Saturday, November 18, 2017

Mandarin I Class Summary, Insights, Homework for Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hi Gang,

Before I forget:


Let's review what we covered this past week in class:


First, we reviewed the vocabulary on pages 21 and 22. Esther read everything aloud and you guys repeated after her. This time, she read everything nice and slow(ly). After reviewing and clarifying/elaborating on some of the vocabulary and concepts / meanings of the vocabulary, I had Esther read the dialogue again, this time slower than last week. Following Esther's reading, we reviewed the dialogue sentence by sentence to make sure that everyone understood the meaning of the concepts before repeating. This is going to be our workflow going forward with every dialogue -- first reviewing the meaning and then repeating it.

It is very important that everyone understand WHAT they are saying BEFORE they say it -- right?

We saw that problematic words for some members of the class were:
  • gui4 (remembering that it is pronounced GWAY with a falling tone. UI is short for UEI, spelled UI "for convenience sake," according to our book)
  • xing4 (remember the X sound, as opposed to the SH sound)
  • XIAO3JIE3, pronounced xiao2jie3 due to tone sandhi, as we have discussed multiple times now
  • Remember that the IAO of xiao3 and jiao4 is pronounced as if it were a QUADRATHONG (4 consecutive momentary vowel songs in a row: JEE-AAH-OH-OO). It is NOT "jow." This can be a tough concept for Cantonese speakers who tend to want to pronounce this as if the syllable rhymes with the Cantonese word for wine. It does NOT, if pronounced properly in Mandarin. If you are a Cantonese speaker, don't be lazy. ENUNCIATE your Mandarin compound finals properly, especially ones that contain multiple sequential vowel sounds as part of the same compound final sound.
  • XIAN1SHENG: this is a perfect opportunity for you to change your mouth shape from the wide smile of the X initial consonant of the first syllable to the retroflex SH consonant that we learned when we pronounced the ZH CH SH R line of the bo po mo fo table!
Remember that while qing3 WEN4 is "please to ask" [may I please ask you a question], qing3 WEN3 means "may I please KISS [you]" and qing3 WEN2 means "may I please SMELL [you]" -- so you need to get the tone right for WEN4, to ask!

Hardy har har --

Mispronouncing Mandarin...

From here, we went around the room and everyone had a chance to say one or more lines of Mandarin from the dialogue as a sort of "check" to make sure that everyone's pronunciation was moving in the right direction. For the most part, everyone did great -- good job.

For those of you with crappy pronunciation, don't worry -- BUT MAKE SURE THAT YOU ADMIT TO YOURSELF THAT YOUR PRONUNCIATION CURRENTLY SUCKS.

This is very important; you need to be VERY HONEST with yourself without getting emotional about your current crappy pronunciation. You do need to recognize that you are not currently getting it right -- and in some cases, some of you are really botching things up. This is fine at this early stage.

It is very important that you DO NOT develop a "good enough" attitude at any point during your learning process. If your pronunciation and/or tones suck, you NEED to be honest with yourself, recognize this about yourself, do NOT make it emotional at all, and just make a pact with yourself, a promise to yourself that you will continue to make weekly efforts to improve until you no longer need to improve -- until your pronunciation and tones will be consistently understood my native speakers without them craning their necks or raising an eyebrow.

Don't worry; if learning to speak Mandarin Chinese is really important to you, you WILL get it -- because what is the alternative? That you go through the rest of your life sucking at this, speaking really shitty Mandarin? I don't think so. If this means anything to you, you WILL get it right. But you need to never EVER become complacent about your studies, and you need to never EVER adopt a "good enough for rock and roll" philosophy when it comes to your Mandarin pronunciation and tones.

Following our going around the class, we broke up into "happy happy groups," as I jokingly refer to them, and Esther and I walked around for the next 15-20 minutes correcting pairs and trios, answering questions as they arose. I was very pleased with what I saw and heard. Good job, everyone!

For the final 5-10 minutes of class, we began the grammar points on pages 22 and 23, which is where we will pick up next time.


For your insights this week, I am going to paste something I just typed for my Cantonese I class and change the references from Cantonese to Mandarin:

It is so, so, SO important to remember the subtle pronunciation and tones issues that we have been covering and reviewing over and over again. There is a reason I have been reviewing this stuff and really beating these concerns into the ground this year. Of course, for those of you actually reading this blog on a weekly basis, I am going to assume that you realize, based on the subtitle of this blog as well as some of my early diatribes in both the Cantonese I and Mandarin I sections, that my entire focus this year will be on the correct PRONUNCIATION of Cantonese and Mandarin at the most basic level for our beginner students.

You must must MUST do whatever you need to do to get past "the hump" in your learning process as quickly as possible where you are worried "whether you are saying that right," so you can move on and begin memorizing lots of vocabulary with some sense of confidence that you can pronounce that vocabulary in a way that a real native Mandarin speaker will understand what the hell you are trying to say.

You MUST get past this hump, no matter what it takes, so that you can turn your attention and any emotional energy you are investing in your new hobby or interest of learning Mandarin Chinese from the most basic worry about pronunciation and tones to the next step, which is simply learning as many vocabulary words as possible from our lessons and on your own, so that along with the basic sentence structures you are beginning to learn in class, you can start to substitute new words in and out of the sentences you are learning to express new thoughts, concepts, questions and answers.

THIS is the basis of the initial acquisition of a BASIC CONVERSATIONAL ABILITY in Mandarin Chinese.

We will talk more about this is class next time, and going forward whenever the mood strikes...


Your homework for next Monday is to LISTEN TO THE MP3s available for Lesson 1 Dialogue 1 and vocabulary from my earlier blog entry. Focus on the correct pronunciation and tone for each syllable of each word. If you can already pronounce the current lesson's words accurately enough within THE SHEET / SHIT WINDOW OF INTELLIGIBILITY, then you can skip this step.

Absolutely watch, rewatch, AND REWATCH the video for Lesson 1 Dialogue 1 that you all should have downloaded weeks ago from my previous blog entry. Besides noticing the insane number of pencils that Li3 You3 drops on the ground when she meets Wang2 Peng2, pay special attention to the correct pronunciation and tone for each syllable of each word that is spoken. Notice the pitch contours of each sentence

If you are struggling with your tones, you can practice a trick I just shared with my Cantonese class -- very helpful for them since they have 2 more tones spread out over a larger vocal range to worry about from the start, compared to the 4 basic tones of Mandarin over a smaller vocal range that you all are learning right now:

Every sentence that you are learning in Mandarin can be approached in 2 ways when you are studying and memorizing vocabulary and grammar:
  1. You can study and learn to read aloud the actual words, with each syllable's actual pronunciation and tone, over the duration of any one sentence; OR
  2. You can substitute an "aah" syllable or any other basic vowel syllable of your choice (perhaps even one you are having trouble with, such as the famous IAO), and you can "sing" each sentence on that vowel, simply focusing on getting the TONAL CONTOUR correct from start to finish.
I highly, highly recommend that ALL of you try the second method of study and practice in reading aloud from the book, which will significantly refine your accuracy in reading and pronouncing pinyin romanized Mandarin while getting your tones right.  

Once you "get" the tones (once you "own" them and understand them at a DEEPER level than simply some abstract system numbered from 1 to 4 plus this "thing" called a neutral tone), you will have an INTERNAL MEMORY of the sound and "vibe" of each tone for your personal speaking voice for the rest of your life -- or at least for the rest of the time that you decide to study Mandarin Chinese.


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