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Ming Che


Post by Ming Che » Tue Jul 22, 2003 11:10 pm

While trying to learn Mandarin Chinese the past few years it did not take me long to figure out that no two people say everything the exact same way. First I thought it was just me, my bad memory or a hearing problem but it not take me long to see what was going on. Everyone pronounces words differently! For example: Shi is pronounced what feels like a dozen different ways but really only four. I've heard it pronounced sure, shi, si and somewhere in between. Other sounds that are pronounced differently are zhe and er (two). Zhe is said like juh, dzuh or something else; er is said like ur or are. I have to remember who I'm with so I don't get yelled at for pronouncing a word "wrong." I'm always thinking to myself, "What's this, private pronunciations for everyone?!?!?"

I know that different regions say things a little different and that could explain some of my confusion. But 95% of the Chinese I know are from the same city in Taiwan!

I found a great warning for those of us learning "standard" Chinese, the "national" language: regional dialects vary, no standard pronunciation. I think it's more like: individuals vary, no standard anything.

I have a rule for learning how things are said: if you want to know how to say something, ask only *one* person or you will never know.=)

Also, people translate things differently, too. What does it mean? How would you say it in English? Depends on who you're asking...

Which brings me to my second rule: if you want to know what it means, ask just *one* person or you will never know.=)


John aka Cheung Ming Che

Hanzi Wensheng

Re: Frustrations

Post by Hanzi Wensheng » Thu Jul 24, 2003 2:25 am

Until 1911, when the Nationalists overthrew the Qing Dynasty and established the Republic of China, there wasn't a true "national language" in China, at least not in the spoken form. Although Mandarin was spoken by government officials and people in Northern China spoke some form of Mandarin, it wasn't truly a standard, not to mention the six other dialect groups in the South. However, the Nationalists knew that in order to keep China united, a "national language" was needed. Also by this time, the advancement in technology allowed a large nation like China to have a standard language. So keep in mind, the standard teaching of Mandarin has only been around for less than a century. Also, it took about 20 to 30 years for the Nationalists to "get it right" as well (with the invention of Zhuyin Fuhao and all...).

With that said, Taiwan is a unique situation. After 1949, the Communist took over mainland China, the Nationalists were forced to retreat to the island of Taiwan. The Nationalists were a mixture of people from all over China, therefore everyone had a different accent. Also the natives who were already living in Taiwan at the time spoke Minnan, a southern dialect. After decades of living together, the "Taiwanese Mandarin" has developed its own accent. Though a person from Taiwan and a person from the mainland could understand each other by speaking Mandarin, one can immediately tell where they are from just by their accent.

If you ever visit mainland China, you'll notice that the accent is much more uniform (and also more "standardized"), especially among the younger generation.

As for translation, Chinese and English are completely different languages. There are different concepts and therefore different vocabularies. Many times it is difficult to find a direct translation. There are also times where either one of the language might have more specific words in some category than others.
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Re: Frustrations

Post by A-hiong » Mon Jul 28, 2003 12:27 am

Hanzi Wensheng pretty much said the whole reason you are so frustrated. Not to mention alot of these people who fled the mainland also taught in schools so they spread their accent to their students. My mom, when she was growing up in the 50s in Taiwan had this problem...she was a native Taiwanese speaker and ran into so many problems understanding her teachers because they had totally different accents from what she had and what was spoken in her community. You eventually get used to it. Most people eventually just let it go because they know its your accent. say something that isn't coherent!
Ming Che

Re: Frustrations

Post by Ming Che » Wed Jul 30, 2003 11:45 pm


I guess you guys could be on to something. I remember debating "proper" English with some one from another state (USA). Only two guys. Over a billion people are probably not going to agree on much...

Xia xia,


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