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ablindwatchmaker

Does speaking fluent Chinese help people in the english teaching job market?

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anonymoose
Julien Gaudfroy has a native accent after learning for just 3 years.

 

Do you have a sample of him speaking after he had been learning for 3 years? He claims he learned, basically all day every day, for 5 years, and that was already a few years ago. Granted, his Chinese is amazing now. Was it as good after he had been learning for only 3 years?

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As an overseas Chinese person, my observation is that it is very difficult to get a native accent if a person starts the second language after the age of between 10-12 years of age.

Those that do sound fluent already have knowledge of the second language before this age.

Of course you will get the odd outliers and super duper language specialists.But if you prefer to look at the average person, at those ages of 10-12years old, something happens to language acquisition that affects accent acquisition.

I used to see chinese people who moved to England from HK. Those who moved around 12 years old would still have some slight HK accent even after many years in UK. They would still make some slight grammatical errors in speech. Go progressively younger and these differences become less marked.

Those who went to boarding school at the age of 13 can have less of an accent. But they already have had experience of English at early age.

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geraldc

If you have the resources, time and money, then you can iron out problems with your accent. Actors have dialogue coaches who listen and correct their accents. If we had someone paid to impartially criticize and coach our accents, we'd all be much better. It gets to a point where you're close enough, and people just stop trying to correct you.

 

My theory about learning Chinese is that it's a lot harder for males after your voice breaks. When I was kid, my Chinese was pitch perfect, after an education and teenage years speaking mainly English (and going voice dropping), my standard dropped (it's a lot less mellifluous), and I've noticed that in a few of my friends too. 

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Demonic_Duck

@XiaoXi, are you a native Chinese speaker yourself? If so, do other native Chinese speakers agree with you that 朱力安 has a native-like accent?

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ablindwatchmaker

If this guy actually studied that much, 8 hours per day for 5 years, then it's actually not that incredible for him to have a native accent. A good student can probably expect to average no more than two hours per day of hard study and some additional (limited) passive study, at least until they achieve a high level of fluency that allows them to passively engage Chinese material. Unfortunately, I don't know many people who have 8-10 hours of spare time to study every day. I hear people throw around numbers like that all the time as if it's perfectly realistic and no big deal. The fact is, most human beings don't have lives structured in such a fashion and the sacrifice that entails is too great for most people.

 

What this guy is saying is that he basically put in the equivalent of 20 years of study. Also, with so few examples, I think it's safe to say it isn't a reasonable goal for most people.

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Flickserve

 

My theory about learning Chinese is that it's a lot harder for males after your voice breaks. When I was kid, my Chinese was pitch perfect, after an education and teenage years speaking mainly English (and going voice dropping), my standard dropped (it's a lot less mellifluous), and I've noticed that in a few of my friends too.

Not sure about that bit about the voice breaking. Could be just a coincidence.

 

I am sure if you spent a long time in HK, you could get back the accent quite easily. Heck, for short stretches of speech, it's been said that I speak Cantonese close enough that it's not obvious that I am a non-native speaker. It seems to come and go in phases - some days I have a good day and somedays I am off by a fair bit.

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ablindwatchmaker

 

When I was kid, my Chinese was pitch perfect, after an education and teenage years speaking mainly English (and going voice dropping), my standard dropped (it's a lot less mellifluous), and I've noticed that in a few of my friends too.

 

This is interesting. You might be on to something. I've also noticed that males in general don't enunciate as well as females do. Every time I listen to a male Chinese speaker, I find it to be more muddled and difficult to understand than female. The incredible consistency suggests something biological.

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imron
The incredible consistency suggests something biological.

Did you know that in summer both sales of ice-cream increase and so do deaths among the elderly.  This incredible consistency suggests something.....

 

That's right, it suggests correlation doesn't equal causation.

 

Far more likely that the majority of audio resources seem to use female speakers and so you are more used to hearing them.

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ablindwatchmaker

 

Did you know that in summer both sales of ice-cream increase and so do deaths among the elderly

 

Funny. This isn't the only reason I am suggesting that this might be the case. Is it so hard to acknowledge than males and females have different sounding voices? Might it also be the case that the characteristics that constitute those differences would allow for others to more easily process auditory information? I didn't think such an innocuous statement would lead to belittling, especially one that isn't at all unreasonable.

 

When I started learning Chinese, the textbooks I used involved an equal number of male and female speakers. Also, I've heard the same thing from MANY other students, at all levels of proficiency. I think most people would agree with the idea that female speakers are easier to understand. I also wouldn't be surprised if there is research backing up this observation.

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Angelina

How many male Chinese friends do you have?

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imron
Is it so hard to acknowledge than males and females have different sounding voices?

No, I readily acknowledge they have different sounding voices, and firmly believe that whichever one you have heard the most of will be easier to understand regardless of biology.

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ablindwatchmaker

When I first started studying Chinese, in the first year, we had an even amount of exposure, perhaps slightly favoring the female side. At this point, it is absolutely a familiarity issue, no question about it, but my initial exposure, as well as that of fellow students, seemed to suggest that female speakers were somehow clearer. I've asked several teachers and they have also agreed that students tend to understand female speakers better, at least with Chinese.

 

I went ahead and did a little snooping and found that females do in fact have "larger vowel spaces," which would certainly increase intelligibility. I agree that exposure matter more, but I think the  differences do matter to some degree.

 

 

How many male Chinese friends do you have?

 

Right now, zero. All of my Chinese friends are female.

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Angelina

If all of your Chinese friends are female and you have zero male Chinese friends, no wonder you find females easier to understand.

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XiaoXi
As an overseas Chinese person, my observation is that it is very difficult to get a native accent if a person starts the second language after the age of between 10-12 years of age. 

 

That again all depends on what you mean by starting a second language. There are many that move to a foreign country around that age or early teens and end up with native level in that language no problem by the time they are adults.

 

@XiaoXi, are you a native Chinese speaker yourself? If so, do other native Chinese speakers agree with you that 朱力安 has a native-like accent?

 

No I'm not native but I've known many Chinese who have said his Chinese is "better" than natives.

 

 

 

If this guy actually studied that much, 8 hours per day for 5 years, then it's actually not that incredible for him to have a native accent.

Yeah of course, its certainly great but not a huge surprise. If you put in that much effort you can certainly achieve that.

 

 

 

When I started learning Chinese, the textbooks I used involved an equal number of male and female speakers. Also, I've heard the same thing from MANY other students, at all levels of proficiency. I think most people would agree with the idea that female speakers are easier to understand. I also wouldn't be surprised if there is research backing up this observation.

Yes that's my observation as well. I even became entirely used to that whilst learning in Tianjin listening to older generations, males were almost incomprehensible but women no problem. For younger people it didn't matter so much. But it is generally accepted whatever the language that a female voice is preferred. That's why electronic voices are mostly female. I think its particularly severe in China though.

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ablindwatchmaker

 

There might be something in ablindwatchmaker's hypothesis. See gender paradox (sociolinguistic concept).

 

This is really interesting. It definitely adds to what I've been saying about the voice differences, biological or non-biological.

 

As for the cab drivers...I can live with never understanding what the hell those guys are saying. Every once in a while I get lucky, but I usually can't understand them.

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Flickserve

That again all depends on what you mean by starting a second language. There are many that move to a foreign country around that age or early teens and end up with native level in that language no problem by the time they are adults.

.

Rather than refer to people in a general sense, I am particularly referring to a certain group of Chinese people. Certainly, they can reach native level. But I noticed slight hints in their accents (not referring to level of proficiency) . There might be something about the plasticity of the brain around that age that affects accents. Of course there are many socioeconomic factors affecting that and one can always provide examples of 'exceptions'.

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XiaoXi

Its hard to know since to my knowledge no one has ever adopted a learning method that even comes close to the method kids use....not to mention the extraordinary amount of time kids use to learn their native language.

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