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Some advice for beginners

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ParkeNYU
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So would you say it's acceptable for students to start talking before they have perfect pronunciation?

 

I'll be frank: students older than twelve years of age will likely never have 'perfect' pronunciation, but the goal should be about 90% of the way there. What should be avoided is incorrect pronunciation. It's important to draw a distinction between imperfect (acceptable) and incorrect (unacceptable) pronunciation. So, indeed, student's shouldn't learn their 'hellos' and 'thank yous' until their pronunciation is correct; the asymptotic goal of perfection will come with time and effort.

 

As for keeping students enthusiastic and interested, pronunciation drills shouldn't be a turn-off if they are decent students. Seriously, what the hell did they expect when learning a new language? It's never going to be a smooth ride the entire time. Of course, this is under the assumption that the student is enrolled in a serious language-learning class, rather than a 'crash course'; people often conflate the two. The goal of the former is to learn the language for the language's sake, whilst the latter is merely an exercise in doing the bare minimum to communicate.

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ZC
6 hours ago, ParkeNYU said:

Of course, this is under the assumption that the student is enrolled in a serious language-learning class, rather than a 'crash course'; people often conflate the two. The goal of the former is to learn the language for the language's sake, whilst the latter is merely an exercise in doing the bare minimum to communicate.

I think this is the root of the disagreement!

 

If you are deciding that you want to study Chinese at Uni as your major field of study then yes, laying an airtight foundation in pronunciation is vital and proper, but I feel like the second option is more common. At least for me, I picked up the ability to memorize the sounds I had to make to get certain responses before I started considering learning Chinese as a more serious undertaking. Does that mean I spent a ton of effort unlearning bad habits? Sure. But it also means that I was always able to eat food and sleep inside even without speaking Chinese conversantly! That’s why I think ‘memorizing noises that get responses’ is valuable at least for total non speakers that butt-fumble their way into China like I did.

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DavyJonesLocker
On 28/03/2018 at 11:11 AM, Lu said:

Keeping the students enthousiastic and interested is, in my view, an important part of language teaching. Drilling pinyin (or zhuyin) and pronunciation first is not a bad idea, but at the same time some students want to learn something to take home. 'You've already had three hours of Chinese class and you still can't even say hello?' is not very motivating for the casual learner. And I thoroughly disagree with the idea that only hardcore learners should try and learn Chinese. Not everyone will succeed, but everyone can get started and make an attempt. Just as running is not just for people who want to train for a marathon, but also for people who just want to get off their couch once in a while.

 

Fully agree 

 

Studying Chinese is a hobby for me and many others, thus like all hobbies it should be enjoyable. i know some guys who just study Chinese as they want to meet chinese girls and communicate with them. They are not harming anyone so whatever makes them happy. 

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DavyJonesLocker
17 hours ago, ParkeNYU said:

Of course, this is under the assumption that the student is enrolled in a serious language-learning class, rather than a 'crash course'; people often conflate the two. The goal of the former is to learn the language for the language's sake, whilst the latter is merely an exercise in doing the bare minimum to communicate.

 

 

11 hours ago, ZC said:

If you are deciding that you want to study Chinese at Uni as your major field of study then yes, laying an airtight foundation in pronunciation is vital and proper, but I feel like the second option is more common.

 

 

in uni a vast number of students just study to pass exams (I certainly was one!). This common across many disciplines and careers majors. Studying Chinese may not be any different in this regard for some :wink:

 

 

 

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ParkeNYU
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laying an airtight foundation in pronunciation is vital and proper


Indeed, but I would posit that laying such an airtight foundation isn't nearly as difficult, boring, or frustrating as people are making it out to be. Mandarin, aside from tone, doesn't have a particularly complex phonology. Learning to pronounce all of the syllables correctly should not take more than a jam-packed week or a loosey-goosey month.

 

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That’s why I think ‘memorizing noises that get responses’ is valuable

 

The chief problem with 'memorising noises' is that, without understanding the underlying phonology and phonotactics of the language, you will invariably not be able to repeat what you remember hearing accurately because your brain will automatically quantise the sounds you hear into the phonological compartments of your native language and store them in memory in that corrupted form. Clean-slate infants don't have this problem because their brains aren't already structured with the phonological compartments of another language, so they indeed can repeat what they hear as best as their oral muscles allow.

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