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To a native Mandarin Chinese speaker, these are 4 different words. But to a native English speaker who has never heard them before, they may sound nearly identical.

Transcript

媽 ma 1 “mother” high-flat

馬 ma 3 “horse” dipping

麻 ma 2 “hemp” low-rising

罵 ma 4 “scold” high-falling

To a native Mandarin Chinese speaker, these are four different words. But to a native English speaker who has never heard them before, they may sound nearly identical.

Can you hear the difference?