A real life example of tones mattering...
I was in a coffee shop over the weekend, and a foreign guy and his Chinese girlfriend came in to order a cake. The guy spoke passable Chinese, and the entire transaction was done in Chinese. The funny part went something like this:
Clerk: 你要哪个？(which one do you want?)
Guy: 我要那个橡胶的。。。(I want the rubber one)
Girl: 香蕉的吧！(the banana one!)
Banana (香蕉, xiang1jiao1). Rubber (橡胶, xiang4jiao1).
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