Another productive class. We were in a different room on the first floor by the men's room this past Thursday; nice, large classroom, but a very small white board, so I apologize for that if anyone had a tough time reading the things I wrote on the board when we reviewed the pronunciation and tones.
We spent the first half of class reviewing all of the pronunciation and tones material from start to finish. I wrote each row of each initial consonant and each final (simple and compound) from our familiar tables that we have been studying, and everyone repeated everything fairly accurately. I was pleased to hear this. I am sure that some of you are still having issues with pronouncing some of the initial or final sounds, or with any or all of the tones, but have no fear -- we will be reviewing all of the same pronunciation and tones issues from now on, but within the context of actual Mandarin Chinese vocabulary in our lessons' dialogues that we will be covering going forward.
We spent the second half of class covering Lesson 1 Dialogue 1: Greetings.
We discussed that Di4 yi1 ke4 means "the FIRST lesson." I mentioned that we will begin learning numbers in a subsequent lesson, but I pointed out that if you add di4 before a CARDINAL NUMBER (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.), it becomes an ORDINAL NUMBER (first, second, third, fourth, fifth, etc.).
Dialogue 1 is called "Exchanging Greetings," and it is about -- surprise, surprise: exchanging greetings...
We previewed the vocabulary -- 15 new words, including 2 proper names of 2 of the characters that we will meet in our book. Esther read the vocabulary out loud and everyone repeated after her several times for each word. I then explained a few things about some of the words:
- Ni3 hao3, even though it is technically two 3 tones in a row and is written this way in pinyin, is actually pronounced "ni2 hao3," which we discussed as a tone sandhi rule during our previous classes.
- Qing3 wen4 (please, may I ask [you a question]) illustrates the importance of getting your tones right. We discussed that qing3 wen3 means "please may I kiss [you]" and qing3 wen2 means "please may I smell [you]." Yet another example of the importance of learning the proper tones as you learn new vocabulary words.
- Ni3 gui4 xing4? (your honorable last name?) we discussed as a question that Chinese people are likely to ask when meeting a new person, because it is more important to Chinese people what your last name is than your first name. We discussed a bit of the cultural background for this concept.
- We discussed that Wo3 rhymes with "law" and will NEVER EVER sound like "whoa." Do NOT pronounce it this way, or I will blow a gasket when I hear you in class...
- We discussed jiao4 as an example of how it is important to pronounce all of the aspects of the sounds of compound finals. This is not "jow" as it would be pronounced in English. It is pronounced (with a wide smile to get the proper pronunciation of the JI initial consonant) JEE-AAAH-OH-OO. Said properly in super slow-mo, this compound final is a quadrathong -- 4 separate back to back simple vowel sounds strung together in this specific order. I will remind you all of this and of other similar elongated compound finals as the year progresses.
- We discussed shen2ME and ming2ZI as perfect examples for you all to practice the neutral tone.
- Finally, we discussed Li3 You3 (pronounced "Li2 You3" because of tone sandhi) and Wang2 Peng2 as the names of our 2 characters. Remember that Li3 is her last name and You3 is her first name; Wang2 is his last name and Peng2 is his first name.
We saw and heard that the dialogue is very short. Esther read it 3 times -- fast, faster, and fastest, lol. I had asked her to read it super slow, medium slow and slightly slow, but I don't think she understood what I was going for. I reread the dialogue at a slower speed, and then we went over it word by word and phrase by phrase to make sure that everyone understood the meaning of what was happening. Finally, you all repeated the dialogue once or twice, and then class was over.
This was our first foray into attempting to speak actual conversational Mandarin Chinese, as opposed to ga ga goo goo baby syllables and tone exercises, with a few sample words thrown in to illustrate pronunciation examples. Everyone did well for being dumped into the deep end, so to speak, even though this was a very short dialogue -- so maybe more like the deeper part of the shallow end?
We will pick up next time with the same dialogue, repeating it a few times after me and Esther, and then we will go around the room and everyone will have a chance to read one or two lines from the dialogue out loud in front of the class. Following this, my intention is to have you all split into small groups and practice running the dialogue back and forth for 10 minutes or so -- and then we will cover some basic grammar points -- all during our next class.
Your homework for next week is to watch THE VIDEO that you all should have downloaded to accompany this dialogue from the link that I posted 3-4 weeks ago. Please scan below in this blog category for the download link if you are a new student, or if you are a lazy student who hasn't bothered to download the videos yet.
Please watch the video for lesson 1 dialogue 1 multiple times. I am not sure if the videos ripped from the DVD are encoded with an option to select subtitles, as with the DVD itself. If they are, please select the pinyin subtitles, so you can watch and read along at the same time. If not (or even so), please also have your book in front of you while watching the video and please follow the pinyin text of the dialogue while the actors in the video are performing the dialogue.
Please also listen to the mp3 recording of the dialogue, downloadable from one of the links provided at the same time as the video links in a previous blog entry. The book's mp3s are also readily available via a Google search. For any of you still struggling with your pronunciation, this is an excellent tool to help you work out the kinks and also to help you start to feel comfortable pronouncing accurate, basic Mandarin Chinese.
See you all next Thursday.