Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Mandarin I ALESN Thursday, December 7, 2017 Class Summary, Insights, Homework

Hi Everyone!

Sorry for my several day delay in writing this entry...


Picking up from Jeremy's brief notes on last week's class, which he substitute-taught for me while I attended an event, we discussed the importance of distinguishing between your 1 and 4 tones. We saw that practicing the correct pronunciation of the vocabulary words for mother and and father, from Lesson 2 Dialogue 1, is a perfect and easy way to cement in your mind the very different sounding 1 and 4 tones.

We reviewed Lesson 2 Dialogue 1's vocabulary. Esther read aloud and everyone repeated. Please review AND MEMORIZE the vocabulary, paying special attention to the following:
  • NA4 said with a high falling tone means that one, that. Make sure that you practice and get the tone correct for this one, because we will also NA3 later on, which means WHICH ONE?
  • ZHAO4PIAN4: 2 4 tones in a row. Get it right, a consistent tone sound for both syllables.
  • BA4BA vs.MA1MA. The 4th vs. the 1st tone. Get it right.
  • GE4 or GE with a neutral tone: the most common measure word. We will be covering the concept of measure words as we learn new ones. Remember that in other languages, the tree may be masculine and the table may be feminine or something similar with gender variations among nouns, but Chinese doesn't have that. In the Chinese mindset, every noun (with the exception of some nouns which already measure a standard unit, such as TIAN1 day) is categorized according to its shape or function, and has an appropriate measure word that matches the noun to its correct category in the Chinese view of the world.
  • NU3 with an umlaut over the U: this is not "new" but rather the U sound with the umlaut. Get it right.
  • SHEI2, also pronounced SHUI2 (the latter is the "formal" pronunciation of this character. We saw that Esther pronounced it this way. PotAYto potAHto.
  • TA1 (male) HE vs. TA1 (female) SHE. We discussed that in Mandarin, both HE and SHE are pronounced the same but have slightly different Chinese characters, letting us know that one is masculine and the other is feminine.
  • JIE3JIE in Mandarin, vs. the similar pronunciation in Cantonese WITH DIFFERENT TONES. If you are a Cantonese speaker learning Mandarin, get it right -- please pronounce this word in Mandarin and not in Cantonese when it appears in our textbook.
  • DA4GE1 OLDEST brother. Even though literally this means "big brother," it is understand that DA4GE1 is OLDEST brother and DA4JIE3 is OLDEST sister.
  • MEI2 as the very specific way that you negate YOU3 (to have) in Mandarin. You do not say "bu4 you3." You MUST say MEI2 YOU3, to not have something.
We reviewed the dialogue, repeating after Esther multiple times and taking apart and translating the conversation line by line. Please study and make sure that you understand every line of this dialogue. Memorize it if you can. Following our repetition of the dialogue after Esther, we broke into small groups and Esther and I walked around to help people, correcting where needed.

Onto the Grammar Points on page 45:

Grammar Point 1: DE. We discussed when to use and when you can eliminate the de. I never actually learned an official rule for Mandarin, but I did give the rule for the equivalent word in Cantonese. Some students were wondering when you can drop the de, and we were able to ask Lucy, our Mandarin 2 teacher, who arrived early while Mandarin 1 class was still going on.

Basically, if there is a close personal relationship or kinship with "the possessed" (de in this case is functioning like an apostrophe s or 's), such as MY FATHER, MY DAUGHTER, MY TEACHER, MY FRIEND, etc., you can dispense with the DE. However, if there is no close personal relationship and it is merely a situation of possession, like MY APPLE, MY CAR, etc., you need to use DE.

Grammar Point 2: Measure Words. I explained, per my mention above, that the Chinese understanding of the world divides all nouns into categories based on size, shape, or function -- such as flat things, round things, long thin flexible things, shorter thin things that are often utensils or tools... 

There are hundreds of measure words, as your book points out. Fortunately, as a beginning student, you only need to worry about the ones you specifically learn for each new noun that our book covers, as well as the most common measure word GE, as in YI1 GE REN2, one person. 

I mentioned that in Cantonese textbooks and some older Mandarin learning materials, these are often referred to as "classifiers" (because they classify nouns according to size, shape, function), but I feel that it is more helpful to refer to them as measure words, which will help us to remember that anytime you count anything in Mandarin -- one person, 3 teachers, 2 students, 417 sheets of paper, etc., you MUST include a measure word between the number and the noun. EXCEPT where the noun is already a unit of measure, again such as the word for day, mentioned above.

On pages 45 and 46, we repeated 5 sentence examples. counting different people with the measure word for person, GE. As we learn more measure words going forward, we will see that the grammar and syntax or word order for counting other things in Chinese is exactly the same:


We will pick up with Grammar point 3 Question Pronouns on page 46 next time, this coming Thursday.


Review and memorize Lesson 2 Dialogue 1's new vocabulary words. 

Review and practice the dialogue with yourself or a Mandarin speaking friend or family member if possible. 

Preview Grammar Point 3: Question Words on pages 46-47.

Finally, here is an example of  one of the beginner videos from Yang Yang's Mandarin Chinese video series on Youtube, YoYo Chinese, which I have mentioned several times now. This particular video is about tones. I recommend that everyone in my class watch all of the free YoYo Chinese beginner level videos on Youtube and possibly consider subscribing to her channel as well, if the videos help you:

Also, here is a link to the page on her blog where she explains the Mandarin 3rd tone. I have mentioned her explanation 2 or 3 times now during class, as it is the best explanation we have found so far for the way the 3rd tone really functions in Mandarin when sandwiched between other tones in rapid colloquial speech:


See you all on Thursday.

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