Want to learn Chinese? Read this first!

By Seriously Science | April 23, 2014 6:00 am

3952984450_953c33c096_zIf you have ever struggled to learn a tonal language like Cantonese, you are probably (painfully) aware of how difficult it can be. In tonal languages, the same syllables can have different meanings if spoken with an increasing, neutral, or decreasing pitch. But xenoglossophobes, fear not — these researchers are here to help! They guessed that learning words in Cantonese would be easier and faster if students were first taught to distinguish different tones. To test this idea, they compared students (both musicians and non-musicians) who were first trained to hear tonal differences. Guess what? It worked! Both musicians and non-musicians learned new words faster when first taught to distinguish the different tones. Now all we need is something to make learning all those Chinese characters easy…

Effects of tone training on Cantonese tone-word learning.

“The present study examined the effect of improving lexical tone identification abilities on Cantonese tone-word learning. Native English non-musicians received training on Cantonese tones before learning the meanings of words distinguished by these tones. Their results were compared to English non-musicians and musicians who received no tone training. The tone-trainees obtained a similar level of word identification proficiency as musicians by the end of training and were significantly better than non-tone trained non-musicians. These results lend support for phonetic-phonological-lexical continuity in learning because enhancing listeners’ perception of lower-level tonal information significantly contributed to success in a higher-level linguistic task.”

Related content:

NCBI ROFL: Consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity: problems with using long words needlessly.
NCBI ROFL: Eating behavior and obesity at Chinese buffets.
NCBI ROFL: How many f**king cuss words are in these sh**ty video games, anyway?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: rated G, told you so
  • CPO_C_Ryback

    EDITORS: this is DUMB.

    MANDARIN, not Cantonese, is the official Chinese-language dialect of the PRC.

    This is a GROSS error.

  • johndouglasdahl@gmail.com

    cpo – anyone. did i miss something ?what does the article have to do with the official chinese language dialect of the prc? the article is abt cantonese, not the prc nor its official language. i don’t care anyway


Seriously, Science?

Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
Follow us on Twitter: @srslyscience.
Send us paper suggestions: srslyscience[at]gmail.com.

See More


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar