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Scientist who studies Chinese as a hobby.
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(2011-02-27 17:03)
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杂谈

Mandarin’s second tone is a rising tone. In English, a similar tone of voice is used to indicate that the speaker is asking a question. Just imagine yourself saying “No?” in English in a quizzical voice, and then use the same inflection for all second-tone Mandarin words.

The most challenging part of Mandarin pronunciation is to remember to use this tone at all times for second-tone words even when you are not asking a question, and conversely to not use it on fourth-tone (for example) words when you are asking a question.

Because Second Tone is a rising tone, it is represented in Pinyin as a rising accent, slanted upwards from left to right. Listen to the recording and try to say the following words. Note that yú is pronounced yǘ and not like “yoo”; the umlaut is implied because there is no “yoo”-like sound in Mandar

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(2011-02-27 11:56)
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杂谈

Many different kinds of animals are eaten here in China, some of which are not commonly eaten in North America or Europe. Although most restaurant menus have photos of the available dishes, I have found it essential to be able to read which type of meat is present in each dish. Being able to read and say just these few characters has made menu-reading much more enlightening and has prevented me from inadvertently eating dog or donkey on several occasions. Below is a list of common eating animals:

Character Pronunciation Meaning
zhū p
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杂谈


Tones are often cited as the most difficult part of Mandarin Chinese pronunciation, but in practice they are not difficult to pronounce at all, and a European language such as English uses the same tones as Mandarin. The difference is in the information that the tones convey. In English, tone of voice is used to communicate emotion and certainty. For example, say these two words aloud: 'No?' and 'No.' The first is said with a rising tone and the second with a falling tone.
In Mandarin, the tone is an inherent part of the spoken word and does not change when the speaker is asking a question or wants to add emphasis or emotion. Therefore, the difficult part is only in suppressing the English-speaking tendency to modify the tone in different situations.
On this blog, I will address the tones individually to avoid confusion. We will begin with Fourth Tone, which is (in my opinion) the easiest one to learn. In English, we us

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Recall these four simple characters from the previous post on this topic [all characters in this post are linked to Nciku to show their stroke order]:

Character Pronunciation Meaning
woman
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(2011-01-02 16:10)
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pinyin

chinese

杂谈

While Chinese characters often contain a hint about how they are pronounced, they aren’t inherently phonetic, so students of Chinese must learn the pronunciation in parallel with the meaning of each character. Pinyin is the Romanization system that is used to represent the pronunciation of Chinese characters in Mainland China. Here, I’ll introduce Pinyin very briefly and provide more details (and recordings) about the non-obvious elements later.

Pinyin consists of 23 consonants, 6 vowels, and 5 tones. I will introduce the tones later in individual posts, so just ignore them for now.

The following consonants are pronounced exactly the same way as in any Roman language:

 

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I’ll introduce four simple characters: , , , and . I'll also show how to combine them to make new characters.

First we have , which means woman, and is pronounced nǚ (I’ll discuss pronunciation later). You can see the stroke order to draw this character here.

 

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First of all, you need to have Asian Language support installed on your computer. If you can’t see these Chinese characters:  我是科学家, then nothing else on this blog is going to make any sense to you. In Windows, go to Control Panel -> Regional and Language Options -> Languages -> Supplemental language support and check “Install files for East Asian Languages”. You may need your Windows disk to complete the installation.

For browsing websites that contain characters (like this one!), the Mandarin Popup add-on for Firefox is indispe

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(2010-12-26 11:15)

This blog will focus on the simpler aspects of spoken and written Chinese.

I have been studying Chinese for about one year, and in my initial Chinese course last year I was quite frustrated that we just learned whatever characters went with our vocabulary words, so that we could write whatever we could say. But we never learned any simple characters or character components, so it was kind of like learning how to write something like 'I am attending elementary school' without first learning to write 'at', 'bat', and 'cat', never mind individual letters. Nowadays I know lots of characters so it's not so confusing, but I still have an urge to start over at the beginning. (Can you imagine figuring out much later that the 'a' in 'attending' is the same component as the 'a' in 'elementary'?)

 

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