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媳 sells 稀 shells by the 西 shore


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She also said that when they learned the English word "she" in China, they used 西 as an example.

See my point above about 'usually'.

I can easily think of a dozen other common English mispronunciations made by Chinese speakers due to incorrect or 'close enough' teaching.

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I am not a native speaker of neither English nor Chinese but I think if a couple of native speakers of Chinese(north & south) and English speakers send their recordings of these sounds as I have, then we would have an idea which one is closer.

If you do English vs pinyin "sha" it might help too. We need to match the vowel sounds too, because pinyin i (shi, si) doesn't have a common English equivalent AFAIK.

Sounds to record:

pinyin sha1 沙·杀, pinyin xia1 瞎·虾, English 'shah' (as in Indian king)

pinyin xi1 吸·西, English 'she'

(BTW, the 'sh's in your 'she' and 诗 sound about the same to me, despite the different vowels following.)

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Wow, I go watch some Chinese TV and this thread is going crazy. @imron, thank you for creating a separate thread. I was just about to ask you.

@creamyhorror, I seriously respect (and enjoy) most of your posts on Chinese language, but this is one that I happen to disagree with. Hope you don't mind that sometimes others may have a different point of view for various reasons. Also, that Shanghai person's English is excellent, she majored in English in college, worked in an American company in China and is now is in the USA. Her Mandarin is also excellent as most of her co-workers and friends speak Mandarin instead of Shanghainese. More importantly she can pronounce 西 and "she" perfectly fine. And she's not the only native Speaker I know either.

@imron, Also same thing; I seriously respect your Chinese but I also know a lot of native Chinese whom I contact regularly. They may not be the best at English but they can pronounce "she" perfectly fine. So far, I have not found one who did not agree with me. I've been telling them about this discussion and they can't believe there's so much disagreement.

The other thing is that I am not denying is that 西 and "she" do have differences. I just said that in my mind, they were close. As imron mentioned, close can mean different things to different people and that's why I realized it's impossible to convince people in this forum. However, I definitely think the Mandarin "sh" does not sound like the English "sh".

This is an interesting find: Consider these two places with English names

Shanghai 上海

Shangri-la County 香格里拉县

If you just take the English pronounciation of the "Shang" portion of both of those words and focus only on the "Sh" part. To me, the 香 (pinyin: xiang) is a lot closer to "Sh" sound in "Shangri-la" than the 上 in "Shanghai" if you just focus on the "sh" sound. If you focus on the "ang" part of "Shang", then Shanghai is closer. But I'm just talking about the "Sh" part.

@rezaf, are you the only person here who agrees with me?

Well, it's late here. I'm sure I'll wake up tomorrow and see some more craziness on this thread. @creamyhorror is not going to let this one go. :lol:

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@rezaf, are you the only person here who agrees with me?

As I said "s"," x", "english sh" and "pinyin sh" are 4 different sounds. I think the northern "sh" is very far from the English "sh" but the southern"sh"(when they speak the standard Mandarin) is pretty close.

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Agree with Imron that it could be the "i" that follows the "x" in "xi" that could lead you to think that "xi" almost = "she".

To my ears, and to my tongue:

English "she": the tip of my tongue is raised slightly and touching fairly gently the ridge behind my front teeth; the "shh" sound is generated as the airflow breaks through, and ends when I lower my tongue.

Chinese "xi": the middle part of my tongue is raised against that ridge and the part behind it too, the very tip of my tongue doesn't seem to be in contact with anything; the airflow works in the same way as the English "she" except it has a broader area to pass through (ie not just focused through the tip of the tongue part) and therefore the sound is different.

Chinese "sh": similar to English "she" except the tongue is curled up, meaning that the airflow-thing produces a different sound -- can't work out if that's because more of the sound comes from around the side of the tongue, or because it "echoes" in the hollow created by the middle of the tongue as it is curled up.

I would say the English "she" is in between these two sounds, and that to English ears the Chinese "sh+i" sounds like a slightly exaggerated English "sshhe", while the "xi" sounds like a particualrly odd version of "she".

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I would say the English "she" is in between these two sounds, and that to English ears the Chinese "sh+i" sounds like a slightly exaggerated English "sshhe", while the "xi" sounds like a particualrly odd version of "she".

I can't even describe the "sh-i" sound that a northern / Beijing native pronounces in English terms. It almost seems like there is an "r" in there but it doesn't sound like an English "sh" in words such as "ship", "shin", "shingles", "shell". While I agree that "xi" is not exactly "she". The word "心" (pinyin: xin) sounds like "shin" in English. Overall, good post.

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It just happened that I listened to this song on my way to work this morning, and I thought to myself that the female singer's (劉佳慧) "xiang/想/詳", "xin/心", "xiong/胸", "xiu/繡/銹", "xie/鞋" were what I would regard as the perfect X, and what I had been taught by my Mandarin teachers. -> 北京一夜

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It just happened that I listened to this song on my way to work this morning, and I thought to myself that the female singer's (劉佳慧) pronunciation of "xiang/想/詳", "xin/心", "xiong/胸", "xiu/繡/銹" was what I would regard as the perfect X, and what I had been taught by my Mandarin teachers. -> 北京一夜

TBH, that lady's xs sound pretty Southern to me. For a more standard sound, I'd go for something with less of a sharp 's' myself. But still not the thick Northern 'sh', not quite. (Plus I don't think a thick 'sh' sound is standard, from what I remember of old Mandarin lessons and recordings anyway.)

Still can't record myself yet...long day out of the house.

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Maybe someone should add a poll to this topic so we can get some stats about forum member's opinions?

For me, Chinese sh, English sh, and Chinese x are definitely distinct. But then I am not a native speaker of English, and I don't hear any difference between English sh and French ch.

When I heard a French uni teacher who has lived in China for the past 20 years speak, I found her French still native sounding except for the sh sound (French ch) which sounded distinctly foreign - very Chinese.

For me the difference between Chinese sh and English sh is a little bit like the difference between arabic emphatic and non-emphatic letters - the shape of the back side of the buccal cavity is different, wider in Chinese sh, which gives a slighly throaty sound.

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It just happened that I listened to this song on my way to work this morning, and I thought to myself that the female singer's (劉佳慧) "xiang/想/詳", "xin/心", "xiong/胸", "xiu/繡/銹", "xie/鞋" were what I would regard as the perfect X, and what I had been taught by my Mandarin teachers. -> 北京一夜

That's practically "s".

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Here's a site which supplies another example of xi:

http://www.china-on-...ic/phonetic.htm

xi:

http://www.china-on-.../phonetic/x.mp3

This is a bit closer to 'see' than 'syee', but it's still what I think of as standard/unaccented. Is there some site with official broadcaster pronunciations anywhere?

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All sounds have an acceptable range, depending on speakers, regions, etc.

The bottom line is that the pinyin sh and the initial sh in English are formed the same way, with the tongue in the same position, while x is formed very differently.

There is some variation there, and some people's 'x' will sound stronger, and some people's 'sh' will sound softer, but if you're putting your tongue in the wrong place, you'll develop an accent.

I had a lot of trouble with a bad habit, where I pronounced pinying 'sh' like Croatian 'š', which is stronger. They have the same tongue position, but the lips are rounded. There were several others where I was convinced that I was saying it correctly, only to be told that it was wrong because my tongue/lips/jaw were in the wrong position. You can approximate the sound most of the time, but it will slip regularly if you don't put the right things in the right place when pronouncing sounds.

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