Chinese Language Learning – An idea for a Mandarin tone coloring system

Here’s the overall screenshot of the idea: []( and below is my explanation of why and how to use the coloring system.

Most dictionaries that I’ve used, i.e. ZhongWen chrome extension, Pleco, etc. has split the characters into 5 tones (including the neutral tone). 5 colors is easy to remember, but when you combine the characters into words, in my opinion, 5 colors is not enough. I’ll give you an example:

1st tone = red

2nd tone = orange

3rd tone = green

4th tone = blue

5th tone = grey

When you have a 24 tone pair like 食物, you have to remember “orange, blue”. No problem, so you might think of a logo like “golden state warriors”. But what happens when you have a 42 tone pair like 適合? It breaks your “golden state warriors” logo reference, and you have to think about the reverse order. And what about chengyu 4 character words? It gets complicated quickly.

Wouldn’t it be easier to think of 24 and 42 as two separate colors, i.e. 24 is yellow, 42 is purple, or using whatever coloring system you use?

My idea is to think about the tone pairs as 16 different colors. You would pick a base color and 4 colors and 4 shades would automatically be generated via a color wheel at 90% distance, like this: [](

So in this case, you have:

1st tone = red

2nd tone = yellow

3rd tone = purple

4th tone = green

5th tone = ?? Well let’s pick the complimentary color of the base color, which is light blue.


For tone pairs, you would use the 5 colors above as follows:

11 = red background, white color

12 = red background, lighter shade than background

13 = red background, darker shade than background

14 = red background, black

15 = red background, complimentary color


21 = yellow background, white color

22 = yellow background, lighter shade than background

23 = yellow background, darker shade than background

24 = yellow background, black

25 = yellow background, complimentary color



For 3 tone words, it would be confusing if you double up the first two chars or double up the last two chars. My idea is that you would treat 3 character words as the individual colors, because they are more symmetrical. i.e. 是不是 would be “green, yellow, green”, so you could think of “green yellow”. A 242 tone pair would be thought of as “yellow green”. Ok, so maybe you run into the reverse order problem here, but at least you’re dealing with it at the 3 character level instead of the 2 character level.

For 4 tone 成語 words , you combine the 2 character words.

For 5+ tone words, treat them the same as 1 or 3 tone words, since these aren’t that common.


Anyway that’s my idea, anyone have any comments or ideas to improve it?

Oh and with enough practice, do you think you’d see a “trailing rainbow” as you read? 😏🤪🤣

View Reddit by jiumingaView Source


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