This study examines the tone productions of school-aged children with and without a tonal language background who are learning Mandarin as a second language (L2) or heritage language in Mandarin-English bilingual schools in Western Canada. Tones are frequently identified as one of the most challenging aspects of phonology for Mandarin L2 learners to acquire. In this study, tone productions of bilingual children from three home language backgrounds, English, Cantonese, and Mandarin Chinese, were compared for transcribed accuracy using mixed effects logistic regression. In addition, the fundamental frequency contours of correct tone productions were fitted with generalized additive mixed models to analyse the acoustic differences between groups. Error patterns were also analysed for possible Cantonese substitutions. Our results suggest that children with a Cantonese background are more accurate in tone productions than children with an English language background, but they also made more errors than their peers with a Mandarin language background. These findings suggest that a tonal language background could result in positive transfer among school-age children who are in the early stages of learning Mandarin as an L2.

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