Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

tone retards...


Guest gaoliying
 Share

Recommended Posts

That's not the difficulty. Nor is pronouncing a syllable in isolation. What is hard is stringing it all together into a sentence, in the same way that a native speaker would do it. This does not consist of enunciating each syllable with its theoretical tone value, leaping from 1st to 4th to 2nd to 1st etc, but gliding from the tone value of one important syllable to the next, more or less glossing over those in between.

This really is the problem. There is just too much going on in the brain of the language learner trying to speak a foreign tongue. The result is mistakes and when speaking Mandarin often tones are where the mistakes are made.

I know from personal experience that often when I speak a word will come out with the incorrect tone and even though I know it's incorrect it will still come out wrong. The brain is just overloaded.

Unfortunately many Chinese people never bother to correct your tonal mistakes. It is a good idea if you can find a friend who is willing to point out some of your mistakes and help you improve this area of your Mandarin speaking skills.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

Haizi thank you for your explanation as to why major tone changes are not recorded in dictionaries. I understand now (although I still think it would be helpful if dictionary compilers gave the real pronunciation, rather than a theoretical one subject to change by rule, but anyway...)

My pleasure, Smithsgj. There is a national standard called "Bɑsic Rules for Hɑnyu Pinyin Orthoɡrɑphy," which prescribes that all Pinyin words should be written with their original tones. The only exception is that tone changes are allowed to be reflected in materials for teaching and learning the pronunciation.

Haizi you pointed out earlier (and I think you are quite right) that "tone neutralization" is often just the instantiation of an unstressed syllable. Do you agree that in running speech a lot of syllables (most, maybe) are unstressed (whether the rules say they should be transcribed as tone 5 or not)? In careful speech, say reading from a list of words, would a Beijingese pronounce keqi and jiejie with a neutral tone?

Yes, I agree. In the real world, tone changes are very complicated and impossible to be accurately described. All the current rules are just a simplification or approximation of the reality. Nevertheless, we should all remember that these rules are discovered or set up to help people learn and use the language. We should really take advantage of the rules instead of constantly fighting them.

To answer your question, I would say most native Beijingers would maintain the proper neutal tones in careful speech. For example, in reading a letter to "Father, Mother, and Sister," a Beijinger would probably say "Ba4ba5, Ma1ma5, Jie3jie5, ni3men5 hao3" to begin the letter. In this case, if the speaker wants to stress the plural form of "you," s/he could say ni3men2.

A Taiwanese would not; but then' date=' nor would they in running speech, as many of the neutral tone syllables get the major tone pronunciation in the Mandarin spoken here.

What about elsewhere in the first-language-Mandarin world, including other bits of China? Is all this neutralization basically Beijing regional speech, like all those quaint rs at the end or words?[/quote']

Yes, neutralization is one of the characteristics of Beijing dialect. However, it is by no means unique. Many other northen dialects also have this trait, although they follow different rules and neutralize different syllables.

You have rightly pointed out that neutral tones are much less used in the Taiwanese version of Mandarin. Apparently, the Taiwanese version has been influenced more by various southern dialects in general; while Putonghua is by definition phonetically based on Beijing dialect.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tianjinhua has some instances of neutralization that's interesting, because they have tone changes from the standard which makes the play in sentences completely different.

I still say that listening closely is important.

As for speaking slowly, indeed it is important. I would call it speaking purposefully though. I even find myself using my pointer finger unconciously to go through the tone changes. Helps a lot. I also find myself nodding my head in various ways during the conversation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's not the difficulty. Nor is pronouncing a syllable in isolation. What is hard is stringing it all together into a sentence' date=' in the same way that a native speaker would do it. This does not consist of enunciating each syllable with its theoretical tone value, leaping from 1st to 4th to 2nd to 1st etc, but gliding from the tone value of one important syllable to the next, more or less glossing over those in between.[/quote']

This really is the problem. There is just too much going on in the brain of the language learner trying to speak a foreign tongue. The result is mistakes and when speaking Mandarin often tones are where the mistakes are made.

I know from personal experience that often when I speak a word will come out with the incorrect tone and even though I know it's incorrect it will still come out wrong. The brain is just overloaded.

Unfortunately many Chinese people never bother to correct your tonal mistakes. It is a good idea if you can find a friend who is willing to point out some of your mistakes and help you improve this area of your Mandarin speaking skills.

Yes, I have very similar experience with regard to my learning English. For example, I know I should say "I see, we see" but "she sees, he sees," but when I speak, I would still say "she see" or "he see" if I am not careful enough. I also wish that native English speakers could point out such minor errors in my speech so that I have a healthy dose of negative feedbacks and thus improve my English faster.

This brings me to another point -- the importance of writing exercises in language learning. I find that I have benefited a great deal from writing in English a lot. When I write, I can take my time to check my grammar and usage and experiment with different ways of expressing a same idea. You can do none of this when you are under the pressure to construct your next sentence within the socially-accepted pause in your speech. Writing provides you a good opportunity to use more advanced words and sentence structures and to practise unfamiliar expressions.

To come back to the topic of learning Mandarin tones, I suggest that the learner should write Chinese in Pinyin with tones more. In this way, you will be forced to think about the correct tones again and again. Su2hua4 shuo1: shu2neng2sheng1qiao3. And then, with enough conscious oral exercises, correct tones will become a second nature to you. You can see my preaching in practice on my website: ChineseNow.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This brings me to another point -- the importance of writing exercises in language learning. I find that I have benefited a great deal from writing in English a lot.

I completely disagree. The trouble with tones isn't remembering them, but accurately saying them. I think progress comes only when you are able to decipher them accurately, so that in other words progress with speaking tones will only come with listening to tones.

To be an "advanced" speaker, I feel it a necessary skill to be able to hear a sentence and be able to tell what tones the speaker said. I think an "advanced" speaker should be able to tell different accents apart from the various tone shifts.

Writing the tones out will help beginners for sure, but to get anywhere with them listening practice is the call of the day.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This brings me to another point -- the importance of writing exercises in language learning. I find that I have benefited a great deal from writing in English a lot.

I completely disagree. The trouble with tones isn't remembering them, but accurately saying them. I think progress comes only when you are able to decipher them accurately, so that in other words progress with speaking tones will only come with listening to tones.

To be an "advanced" speaker, I feel it a necessary skill to be able to hear a sentence and be able to tell what tones the speaker said. I think an "advanced" speaker should be able to tell different accents apart from the various tone shifts.

Writing the tones out will help beginners for sure, but to get anywhere with them listening practice is the call of the day.

I DON'T completely disagree. ;-)

In terms of learning tones, the ultimate goal is to be able to produce the right tones correctly and naturally without thinking about them in speech. I meant to say that reading writing was a good tool in language learning. An accomplished musician may be able to catch every note in a complicated piece of music, but it is not quite possible for a music student to do so. Here is where music score can help. Imagine music education without a certain musical notation system.

In my case of studying English, I find my oral English practice and written English practice reinforce each other. In many cases, I didn't realize that I had been speaking a certain word with extra or missing syllables until I see its spelling. On the other hand, mastering the correct pronunciation certainly helps my spelling.

I think reading and writing Pinyin with tones can help CFL learners' oral Chinese too in a similar fashion.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think it has been mentioned yet but I think TPR (total physical response) is an important tool for learning tones. It can also be applied to many other aspects of language learning. TPR is terribly under utilised in teaching Chinese, but it is very commonly used in teaching EFL.

I have seen this method used for teaching tones at TLI in Taiwan. Basically hand gestures that are similar to the tone are used by the teacher and the student when they are saying the words. (e.g. dropping the hand for the fourth tone)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...