When first studying Mandarin, Chinese language learners will be very anxious to simply plow ahead and start talking without having mastered tones and other vital pronunciation parts. It is very important to emphasize that good tones and proper pronunciation is vital to laying a solid foundation. Take for example the word “ma”. Said with each of the four tones, they have four different meanings: mother (first tone), hemp (second tone), horse (third tone), and scold (fourth tone). Not learning your tones correctly the first time will make it difficult for others to understand exactly what you are trying to communicate. Learning tones the first time around, though progress may seem slow, is also wise. Learning tones wrongly and then trying to retrain yourself to say them carefully is extremely difficult and quite discouraging.
At the very beginning, learning tones will almost seem impossible to master. Many foreigners have difficulty with the 2nd and 3rd tones. Another common difficulty for the foreign student is differentiating between the 1st and 4th tones. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You will need to invest much time and energy in studying and practicing, but there will be a big pay off.
1on1 Chinese study is very effective and highly recommended at the beginning of Mandarin language studies, because teachers are there to completely focus on one individual student and correct their pronunciation mistakes.