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[Absolute Beginner] Correct Pronunciation


zeroByte
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Hi,

as the title states I'm new to chinese and I'm a bit confused with the pronunciation (not the tones themselves). The cause is that I found several possible pronunciations for the same word and no clue which one is "a" "official" one :)

I've just recorded a very basic sentence and would beg you to simply listen and give me feedback whether a) this is understandable and b) there are any severe mistakes.

I'm sorry for the quality, the best microphone I have is my Android.

(You'll need a decent player like VLC for .amr)

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/70134012/Sprachmemo%20004.amr

(Otherwise take this version, but it's quality is even worse!)

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/70134012/Sprachmemo%20004.mp3

Thanks in Advance!

Regards,

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Yeah, I can understand everything you're saying or trying to say. It's fairly accurate pronunciation, however, there are a few little mistakes that could be overlooked in everyday conversation.

Your script: Hello Teacher Chen. This is my elder bro. He is HuaiYu(?) Hello teacher! Hello my friend. Are you also a teacher? Hello, I'm not a teacher, I'm a doctor(?) Li Bo, is this your paternal grandmother? No, she's my maternal grandmother. Hello maternal grandmother (Nan).

Two improvements you could make 1. Yi sheng (doctor) not Yu sheng.

2. Nai nai. The first syllable should be in 3rd tone and the second should be neutral (toneless and softer).

Have fun learning Chinese!

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He is a teacher for foreign languages: (wàiyu , third tone on u). I'm glad it's not that bad, you never know :)

Are the few little mistakes the two ones you pointed out below in your post? I'd be interested even in subtle faults; it's hard to learn a language. But it's even harder to relearn it ;-)

Thank you very much for your comments!

Regards,

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So...you want to get down to the nitty gritty hey? That's fine with me.

Continuing on from my first response:

3. 哥哥 ge1 ge - the first syllable of this was correct but wasn't spot on because it sounded too airy It needs more strength, intention and direction. The first tone needs to be pronounced like quasi singing without going over the top.

4. 外语 wai4 yu3 - your pronunciation of the wai4 wasn't spot on. It needs to be short, sharp and kind of angry because it's meant to sound like you're jumping off a bridge, from high to low quick and sharp. Listen to it on http://www.nciku.com/ .

- Your pronunciation of yu3 here was a little to accentuate. It's usually softer than wai4 because wai4 sounds angry and yu3 sounds deep.

5. 朋友 - peng2 you3 - these two were not pronounced as accurately as could be. You did not nail the 2nd and 3rd tones. Peng2 sounded like it was in the first tone and you3 sounded like it was either first tone or toneless.

6. 不是 - bu2 shi4 - the bu2 here was pronounced like it was in either fourth tone or toneless. It should be rising from low to high and it could've been stretched for a tad longer. 不 bu has two pronunciations bu2 and bu4 depending on what word comes after it. If it is a fourth tone word like 是 shi4, then 不 needs to be read in the 2nd tone. If the word that comes after it is a 2nd tone word, then 不 needs to be pronounced in the 4th tone, for example, 不觉得。

觉jue2 is second tone, so the 不 before it needs to be in 2nd tone.

7. 您好s and 外婆 were pronounced well.

不客气。

武汉之夫

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Are you learning from pinyin? Pinyin is the standardized spelling and shouldn't give you too much variation.

It sounds like "lǎoxū" when you say 老师(lǎoshī) or "xù" when you want 是(shì). You made 医生(yīshēng) into "yusheng" as well, and your 这(zhè) sounded almost like "zhuò" which makes me think you're either reading something with "u"s in the pronunciation, or you're rounding your lips (I expect more likely).

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi,

sorry for my late answer - things intervene and others cease. After all, Chinese is just my hobby and therefore other things have to precedence occasionally.

New Sound version

@5: Actually, my book doesn't mention any third tone on the second syllable of "pengyou", neither does the dict (which is a nifty thing, thanks :lol: ). Is this the informal variant?

@HusbandOfWuhan: I'm not sure if I've done it much better now, however I've tried to accentuate the tones in general and especially the pitches. Did I exaggerate ?

I'm especially unsure if I got the neutral tone right. As far as I twigged it, the neutral tone is just supposed to be recognized as no other tone, too neutral to mean anything? What about the height of the neutral tone?

@陳德聰 : Yes, Hanyu Pinyin.

In fact, the "x" was introduced in a later chapter on which I have arrived by now - please check the tape if I did pronounce it in a better way now ;-)

I'm actually convinced that "x" is somehow pronounced similar to "s" in "sing", while "sh" sounds rather like the "sh" in "shepard" - is this reasonable?

What shall I do with my lips when speaking "zhè"?

Regards,

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Wow! I would say you have improved dramatically since the first recording, but an unintended consequence of your focus on the tones is that it sounds almost like a parody now.

I found it much easier to understand, and your pronunciation is much better. Now it's just a matter of your prosody, or the flow of your sentences. It seems like you are emphasizing tones very very very strongly. Sounds a bit strange.

For example:

Zhè shì wǒ GĒGE, tāshì wàiyǔ lǎoSHĪ. (Also your tones on 外语老师 actually made me smile really wide because I can tell you are making a really great effort here, but your emphasis on the yu part made it sound unnatural.) Kind of like if I said "he's a fo-REIGN lan-GUAGE tea-CHER".

At first it is very good to exaggerate tones to make sure you can make them accurately, but the next step would be to try to get closer to native-like flow. Grouping certain words together and pausing in the right places and such.

Also, 外婆 is wàipó, not wǎipó. You have to start much higher or it will sound too low like a 3rd tone.

s, sh and x are all pronounced with your tongue in a different position, so it is not useful to make comparisons to English... The main thing to remember is that sh will never happen before the ü or yi sound, so shi should sound nothing like xu. You can just let your lips do whatever they like during the zh in zhè, I think you can just practise the e vowel sound for that word (you got it very nicely for 医生 yīshēng).

As for neutral tone... I suggest listening to words like māma, yéye, jiějie, bàba to see how the neutral tone sounds after all the other tones to get a really good feel for it.

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@5: Actually, my book doesn't mention any third tone on the second syllable of "pengyou", neither does the dict (which is a nifty thing, thanks :lol: ). Is this the informal variant?

朋友 péngyou mainland, péngyǒu Taiwan. Taiwanese pronunciation has a lot less neutral tones than standard mainland pronunciation. Just bear in mind that it is quite a low neutral tone, lower than say, the neutral tones of 吗 ma and 吧 ba at the end of sentences.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi,

right now, i'm a bit confused. I'm doing some tasks from my workbook and I stumbled upon this one:

b) Lu4 Yup3ing2 shi4 ji4zhe3 => shall be right

c) Ji4zhe3 xing4 Yu3ping4 => shall be false

So Lu Yuping is a journalist, but the journalist is not called Yuping?

Or is this just the subtlety that not every journalist is called Yuping (So there'd be the chinese equivalent of "the" )?

Thanks for you cheering me up :) I hope the correct prosody will come gradually. By now, I can hardly present myself in Chinese :)

Regards,

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Wow! I would say you have improved dramatically since the first recording, but an unintended consequence of your focus on the tones is that it sounds almost like a parody now.

I went through a phase during which I made a conscious decision to NOT sound like most of my monotone American classmates. I was going to, by damn, really throw some tones out there when speaking. I knew they were exaggerated and weird sounding in the context of a sentence, but I did it anyway just for practice. Eventually they smoothed out on their own, and sounded more natural, especially once my phrasing and rhythm improved. But that all happened by automatic imitation when conversing with native speakers. It didn't require conscious modification.

What I'm suggesting to the OP is to not be too worried about "overdoing" the tones at this early stage. I think the biggest risk is "underdoing" them or settling for a flat monotone style of speaking. I applaud your efforts.

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Ah ok thanks @imron.

Thank you also for your experience abcdefg.

My next two questions:

1.

za2ji4 => q vs j? (1:10)

According to my hearing I'd rather get "q" instead of "j". I'm currently pronouncing "j" somewhere in between "j" and "ts" with my tongue tip at my bottom teeth, curled up and unaspirated, whereas I aspirate the q and pronounce it like "tch".

2. c vs j

I really wasn't able to get the difference. The main problem is that I was unable to find exact descriptions which really distinguish the position of the tongue during those sounds (I thought I got "j" correctly before I stumbled upon "c" :mrgreen: ).

I've experienced that it's much easier if I have two real english sounds which zero in the chinese one (it's somewhere in between).

Could you give such "border-examples" for those two sounds?

Thank you in advance!

Regards,

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@zeroByte

Is your first language English? I think it can be useful to use English consonants as a crutch to learning pinyin and Mandarin consonants, but you will find it very difficult to advance if you try to think of Mandarin solely in terms of English sounds. The two languages don't have the same sounds, and while approximations may help... I would be a bit careful.

Here is a chart of the phonemic inventory of Mandarin, and you'll see that on the Fricative and Affricate lines are the "z, c, s", "j, q, x", and "zh, ch, sh" clusters.

The difference between j and q is aspiration. If you need an English crutch, think "jeep" and "cheap", obviously those are approximations, but the difference between the j in jeep and the ch in cheap is identical to the difference between ji and qi in Mandarin.

As for c vs j, it's very odd to me that you would mix these ones up... So I'm not sure how best to explain the difference. The 'c' is [tsh] and sounds just like the end of "its"... If you pronounce the 'j' like in jeep, even though it will sound non-native, 'j' and 'zh' appear in complementary distribution so you don't really have to worry if they sound similar at first since there is no word "zh + ü" or "j + a" etc.

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I'm aware that chinese has its own sounds - it's just much easier for me if I can start out from an english sound and then introduce the differences than relying on nothing. I keep uploading sound samples here just due to the anxiety to fail like you descrived above :)

May I probably consider "j" to be rather "ds" and soft, whereas c is "ts" and "harder" ?

Regards,

EDIT: I've listened to my tape over and over again, this time in slow-motion. One speaker uses "tj" for "j", the other one rather "ts", what leads to a conflict with "c".

EDIT2: about 90% of the sites I got claim that "j" is pronounced like the one in "jeep". On the other hand, 90% of the audio samples you find use rather "ts". confusion. :wall:mrgreen:

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...the difference between the j in jeep and the ch in cheap is identical to the difference between ji and qi in Mandarin.

Is it? "J" in English is voiced. I thought Mandarin didn't have voiced non-nasal stops or affricates. Or is "j" not voiced for some English speakers? Shouldn't pinyin "j" be [ʧ]?

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Most phoneticians will tell you that there are actually no real voiced consonants in English and that the real distinguishing factor is aspiration and voice onset time of the vowel following whatever consonants.

The pinyin 'j' is [tɕ], whereas 'q' is [tɕʰ], as in the chart I provided in #13.

'c' is [ts].

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Ah, [tɕ]. Whoops.

No real voiced consonants in English? Wow. That's completely new to me. Is this some new development in phonetics? Like I said, I've never heard of it. So that would mean that basically English "b" and pinyin "b" are the same thing as far as voicing and aspiration. Correct?

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Could you explain to me what my tongue has to do when I pronounce

c and
j ?

I'm really sorry but I just cannot get the difference between those two.

Regards,

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For "c", see what 陳德聰 wrote above in #13:

The 'c' is [tsh] and sounds just like the end of "its"...

For "j", you may want to check out this Sinosplice article:

http://www.sinosplice.com/learn-chinese/pronunciation-of-mandarin-chinese/4

and if you don't like that one so much, you can try its companion:

http://www.sinosplice.com/learn-chinese/pronunciation-of-mandarin-chinese/5

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No real voiced consonants in English? Wow. That's completely new to me. Is this some new development in phonetics? Like I said, I've never heard of it. So that would mean that basically English "b" and pinyin "b" are the same thing as far as voicing and aspiration. Correct?

My bad, it was very early in the morning, I should have said "no voiced stops". English has voiced fricatives and approximants and glides and blah blah blah.

But /b/, /d/, /g/ are actually just [p] [t] and [k] while /p/, /t/, /k/ are [pʰ], [tʰ], [kʰ] respectively. So affricates like the 'j' in jeep that are traditionally transcribed as [dʒ] in introductory level linguistics courses are actually more accurately transcribed as [tʃ], whereas 'ch' in cheap would be [tʃʰ].

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