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Chinese r

Mandolin Bee

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Hello! I started learning Chinese via Rosetta Stone only two days ago! ^_^ I'm pleased to have found this forum.

I've tried the search function, but unfortunately it came back with so many results and the first two pages didn't quite have what I needed.

I've read various descriptions of how to pronounce the Chinese 'r' sound, and through experimentation and audio examples, I'm inclined to believe that it is VERY close if not identical to the French 'r'.

You think this might be a good way to think about it, or should I abandon this association before I have it's a habit?

I hope this made sense.

-- The Bee

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Hi Mandolin Bee,

I'm a native French speaker and the R in French and Mandarin are not alike.

The R sound in French requires you to make a rolling noise in the back of your throat, whereas in Mandarin it does not.

With that being said, many non-native French speakers who learn to speak French are never able to make that rolling sound, which in turn sounds very similar to how the R sound should be pronounced in Mandarin.

I hope this helps. Good luck!

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What better way to learn how to pronounce "r" than a picture? (I have spent hours trying to figure out how to draw this diagram, so I welcome any feedback: positive or negative.)

The key to pronouncing the mandarin "r" is tongue position. The sound similar to the English "r", but the tongue position gives it a kind of buzzy quality.

As you can see from the diagram, the tip of the tongue is near those little bumps above the teeth. The buzziness comes from the air flowing through the constriction formed by the tip of the tongue and the roof of the mouth.

The word "ri" (日) is a good place to start. This word is pronounced without moving the tongue at all. Just position your tongue like the diagram and try to say "er". Now try it again with a falling tone and you should be pretty close.


Hope this helps

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I think the tongue position is perfect. However, the picture is a little difficult since it's not three dimensional.

However, the poster was exactly right when he said it is all about tongue position. When you say an American "r", your tongue is curled and much further back than the "r" in Chinese.

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Thinking it's similar to the "ge" at the end of "garage" helps me.

Thinking it's similar to "r" at the start of "run" is utterly unhelpful for getting the sound right.

Better still: follow the link http://www.sinosplice.com/lang/pronunciation/04/ to John Pasden's Sinosplice site, from which the below paragraph is pulled:

>> Say the word "leisure." Now focus on the end, the "-sure" part. Is your tongue pulled way back in your mouth? It should be. And the tip of your tongue should be pointing up. Now leave off the "-s-" and just make the "-ure" part. Did you notice how saying "-sure" made your tongue vibrate a little but just saying "-ure" doesn't? See if you can bring back just a little of that buzzy vibration without returning fully to the "-sure" part. <<

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Ack.. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply that the diagram was wrong or anything. Just that trying to mimic it physically still doesn't help me produce the sound I hear in audio examples. I had been to the site that uses the leisure example, but it didn't help either because my tongue is neither pulled far back in my mouth at the end, nor is the tip pointed upwards, so ... yeah, the description just didn't help.

Not trying to be argumentative. The closest I've gotten to the chinese r is with the french r (but I can do the throat rolling thing, so that doesn't help!).

Truth is, I'm normally very good at mimicking various sounds (I can speak and sing like numerous different people and can emulate french, spanish, and certain british accents pretty well.) It was very easy for me to pick up the japanese 'r' sound, as it's pretty much how I approximate the rolling spanish 'll' sound (I cannot roll my r's).

So, trying to emulate the chinese 'r' and not being able to is absolutely frustrating to me, even if it's only a minor issue. Through perseverance, I'm sure I'll be able to. I was just looking for a shortcut. Too bad it turned out to be no good. :P

Thanks to all of you again, I appreciate the friendly and helpful nature of the people around here. :)

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