The only way you are going to have success is to first have lots of failures.These tones combine with a syllable such as "ma" to produce different words. A minimal set based on "ma" are, in pinyin transcription,
- mā(媽/妈) "mum/mom" ~ a high level tone
- má(麻/麻) "hemp" ~ a tone starting with mid pitch and rising to a high pitch
- mǎ(馬/马) "horse" ~ a low tone with a slight fall
- mà(罵/骂) "scold" ~ a short, sharply falling tone, starting high and falling to the bottom of the speaker's vocal range
- ma(嗎/吗) (an interrogative particle) ~ a very short, neutral tone
- Pinyin: māma mà mǎ de má ma?
- English: "Is mom scolding the horse's hemp?"