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i__forget

Pronouncing the "e", "she", "zhe" sounds

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i__forget

No matter how hard I try, I can't reproduce the "e" sound properly. It is supposed to come out from the back of the throat, like when someone punches you in the stomach. Also for the "she" sound you have to put the tongue at the back of the roof of the mouth. When I do that an "r" is coming out after the "e".

I tried watching YouTube videos and talked to natives, but somehow  it's impossible for me to reproduce the Chinese "e", I'm more close to the "e" in "pen". Any advice? I've been practicing this sound now for some days to no avail. 

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Demonic_Duck

It's good that you recognized you're not pronouncing the sound quite right! Lots of Chinese learners learn that it's "sort of like a schwa" and just leave it at that, so they never learn the more accurate pronunciation.

 

May I ask what your native language and region/dialect is? That might help to give a point of reference for a starting point.

 

If I was teaching someone with my own linguistic background (South East England), I'd say it's like the "errrr..." sound you make when you're thinking (non-rhotic in my dialect), but with the back of the tongue depressed slightly.

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Dawei3

The "e" at the end of Chinese words is also one of my biggest pronunciation problems.  I'm exactly like you,  if I'm not careful, I say it with an "r" sound.  (For a long-time, I said it that way until someone corrected me, so it's hard to re-learn it correctly.  I have to consciously push myself to say -e correctly).  

 

While many people tried to help me, the one who actually did told me to say -e more like "huh."  It helped me a lot.  The "huh" also comes out of the back of your throat.  

 

(This said, people often pronounce "zhe" with a long "a" sound like "zhay".  However, the "huh" pronunciation may help you with other words like che)  

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Demonic_Duck
3 minutes ago, Dawei3 said:

with a long "a" sound like "zhay"

 

This kind of ad-hoc method of transcription will get you an approximate pronunciation at best and a wildly inaccurate one at worst (depending if the reader has the same native language and dialect and has been taught in the same way as you). The idea of /eɪ/ being a long version of /æ/ is kind of weird in the first place, being a relic from much older forms of English. I suspect a lot of non-native English speakers would understand "long a" to mean /ɑː/ or /æː/ instead.

 

Also, in my dialect, "a" as in "same" is formed with the mouth much wider open than -ei as in 累.

 

I think for a lot of American dialects it'd be a lot closer, though.

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i__forget

I speak Spanish!  The "je" in Spanish also come from the back of the throat. But only for the "j" part, not the "e". I am not sure how "huh" is like the Chinese "e".

 

How did you manage to reproduce this sound? What steps/instructions did you follow? Why did you manage but me not?

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Demonic_Duck
27 minutes ago, i__forget said:

The "je" in Spanish also come from the back of the throat. But only for the "j" part, not the "e". I am not sure how "huh" is like the Chinese "e".

 

Hmm, my Spanish is "lower elementary" level at best, jaja. But yeah, I think the place of articulation is quite similar to Spanish "j"/"g".

 

I think if you know how to make the schwa sound (/ə/) found in English words like "about" and "bacon", but then move the back of the tongue into the "j" position as in Spanish "jamón", you should be pretty spot-on.

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Dawei3
2 hours ago, Demonic_Duck said:

 

This kind of ad-hoc method of transcription will get you an approximate pronunciation at best and a wildly inaccurate

You're correct - I don't know phonetic symbols - so what I posted is just an approximation and as you noted,  one from an American perspective.

 

1 hour ago, i__forget said:

I speak Spanish! 

It's fascinating to hear that a Spanish speaker makes the same mistake in Chinese pronunciation as I do.  Unfortunately, I just know the American "huh", so I can't help you more.  

 

 

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anonymoose

I think pinyin e is actually almost a kind of diphthong.

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Michaelyus

For Spanish speakers, many find that starting from Spanish o and then unrounding it works quite well.

 

So start with coco (en un tono cantante), and then spread the lips, so that you are smiling forcefully.

This will give you an exaggerated version of 哥哥 gēgē.

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i__forget

I haven't found that starting from "o" and then spreading the lips to be helpful for "e"... How did people learn to make this sound? With the help of a teacher/natives/random epiphany?

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Demonic_Duck

I think you can start from /o/ (Spanish "o") and make the lips very slightly less rounded, but also shift the tip of the tongue forward a little bit. That's pretty close. Assuming my pronunciation of Spanish "o" is decently correct. 😅

 

1 hour ago, i__forget said:

How did people learn to make this sound? With the help of a teacher/natives/random epiphany?

 

I know it's not very helpful, but in my case it was just a lot of listening and a lot of practice. I'm sure it's still not perfect, but it's close enough that I'm happy with it.

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889

I was told to use the e in the French word je.

 

Perhaps that explains why Chinese often take me for French.

 

(The Spanish e as in jefe is completely different. I don't see it helping with Chinese at all.)

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Demonic_Duck
2 hours ago, 889 said:

I was told to use the e in the French word je.

 

It's close, but there is a difference.

 

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i__forget

I think it's possible to reproduce, but I have found mixing it with "she" to be more difficult.

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889

”(This said, people often pronounce "zhe" with a long "a" sound like "zhay".  However, the "huh" pronunciation may help you with other words like che).”

 

That just confuses the OP into thinking e is sometimes pronounced ay. Much better to simply remind the OP that while the standard reading for 这 is zhe, it's frequently read zhei as well. Cf. 那 and 哪.

 

 

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