Tones in Mandarin Chinese take a little work
Most native Chinese speakers don’t realize how hard it is for people from other languages to adjust to hearing tones and producing them easily.
For most of my life, pitch was just something that automatically changed to express emotion or to accentuate a part of a sentence. It was never precisely controlled for every syllable to express meaning like it is in Chinese.
As a result, my brain doesn’t always hear tonal differences when listening , and often changes tones based on emotion just like it does for my other languages when speaking.
Understanding how Chinese uses tones has been a complete paradigm shift in the way I understand language and has helped me improve my understanding of language learning in general.
My current process for learning Chinese is more about patiently unlearning all the “bad” habits of my previous languages accumulated over a lifetime, and starting with a blank slate, just like a child, so I can learn to hear and produce the language properly.
It’s still a very long journey ahead but at least I’m making slow but steady progress. 🙂