Bei Yang, Nuoyi Yang
May 23, 2019
Tones are the most challenging aspect of learning Chinese. We study tonal acquisition for American learners of Chinese in three learning contexts: study-abroad, at-home and immersion programs. This paper explores whether and how tone production is improved in these contexts. Fifteen learners of Chinese participated in this study. They took a pre-test and a post-test. The control group contained ten native speakers. The task was a read-aloud test in Chinese. Additionally, learners filled out a language contact form. To assess students’ tonal accuracy, we conducted two kinds of analysis: a perception assessment by native Mandarin speakers and an acoustic analysis of pitch track comparison. Contextual data were coded based on the length of language contact with native speakers of Chinese. The results indicate that difficult tone combinations are context sensitive. It also reveals what strategies learners of Chinese use to produce tones similar to native speakers’ production.