Questions about Chinese / 关于中文的问题 / 關於中文的問題

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Pangu
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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby Pangu » 2014-12-06, 21:07

Dr. House wrote:I find listening considerably easier than speaking. No matter if it's Chinese, French or English.

That seems to be the case for everyone :)

If you look at babies, they start to understand speech much earlier than being able to speak themselves.

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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby Dr. House » 2014-12-15, 13:34

Agreed. The Mandarin phonology is pretty hard for me. I wonder how long will it take for me to fully distinguish the ch, zh and q phonemes as an example. Maybe so many people focus too much on the tones and overlook the difficulty of the consonants... It also varies a lot depending on where the speaker comes from. The woman from Taipei pronounces stuff much more clearly than the woman from Beijing (at least in the course I'm using). For example I find it harder to pronounce the Beijing J, but the Taipei one sounds almost like the English j. Another example would be nage vs nege (那个), meimei vs meme (妹妹).

Tones are also difficult. 2nd and 3rd in fast speech sound so similar to me. :para:

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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby Pangu » 2014-12-15, 21:11

Dr. House wrote:Another example would be nage vs nege (那个), meimei vs meme (妹妹).

While often people would pronounce 那個 as "neige" instead of "nage", but I've never heard of anyone pronounce 妹妹 as "meme". Where did you hear that example?

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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby Dr. House » 2014-12-15, 22:49

Pangu wrote:
Dr. House wrote:Another example would be nage vs nege (那个), meimei vs meme (妹妹).

While often people would pronounce 那個 as "neige" instead of "nage", but I've never heard of anyone pronounce 妹妹 as "meme". Where did you hear that example?
Sorry, I misheard that one. :)

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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby Dr. House » 2014-12-20, 18:12

So today I had my first "level up" with a native speaker of Chinese and it didn't go well. I asked her: Ni hui shuo putonghua ma? but apparently mispronounced the word putonghua. She simply didn't understand. Then we switched to Czech and I asked her where did she come from. She's from the Zhejiang province, 3 hours from Wenzhou and speaks a Wu dialect similar to Shanghainese. She also pronounced book as su (shu) . I exchanged a few sentences with her, but for the most part we spoke Czech. I wanted to say: The weather is not nice today, but I said jintian tianqi hencuo instead of jintian tianqi buhao. I feel so demoralized right now :cry:

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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby Pangu » 2014-12-20, 18:36

Dr. House wrote:So today I had my first "level up" with a native speaker of Chinese and it didn't go well. I asked her: Ni hui shuo putonghua ma? but apparently mispronounced the word putonghua. She simply didn't understand. Then we switched to Czech and I asked her where did she come from. She's from the Zhejiang province, 3 hours from Wenzhou and speaks a Wu dialect similar to Shanghainese. She also pronounced book as su (shu) . I exchanged a few sentences with her, but for the most part we spoke Czech. I wanted to say: The weather is not nice today, but I said jintian tianqi hencuo instead of jintian tianqi buhao. I feel so demoralized right now :cry:

Why do you feel demoralized?

It sounds like she may not speak Mandarin fluently, so if there were any misunderstandings, the chances of you misspoke was just as good as she misheard.

Also many Chinese, especially those oversea, may not be used to or comfortable speaking Chinese to foreigners, especially if they speak passable local language. The main reason is because they don't know how much Chinese you know so it's easier to just speak the local language to be sure. Unless of course it was understood that you intend to practice your Chinese with her then it becomes a different situation.

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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby OldBoring » 2014-12-20, 23:41

It's very common for Chinese immigrants in Europe to not speak Mandarin (including young people). Some only speak their dialect, some only speak the local language (of where they live), with a limited knowledge of Mandarin.
She could be from my hometown, though nowadays you can travel there from Wenzhou in 1 hour and half at most, you don't need 3 hours.
Shu as su is very common in Southern China (except maybe Taiwan, where from my experience many people make an effort to pronounce the retroflexes).

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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby Dr. House » 2014-12-21, 9:57

Thank you, guys. On a side note, is it true that foreign guys who learn the language from girls have artificially higher voice?

EDIT: I know the best way to learn Chinese is to go to China or Taiwan, but since I don't have that option for now, do you think it's possible to learn some substantial Mandarin at home? Maybe using Skype to check up on my errors? Or is it futility?

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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby Pangu » 2014-12-21, 20:16

Dr. House wrote:Thank you, guys. On a side note, is it true that foreign guys who learn the language from girls have artificially higher voice?

Although I have no personal experience, I don't think that should be the case unless the foreigner purposely not only mimic the sounds but also the voice of the teacher. That is unlikely though. This also assumes the foreigner has no exposure to the language besides the teacher. Point is, it's not impossible, but not likely IMO.

Dr. House wrote:EDIT: I know the best way to learn Chinese is to go to China or Taiwan, but since I don't have that option for now, do you think it's possible to learn some substantial Mandarin at home? Maybe using Skype to check up on my errors? Or is it futility?

Of course. Learning a language is all about environment. My non-Chinese wife for example speaks Mandarin very well now after learning from me and practicing with my other family members. Yes, she has travelled to both China and Taiwan with me before but we never stayed for more than two weeks. On a related note, she does tell me that when she was in China or Taiwan, she felt like her Chinese skills increased significantly and she felt like she understood more.

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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby Dr. House » 2014-12-22, 13:13

I agree. There are people here who study sinology for years and can't say more than a few sentences and I know a guy from Slovakia who speaks really well, but only improved significantly after he moved to Taiwan. We'll see. :)

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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby Pangu » 2014-12-22, 19:22

Dr. House wrote:I agree. There are people here who study sinology for years and can't say more than a few sentences and I know a guy from Slovakia who speaks really well, but only improved significantly after he moved to Taiwan. We'll see. :)

Sinology means the study of China in general, so a sinologist isn't guaranteed to be fluent in Mandarin. :)

With that said, fluency in a foreign language also heavily depends on a person's natural linguist skills and attitude. I have encountered many foreigners who were learning Chinese and I had the honor of teaching some of them. Some picked it up much faster than others. However, I've also seen students who were obviously good at learning new languages but because of their horrible attitude (easily discouraged, wounded pride... etc.) who forgot the language as quickly as they learned it. I've also seen students who struggle at learning but because they had a good attitude, they progressed quicker than you would think they could considering their lack of natural skills.

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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby IpseDixit » 2014-12-27, 18:32

I was wondering, would it be a viable thing to do, just to study the Mandarin characters (and maybe the tones?) without actually studying the rest of the language?

And do you have any good material to suggest?

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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby Dr. House » 2015-01-02, 21:35

What's the difference between 小孩 and 孩子们?

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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby Pangu » 2015-01-03, 0:57

Dr. House wrote:What's the difference between 小孩 and 孩子们?

小孩 is a general term for children or kids. Without context, we can't tell if it's singular or plural. 孩子们 with the 们 makes it clear it's plural.

You can also add a 小 in front of 孩子们 to imply they are younger kids, but it's not necessary.

You can also have just 孩子 as well.

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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby linguoboy » 2015-01-03, 1:34

Pangu wrote: 孩子们 with the 们 makes it clear it's plural.

Chinese doesn't really do plurals as such. 孩子们 sounds to me like a reference to a specific group of children. (For instance, in the Chinese title of the Korean film 아이들, which is about five schoolchildren who go missing while hunting for frogs.)
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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby Pangu » 2015-01-03, 2:27

linguoboy wrote:
Pangu wrote: 孩子们 with the 们 makes it clear it's plural.

Chinese doesn't really do plurals as such. 孩子们 sounds to me like a reference to a specific group of children. (For instance, in the Chinese title of the Korean film 아이들, which is about five schoolchildren who go missing while hunting for frogs.)

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E5%80%91

1. adjunct pronoun indicating plural

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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby linguoboy » 2015-01-03, 2:44

Pangu wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
Pangu wrote: 孩子们 with the 们 makes it clear it's plural.

Chinese doesn't really do plurals as such. 孩子们 sounds to me like a reference to a specific group of children. (For instance, in the Chinese title of the Korean film 아이들, which is about five schoolchildren who go missing while hunting for frogs.)

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E5%80%91

1. adjunct pronoun indicating plural

Yes, I know how it's often described in English, but that's because (a) number is a mandatory inflectional category for substantives here, so we view other languages' inflexions through this lens and (b) it's commonplace but technically incorrect to describe English pronouns like "we" or "they" as "plural". "We" does not represent a plurality of I's. It is the speaker plus a group associated with the speaker (which may or may not include the listener(s)). Grammatically, that makes it collective rather than plural. (Some textbooks use the term "group plural suffix", but the meaning is the same.)

I think if you pause to consider how 孩子 and 孩子們 are used in spontaneous speech[*], you'll see what I'm getting at. Or compare usages like 孫文們. This doesn't refer to a multiplicity of Sun Wens (as would be the case if it were a true plural morpheme) but of an individual named Sun Wen and a group of people associated with him.


[*] In writing, you see a lot of "translatese" where these sorts of markers are used unnecessarily because plural inflexions are present in the source language.
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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby OldBoring » 2015-01-03, 3:35

Yea, I'm always reluctant to explain 们 as the plural, because for example you don't say 两个孩子们 for "two kids".
More food for though about the etymology of 们:http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2267572&p=11422635#post11422635

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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby Pangu » 2015-01-03, 5:20

linguoboy wrote:Or compare usages like 孫文們. This doesn't refer to a multiplicity of Sun Wens (as would be the case if it were a true plural morpheme) but of an individual named Sun Wen and a group of people associated with him.

I have personally never heard of or used it as such. If I wanted to refer to Sun Wen and a group of people associated with him in a very casual way, I would say 孫文他們. Of course, in a more formal speech it would be 孫文和他的朋友/夥伴.

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Re: Questions about Chinese

Postby OldBoring » 2015-01-03, 5:58

IpseDixit wrote:I was wondering, would it be a viable thing to do, just to study the Mandarin characters (and maybe the tones?) without actually studying the rest of the language?

And do you have any good material to suggest?

See:
viewtopic.php?f=50&t=43663
viewtopic.php?f=50&t=40335
http://unilang.org/viewtopic.php?p=851378#p851378

For material about Chinese, see: viewtopic.php?f=50&t=43871


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