Four tones in Chinese Mandarin
Chinese is a tonal language. Tone is an important part of proper pronunciation. Many characters in Mandarin Chinese sound the same. Therefore, to distinguish between words when speaking Mandarin, tones are required.
Mandarin has four main tones and one neutral tone (or, as some say, five tones). Have a look at the picture below to get a better idea of the Chinese 5-level system.
妈 (mā) — mom
麻 (má) — hemp or flax
马 (mǎ) — horse
骂 (mà) — to scold or verbally abuse
吗 (ma) — a question particle