Using Colors to Memorize Tones

Yesterday I googled ‘how to remember Chinese tones ‘ and according to this page (, “the answer is to use colors“.

I was skeptical at first, but then I thought that I could also give ‘meaning’ to the 4 colors of my choice so I can remember/recall the tones better. ←They call this memorization technique  ‘mnemonics’.

My mnemonics for Chinese tones:

Tone no. 1 = red = angry (because the sound is high-pitched)
Tone no. 2 = orange = difficult (because it sounds like a question and I find tone no. 2 is the most difficult one)
Tone no. 3 = yellow = disgusting (because it’s low, and sounds creepy)
Tone no. 4 = green = falling (because it sounds like a fall, and when you wear a parachute and fall, you’d want to fall to the green – it doesn’t make sense but I remember it like that)

Note: if I still forget, they’re actually the 4 first colors of the rainbow.

So I tried it for my Anki cards and I was very excited because it worked for me. Now I can remember!



For example, the Chinese word for ‘summer’ is 夏天, consists of 2 characters: 夏 (summer) and 天 (sky).
I know a K-pop singer named XIA, he sings for a summer concert and he falls down the stage, so xia 夏 must be tone no. 3.
And in summer, the sky 天 is hot and red (in Japanese 天 is ‘ten’, in Chinese it’s ‘tian’), so tian 天 must be tone no. 1.

Maybe it works better if you use your own imagination and personal experiences, instead of using someone else’s.

I think the colors really help me memorize tones even though I have to use a little time to think up the mnemonics. After a while it gets easier and it’s fun to have personal thoughts like ‘人 (ren), people are difficult, so it must be tone no. 2’ or ‘你(ni), you, and I, 我  (wo), are disgusting so… tone no. 3’ . 😀

Sometimes I can even see the colors in my head. For example, winter, 冬天 (dongtian) is all red, so both Chinese characters must be tone no. 1. ###


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