Learning Chinese

Steve K   Wednesday, October 06, 2004, 06:11 GMT
Pin Yin has many advantages but zh, x, q, and no way to express the "r' sound in chr, are all big disadvantages that could have been avoided. Now any word written with these symbols will be mispronounced by foreigners. and there are quite a few foreigners in the world who read the names of Chinese people and place names.

The children in China would have learned whatever they were taught. Why teach something that is out of sync with the rest of the world?
Random Chappie   Wednesday, October 06, 2004, 07:54 GMT
Actually, I believe zh, x, and q were invented in Hanyu Pinyin to distinguish between the following vowel sounds, especially between "ir" (Steve's "r", the untranscribable sound) and "ee", and "oo" and "ü". For instance...

- Chi is pronounced differently from qi.
- Chu is pronounced differently from qu and most keyboards in China do not have a key for ü.
- Shu is pronounced differently from xu, ditto.
- Zhu is pronounced differently from ju, ditto.

As a general rule...
"ir"/"r" and "oo" after "ch", "sh", and "zh".
"ee" and "ü" after "q", "x", and "j".

So, the so-called disadvantageous transcriptions actually serve a purpose: to avoid ambiguity. Confusing, yes, but ambiguous, no.

"Out of sync with the rest of the world"
Every European language's spelling is "out of sync". "C" is pronounced as "ts" in German, "s" in French, "ch" in Italian, either "s" or "th" in Spanish, and either "s" or "k" in English. Sorry, but "out of sync" is not a valid argument, old boy Kaufmann.

Yep- I'm a laowai learning Chinese too.
Random Chappie   Wednesday, October 06, 2004, 07:57 GMT
Correction: As in English, "c" can also be pronounced as "k" in French and, I presume, Spanish. Still, German, Italian, and the Spanish "th" are "out of sync".
Ailian   Wednesday, October 06, 2004, 09:00 GMT
> And "sian" is NOT the pronunciation of "xian". Oh no no! Oh, maybe it is in
> the substandard, lousy pronunciation of the Taiwanese louts but in
> standard Putonghua, oh no no!

hahaha! I laughed. =) When I'm around my Cantonese friends, I'll pick up a /sian/ pronunciation for /çian/, which inevitably makes things fun later. Never could bring myself to adopt a Taiwanese accent outside of "kei" (keyi), though. On that train of thought: If I could only convince my students that /h/ and /x/ (written in pinyin as "h") were not the same!

That being said, I prefer the "chi" for "eat" in general. Here down South, I rarely hear people outside of class (or those well-educated or those from the North...) using the retroflex fricatives and affricates (exception: r /z¸/) -- people simple say "si" (/s/), "zi" (/z/ or /ts/), and "ci" (/ts^h/). Using IPA to write out every little pronunciation would be difficult; it's easier to just use pinyin (especially when you're typing out a long message and don't feel like doing it by stroke order ;). And using zhuyin (bopomofo) on mobiles? Too difficult in my mind. As for WG, I never really liked them. As an English speaker, the pinyin consonants are easier to produce when written as they are (with the plosives being more aspirated/unaspirated than voiced/unvoiced); in WG, it didn't seem as intuitive to me. As for Tongyong pinyin, don't get me started!
myke   Wednesday, October 06, 2004, 11:02 GMT
All Chinese schools in Australia use Han Yu Pin Yin to teach Chinese. I heard it goes with other western countries also. It's funny how some Taiwanese cannot distinguish "zh" and "z" and stuff BTW. LOL
Entil'zha   Monday, October 11, 2004, 01:05 GMT
"Compared to languages with complex grammar, in Chinese (and Japanese)you can almost say things anyway you want."

What??? That's just not true, Steve K. What on earth are you thinking of? Japanese has strict word order for sentences, and different linguistic forms for levels of politeness that, culturally, when misused could potentially cause offence. What about the pitch accents in Japanese to differentiate between words like 'castle' and 'white', 'nose' and 'flower'?