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You may have heard it from other Chinese learners that it's not really necessary to worry about the tones when speaking Chinese, but we haven't met one successful case to prove that this is true. In China, you can find a lot of foreigners scraping by without paying attention to the tones, but their speaking is crude, extremely basic, and filled with frustration as they repeat themselves over and over trying to make the listener understand.
Admittedly, if you speak an entire phrase very rapidly at once, sometimes the speaker can understand you. But that's as far as you'll go, ever. Though it might seem like a tricky task in the beginning to learn and remember the tones, you will never be able to smoothly communicate with a Chinese speaker unless you learn them!
So if you're having trouble deciphering ma3 meaning "horse" from ma4 meaning "to scold", we've created a free tone trainer that can help.
Step 1: Make sure you have headphones or speakers then tap the large speaker button in the middle of the Tone Trainer
Step 2: Listen carefully to the tone then click which tone you think is correct
Step 3: The correct tone with its Pinyin will appear below the tone trainer in the left corner
Step 4: Tap the speaker button to try again. Your total score will be calculated in the upper-right corner of the Tone Trainer.
**Tip: Tap any of the Pinyin pronunciations in the lower left corner to see what the Pinyin means and what Chinese characters use that Pinyin!