Sunday, April 02, 2006

Adventures in Mandarin pronunciation

The former native Chinese speaker has complained recently that my mispronunciation of several tones in Mandarin is beginning to affect her pronunciation. Most egregious of my mistakes is my frequent reference to the "kitchen waste container" (廚餘桶 chu2 yu2 tong3) as the chu3 yu2 tong3 (楚瑜桶, perhaps named in honor of James Soong?).


Taiwanonymous said...

I bet you were happy when you heard that. Although it's nothing to be proud of, I find there is something perversely delightful about dragging down the Chinese ability of a native speaker. Maybe it feels like payback for the poor English that we get desensitized to.

Mabel Liao said...

It's funny to hear that! Actually, people can confuse between two languages, especially when the pronunciation is quite similar between the two. Students like to make fun of some English words, beause they can't pronounce them correctly. They get lots of fun in pronunciating the wrong way, especially when it sounds like Mandarin word, such as
"cow" or "down."

The letter "C" is pretty similar to a Chinese word-"West"(pronounced as "si" in Mandarin). I'm stronly affected by the accent of "Hakka", which the sound often makes my tongue get stuck. Although I can't speak Hakka, the accent has severly affected my accuracy of speaking Mandarin.

Jonathan Benda said...

My students used to laugh like crazy when the word "shrine" showed up in their textbook. I still haven't figured out why.

And of course, we've probably all heard students who get the giggles when they have to say sentences like, "I am going to the beach." It's almost getting to the point where I laugh with them. *Sigh* Talk about desensitization...

Hey, have you been to any good ㄕㄨstores recently?

Mabel Liao said...

I guess I can understand why they laugh about the word---"shrine."
It really sounds like a word from Mandarin. It's not easy to pronounce, and it often brings about some connotations. If you put these words, such as "shy," "shine," and "shrine," all together, maybe they will be laughing all the way. They just can't stop laughing for it's funny sound.
Students, especially the fifth and sixth graders, always think of something weird about the words they just learnt and feel proud of speaking them out loud.
Once a teacher asked me about what students have learnt recently in English. Just some dialogues, I said. Is that "What's up?"
What's the matter? Why students are so excited about saying it?
Then she told me that the phrase sounds like the vulgar words in Hakka. Well, what can I say?
I never imagine that one meaning in a language can turn into a quite contrary meaning in another language.

Michael Turton said...

Hell yes, Taiwanonymous! I tell my students that my bad Chinese is revenge for the effect that their bad English has had on me. You should see what fun I have when I read aloud from our Chinese research methosd textbook *evil laugh*


Jonathan Benda said...

In my experience, my use of Chinese in the classroom is usually a chance for my students to get revenge on me for the frequent occasions on which I've corrected them or simply misunderstood what they were trying to say.

Mark said...

How much Chinese do you use in the classroom?

Jonathan Benda said...

Not much--usually only for humorous purposes (like when I told students in course section 3302 that they could remember the course number by thinking about how the class makes them want to 嘔吐...)