51 - Language 3

I feel that at least one page on language has gone missing, but maybe I extended Language Two with what I thought worth recording. Whatever, this is written a good deal later and with a new impetus to study. Working for pay and being paid to work in English gives little incentive to explore the local language. Having pitifully little interaction with the locals is no incentive at all. Living with one is a different case altogether.

In moving to Zhaoqing, the language changes are more severe than the similar distance in moving from Xi’an to Nanjing, for Guangdong is predominantly Cantonese. The accent in the Mandarin is stronger and the lack of ability to roll any R sounds is even stronger. Not that there is much cause for any R in Mandarin, but the approximations are avoided by a distinct change in common usage. Add to this the ‘local’ effect of thinking that there is no accent ‘here’, wherever here is, and you have quite a different situation. Any European who thinks Mandarin and Cantonese are similar is right  – if they also think Spanish and Portuguese are.

Here is a document copied from Word that is tries to demonstrate the current set of confusions. Shi is not pronounced Shee or Shy but more like Shuh; what I would call better pinyin writes this as shr, not shi. Jiao rhymes with miao; the qi sound is more akin to chee and the xi sound very similar but with more of an x at the start. XieXie, thank you, is not really shayshay, although that works; it is nearer to sheeaysheeay but the sh still needs a hint of x in it. Where Pinyin puts an -ian, as in dian, the system fails as the sound is much more an -ienn; dien would be better spelling than dian. I have failed to add all the tone marks in, but at least I have discovered how to make them be published within iWeb.


DJS 20100102

I am trying to improve my Mandarin. I now have ten meanings (I wrote them down without recourse to a dictionary) for 'shi', ten for 'jiao' and eight for 'dian'. Each of these has a full 150 in my electronic dictionary. What I must find is a usage frequency table so as to have an idea which (if any) new meanings to attempt. I also need to create a set of tongue-twisters so as to get the tones right (or closer to right). Recent break-throughs are being able to form new sentences from mixing ideas. 

However, to underline the difficulties, Here is a conversation on waking up:

A: Shi Jian ma?                                                         What time is it?
B: Qi dian ban le.                                                       0730
A: Shi dian ? Zhen de ma? OMG !!                           10:00? Really? OMG
B: Mei you. Qi dian ban. 0732 zhen de.                    Wrong. 0730. 0732, actually

Still not translated, at bed-time I hear "Shui jiao ba" , presumably 'good night'; I still wonder why she is saying "water yells eight"..... or is that "who're you teaching?" or is it a mild instruction to eat dumplings ?

Dian = electric,    hence (and but, as you will see…)
Diànhuà              electric hand = telephone
Diàndēng            electric lamp = electric light
diànnǎo              electric brain = computer
Diàntī                 electric ladder = lift
Diànshì               television
diàn gong            electrician
diànyǐng              film, movie
Diàn ji                   electric chicken = click
Diǎn                     point 3.6 = sān diǎn liù
Diǎn                     hour, qīdiǎn ban, 07:30
Diàn                     shop  e.g. kafei diàn = coffee shop
Diǎn cài               point at dishes = choose from menu
Diǎn míng            take register / roll-call
Diǎn tóu               nod the head
Diān sǐle              Mad, deranged (to death)
Diāndǎo hēi- bái  upside down, confuse √ & X   (very mad black-white)

Now for a set of shways... and xshways
Shui = who?
Shuī = water
Shuí  = sleep;                Shuí jiào ba = go to sleep
Shuìmián = sleep
Shuījiǎo = boiled dumplings   (c.f. go to sleep)
Yìngyòng ShùXué = Applied Maths

Xuě= snow                    so ‘is snowing’ is very close to the ‘applied’ maths
Xuéxí = study
Xuéxì = faculty
Xuéxiào = school
Xuéyuàn = college, school       and snowing money would be xue3 yuan2, not xue2 yuan4
Xuéyuán = student
Xuéyuán = campus
Xuēyuán = snowfield
Xuèyuán   = blood relationship

Here are some uses of shuh, which I wrote without the dictionary at first but had to go back to find the right tones to use:

Tā shì shí  suì                       he is 10 years old
ǐ shì duì de                         you are right 
Shí shī  zhōngxué                  stone room school (Chengdu: arguably the oldest in the world) 
Shǐ                                      chickenshit     
ǒushǐ                                    dogshit, but meaning bullshit
ǒ shì lǎoshī le                      I was a teacher
shīde shīzi yǒu shīzi    the wet lion has fleas
ǎng shì                         Hong Kong city
ǒ bú yào gǒushǐ                I don’t want bullshit
ǒshí gǒushǐ                 I don’t pick up dog shit
ǒ yǒu dài zuòde shì           I have plenty of work

Here is the start of a set of Jiao sounds, automatically including shway from above:

Wǒ shí dào wǔ jiǎo            I picked up 1/10 yuan
ǒ xǐhuan chī jiǎozi         I like to eat dumplings
ǒ jiǎo shuì                      I pay tax                        c.f. shui2 jiao4 ba from the top !!
Wǒ jiāo shùxué                 I teach Maths               not ‘I’m called BookStudy’ as I thought..
Wǒ jiào David                    I’m called David

...and then I have made a start on chuh sounds…
ǒ chī niúròu                                        I eat beef
Zhè zhāngzhuōzi sān chǐ jiànfāng         the table is about 3 chi square
ǒ chí yīge tāngchí                              I hold a sugarspoon

So? Clearly getting one’s ear and voice around the necessary tones is essential. How to remember these is the problem. I hear a new word in context: assume I correctly guess its meaning; I try to remember the sound well enough to guess at the pinyin; I go to my dictionary and use either Pinyin or English to find the word. The pinyin gives, typically between 10 and 150 answers (longer input gives fewer responses). The English gives typically a dozen or so. If there are people nearby with two (both, each) languages I will then prompt an argument about which words are ‘correct’—meaning in their habit—to use. Which only adds the confusion. I actually prefer to work on this alone, because the argument (discussion) only serves to add layers of confusion, to the point (actually well past it) where you wish you’d never been curious at all. Which in turn does nothing to further the learning !!

extension and edit 20100514
original 20100102, a palindromic date.
typos and a little layout fixing, 20100625 and 20100825

other Language essays are:   1, 2, 4

There is significant difference between the ways we use oral and written language. So not only do I see little point in learning interrogatives because the answer is going to be far too hard and unpredictable to follow. I see little point in learning those characters, which are spoken not written. As in this picture from Camstock.

© David Scoins 2017