good enough for this type of practice.

Hacking Chinese Tones: Speaking with Confidence contains clearly and naturally pronounced audio for hundreds of carefully selected words, suitable both for listening practice and to mimic to improve your pronunciation. Both male and female is included, making sure you get the variation you need, but also that you can mimic someone with a range of voice similar to your own.

Proven methods to improve your listening and speaking

Learning tones can be very frustrating, but there are battle-tested methods that really work. Most teachers only focus on pronunciation the first few weeks of class and out in the wild, few people will correct your mistakes.

Hacking Chinese Tones: Speak with Confidence comes with step-by-step guides for how to work with tones in various contexts: on your own, with a friendly native speaker and even with a tutor. These are based on both research and years of pronunciation coaching for students of Chinese.

High quality PDF for print available!


For anyone who struggles with tones,
not just beginners

Hacking Chinese Tones: Speaking with Confidence covers tones from the very basics, with a heavy emphasis on tone pairs. By mastering key tone patterns, you can pronounce any word you encounter with confidence.

Each tone and tone pair is explained through text, graphics and example audio. This means that beginners will get the best possible start, while more experience students who struggle with tones will be able to ascertain that their understanding is accurate.



Built on more than a decade of learning and teaching

Hi! My name is Olle Linge. I started learning Chinese when I was 23. Since then, I have studied in many settings: serious immersion programs abroad, high-intensity programs at home, online courses, as well as on the side while working or studying other things.

I’ve also studied in a graduate program for teaching Chinese as a second language, taught entirely in Chinese mostly for native speakers, and have taught Chinese for many years, including courses in professional development for teachers.

Pronunciation is my favourite part of learning Chinese, but that doesn’t mean that I learnt the tones with ease. Instead, I struggled in the beginning, misunderstanding how the third tone works, which took me dozens of hours of sweat and tears to fix later. In order to help others, I have since then studied and researched Chinese pronunciation pedagogy, including post-graduate course in Chinese Acoustic Phonetics (漢語實驗語音學) and Chinese Phonetic Instruction (話語語音教學研究).

Frequently asked questions

What do I get when I purchase?

You will get full access to all content immediately. You can then work your way through the content at your own pace; there’s no deadline! Tones can take a while to conquer, so you might want to return to the material several times in the coming months and years.

How long does it take to finish Hacking Chinese: Speaking with Confidence?

That depends on how quickly you learn tones. The material and exercises included are meant to give you clear and pedagogical instructions, but how much time you spend on practising tones is up to you!

How much will I learn by using this resource?

Hacking Chinese Tones: Speaking with Confidence covers single tones and tone pairs, so if you follow the instructions and also invest the necessary time actually practising the tones, you’ll have taken a big step towards clear and natural Mandarin. If you have already mastered tones and want to work on your prosody, this resource is too basic for you.

I’ve studied some Chinese already, is this for me?

If you struggle with tones, this resource is definitely for you, regardless of if you started learning Chinese today or ten years ago. I have met students who have studied for more than that and still have basic misconceptions about how tones work in Mandarin. That being said, if you have already confirmed that your tones are quite good and just want to polish them in natural conversations, we suggest that you work with a tutor instead.

What do I need to use the resources? Is everything included?

You need a device connected to the internet, at least to start with. The contents are provided online, but can be downloaded as well if you want to use them when you’re offline. The resource does not requires any other products to be effective. Some of the exercises rely on a friendly native speaker or a tutor to be effective, but methods to study on your own are also included.

How can I get in touch if I have more questions?

You can contact me directly at editor@hackingchinese.com.

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