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I'm pretty much tone deaf how can I learn mandarin?

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I'm trying to learn mandarin. However I'm freaking tone deaf and it's hard as hell for me to differentiate between different words. I just cant quite tell the difference between Ma, Ma, Ma and/or Ma. which Ma? I dont know. They all sound the same to me but can mean different things. I'm so used to spoken english and how forgiving it is, that even when traveling to different parts of the US, I can tell exactly what someone is saying even if they pronounce words differently in their own dialect(most of the time). How should I go about learning mandarin then? Is there a simplified form of mandarin I can learn that does not require such memorization of tones? Do I have to learn the written language to help me remember the spoken word? Please help thanks.

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