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Shadowing and Recording Most Effective Method


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carlo

one of the most useful analogies I learned as a student of Chinese was 赵元任's brilliant explanation of tones as "lines drawn over an elastic rubber band" (or something like that). The mental image was very helpful to me at the time to develop a more natural speaking style and stop sounding like a robot, while keeping the tones.

 

Imagine the four pitch contours being drawn on a piece of paper with five lines (like a musical staff), 1 to 5. Then think of this piece of paper as being made of rubber, so that it can be squeezed and stretched. For example, in some places it's pulled wider (maybe because you're excited about something, for emphasis etc). Tones are still there, but their shapes are exaggerated because the paper is being stretched. So the "1s" and "5s" are rarely in the exact same place, from a frequency perspective, over time. This is obvious if you actually look at the spectrograms of real people talking.

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heifeng

This makes sense.

I on the other hand wave my hand like my grade school band conductor.

Helps me similarly imagine the musical staff 1-5 and where a tone should start and wind up:) I will now imagine the staff "rubberized' as I conduct my orchestra of 1.

 

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alantin

I haven't done too much shadowing, but with the shadowing I have done, my approach has been to ask a tutor to record a passage from a book for me, then I'll practice reading it along the audio. Then I'll read it back to the tutor later, they'll point out mistakes, and I'll go back to practicing it with those in mind. Rinse and repeat and get a new recording at some point.

 

I feel that it's more efficient to focus on the mistakes that person points out since those are the ones most disturbing for a native speaker, instead of laboring over something that bugs me, as it may or may not be of consequence. I believe in the pareto principle in this so I settle with just trying to smoothen the roughest edges one at a time, without trying to make the whole thing perfect, and hope those will disappear over time.

 

But I should definitely do more shadowing.

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Jan Finster
10 hours ago, carlo said:

one of the most useful analogies I learned as a student of Chinese was 赵元任's brilliant explanation of tones as "lines drawn over an elastic rubber band" (or something like that). The mental image was very helpful to me at the time to develop a more natural speaking style and stop sounding like a robot, while keeping the tones.

 

Imagine the four pitch contours being drawn on a piece of paper with five lines (like a musical staff), 1 to 5. Then think of this piece of paper as being made of rubber, so that it can be squeezed and stretched. For example, in some places it's pulled wider (maybe because you're excited about something, for emphasis etc). Tones are still there, but their shapes are exaggerated because the paper is being stretched. So the "1s" and "5s" are rarely in the exact same place, from a frequency perspective, over time. This is obvious if you actually look at the spectrograms of real people talking.

 

Thanks. This is helpful. 

 

However, aside from this variation, can someone please help me clarify where on this scale from 1-5 would be your normal English speaking pitch (I know, I know it is not flat monotone, but let us assume it is for simplicity's sake. E.g. "I drink water" ). Is it at 3? or closer to the top (1) or bottom (5)?

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Jan Finster
7 minutes ago, Jan Finster said:

However, aside from this variation, can someone please help me clarify where on this scale from 1-5 would be your normal English speaking pitch (I know, I know it is not flat monotone, but let us assume it is for simplicity's sake. E.g. "I drink water" ). Is it at 3? or closer to the top (1) or bottom (5)?

 

While researching my own question, I found this. Which would indicate that 3 should be somewhat what we would use in our native languages as a base line!?

 

http://web.mit.edu/jinzhang/www/pinyin/tones/images/4tones2.jpg

 

I guess the problem is that I am not sure if my "1" and my "5" are really still in the "comfortable range". Otherwise, I problably would not get sore !? (unless the soreness has to do with pitch change). However, my Chinese teacher (degree in teaching Mandarin) "pushed" me to those levels and said they were the right pitch for me...

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Apollys

I doubt the soreness is caused by pitch or pitch change (see my post on the last page if you missed it).  An interval of a fifth or a sixth should not be causing problems for pretty much anyone.  In non-tonal languages, we still modulate our pitch when speaking, it just happens orthogonal to the pronunciation of the words themselves.  When people talk about singers with large vocal ranges for example, they are talking about 3 octaves, 4 octaves, or even more.

 

In English when you ask a question and your voice rises, (imagine someone says something out of the blue and you don't understand, you say "huh?" with a rising pitch), there's your second tone, and that ending frequency is your first tone.  And normal narrative speech will be fluctuating by a few notes at the very least, in that range just below your "question" pitch.  The third tone pitch may be used when you are pondering deeply and say "hmmm..." low and slow, or when you're lowering your voice a little for dramatic effect, like if you were telling a story with a dark ambiance: "...and all that remained was a black and lifeless abyss...".  The fourth tone is similar to a very definitive: "No.", though we wouldn't usually start as high as a true fourth tone.

 

The key point is, non-tonal languages use pitch modulation as well, it just acts as a separate dimension of variability from the words themselves in these cases.  So pitch flexibility should not be a scary concept to anyone, we all have a lifetime of practice with it already.

 

 

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realmayo

This is probably a blind alley but I've long wondered about an accent I typically associate with westerners, myself included, speaking Chinese, which I can only describe as "especially earnest", as if "I really want you to belive I'm a nice genuine guy". I can't ever have described it very well, and perhaps it's just my ears being peculiar. But a couple of people here before have suggested that Chinese speakers perhaps tend to use more tension in their mouth (moving the lips and cheeks around more definitively, perhaps), so perhaps westerners aren't used to doing that and instead try to achieve the same sounds by overdoing how they modulate the air going through the throat.

 

Plus: if I'm normally speaking English a lot all day I won't get a sore throat - but just half an hour of a (rare) emotional conversation, passing on sad news for example or talking about serious stuff, will cause a bit of soreness. The kind of conversations are best decribed as where it feels difficult to actually say the words - presumably an emotional block, rather than a language one.

 

So at the very least, if you're finding it difficult - not for emotional reasons of course but for pronunciation ones - to say the Chinese words, perhaps it's not surprising to get a sore throat.

 

Also, pure speculation: speakers of non-tonal language associate marked difference of tones as explicitly conveying emotions, in many cases. Obviously that's not the case for typical tonal changes in a tonal language. But could it be that there's part of the non-tonal speaker's brain which is thinking "I must be conveying emotions" when trying to get the tones right? And could that account for (a) the breathy, earnest tone of voice I mentioned, and (b) the sore throat? Probably not.... maybe?

 

Then again there's perhaps a more boring description, e.g. Muscle tension dysphonia is a coordination problem involving muscles and breathing patterns associated with your voice. When you’re stressed, muscles that control your voice box can tense up. This can cause hoarseness, a voice that cracks, or the need to strain your voice to be heard.

 

More here: http://www.otolaryngology.pitt.edu/centers-excellence/voice-center/conditions-we-treat/muscle-tension-dysphonia ... and where it says "the muscles that control the voice box become tense", it makes me think of what I wrote at the beginning, that perhaps native speakers of western languages tense and untense their voice box to try to create sounds that Chinese speakers typically generate elsewhere.

 

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Moshen
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In wonder if anyone can relate to this: When I do my shadowing exercises on a daily basis, I often end up with a sore throat after a while. I used to do 30 minutes a day and then after a couple of weeks end up with a sore throat and abandon shadowing for several weeks. After restarting it, the cycle would repeat. When very briefly I dabbled with singing lessons, I would also get sore after a while. I wonder if the tonal aspect of Chinese puts more strain on the voice (?)

 

Have you considered consulting a speech therapist/speech pathologist?  They can observe you speaking Chinese and tell you probably in one minute what you are doing with your mouth, throat or breathing that is creating the fatigue/pain.

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Jan Finster
23 hours ago, Moshen said:

Have you considered consulting a speech therapist/speech pathologist?  They can observe you speaking Chinese and tell you probably in one minute what you are doing with your mouth, throat or breathing that is creating the fatigue/pain.

 

I have not gone that far, but I was considering it. 

So, I found some videos on Youtube from this singing coach (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCM61zUkZ6dpzJHE1sUeSJ0Q) and I can quite comfortably do the whole vocal warm up tonal "ladders" without getting a sore throat.

My current speculation is that sharp the 4th tone (whip-like) and/or the third tone are causing the problem. Maybe the sharp fall of the 4th tone causes my vocal cords to bang against each other (? not sure if this actually makes sense or if they do...). I will let my voice recover for 1-2 weeks and then do the vocal warm ups this guy recommends before shadowing. If the problem persists, I will ask for professional help (I wonder if a speech therapist not familiar with Chinese can help!?)

 

 

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Alexander Technique can help, also - it is a postural method of body realignment that was born out of the vocal problems of a Shakespearean performer in Australia in the 19th century. 

 

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Alexander’s promising career as a young actor was threatened by recurring vocal problems. He sought the help of doctors, but to no avail. Since there was no clear medical cause for his problem, Alexander thought he might be doing something wrong when reciting, leading him to strain or ”misuse” his vocal organs.

 

He observed himself in mirrors and noticed that he stiffened his neck, pulled his head back and down and depressed his larynx. This went with an audible gasping for air as he opened his mouth to speak. This seemed to be the root of his problem. It gradually became clear to him that this was part of a bigger pattern of tension involving the whole of his body. This tension pattern manifested itself at the mere thought of reciting.

 

Alexander spent several years working out a way to change this habitual reaction and learn how to prevent this harmful misuse pattern, thereby improving his health and functioning in general. As he improved his vocal use, breathing and stage presence, other people started coming to him for help.

 Source: https://alexandertechnique.co.uk/alexander-technique/history

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