- In Mandarin Chinese, there are four tones. Each syllable in isolation (e.g. ma) has its tone, and the same syllables with different tones can mean different things. For example, mā with the first tone means 'mum', má with the second tone 'linen', mǎ with the third tone means 'horse' and mà with the fourth tone 'to swear'.
The first tone, represented by ¯ , is high but remains level. The second tone, represented by ´, goes up and is abrupt (raise your eyebrows while saying it). The third tone, represented by ˇ, is a falling-rising tone (drop your chin onto your neck and raise it again). The fourth tone, represented by ˋ, is a falling tone (stomp your foot gently).
- i in nǐ sounds like ee in 'need'. When a third tone is followed by another third tone, it changes to a second tone in real speech although it is still marked as a third tone. So, nǐ in nǐ hǎo is pronounced with a second tone ní.