Hello again and welcome to the class!
Thank you for your very well though-out email.
Yes, I have one very important RULE for you
that I am going to insist that you and everyone else in the class who
can already read Chinese or Japanese characters follows, and that is
YOU MUST NOT EVER, EVER, EVER USE THE CHINESE CHARACTERS TO LEARN HOW TO SPEAK MANDARIN CHINESE.
I AM VERY, VERY SERIOUS.
YOU WILL ONLY LEARN TO PROPERLY PRONOUNCE ALL NEW MANDARIN LANGUAGE WORDS FROM NOW ON USING PINYIN AND ONLY PINYIN ROMANIZATION -- SPELLED OUT IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE LETTERS, WHICH INCLUDES THE EXACT PROPER TONE IN ALL CASES AS PART OF THE SPELLING OF EACH SYLLABLE IN PINYIN.
year, we have students who already speak another dialect of Chinese or
who speak and read Japanese and these students foolishly insist on
learning to speak Mandarin by reading Chinese characters.
EVERY SINGLE YEAR, WITHOUT FAIL, THESE SAME PEOPLE ARE MY WORST
STUDENTS, BECAUSE THEY EITHER PRONOUNCE EVERY OTHER SYLLABLE LIKE THEIR
FIRST CHINESE DIALECT THAT THEY ALREADY SPEAK -- OR LIKE YOU, THEY ARE
JAPANESE, THEY READ FROM THE CHARACTERS, MAYBE THEY GET THE PRONUNCIATION OF THE SYLLABLES CORRECT, BUT THEY GET EVERY OTHER TONE COMPLETELY WRONG.
Don't do that to yourself.
DON'T BE THAT STUDENT.
Forget that you already know Japanese and that you already know how to
read Chinese characters and just stop, put all of your prior knowledge
aside and give Mandarin Chinese the respect it deserves by approaching
it as a brand new language with brand new sounds -- unrelated to the sounds of Japanese or the Chinese characters that you already know how to pronounce in Japanese.
Otherwise, you are setting yourself up to have one of the worst pronunciations of any of the students in our class.
will see what I mean after a few more classes. Your email is very
timely, because I have a whole speech that I am going to give the class
about this, and which I will keep reminding the class about every time I
hear a Chinese or Japanese person butcher the syllables and tones of
Mandarin because they insist on reading from the character texts in the
I have had quite a few ethnically
Chinese students over the years who were already fluent at reading and
speaking in another dialect try to learn to speak Mandarin by only
reading Chinese characters. One lady studied with me for 3 years.
Another for 2. After 3 years and 2 respectively, both ladies still said
every second or third word in their first dialect, and half of the tones
in every sentence were wrong. Both of them refused to learn pinyin --
refused. I finally basically told both of them that their pronunciation
was horrible and that either they needed to learn pinyin and fix their
errors or please study with another teacher in our program. My Mandarin
pronunciation as an English speaking white guy was better the second
month that I studied the language as an absolute beginner -- because I
didn't have any preconceived notions of the way Chinese is "supposed to"
sound clouding my brain from my original mother tongue, and because I
was open to learning proper pronunciation and tones from scratch using
the structured system of pinyin without insisting that my way was
DO NOT read from the Chinese characters or your spoken Chinese will be horrible. OF
COURSE, after you have memorized the exact sound and tone of each new
word and after we have finished the dialogue lesson in the textbook
wherein the word was first introduced, THEN from that point forward, I would encourage you to practice reading that word as a Chinese character in all future lessons
-- BUT you have to make sure that you continue to pronounce each word
exactly as you learned it several weeks earlier when you read the pinyin
and learned the proper pronunciation and tone.
hope my reply hasn't offended you. I mean no disrespect. You just
happen to have struck a nerve. I wrote a 3 page diatribe about this in
my blog last year. You will hear me become quite vocal about this in
class later on in the semester if this proves to be an issue again this
year with any of our students who insist on not learning the pinyin in
favor of reading from the Chinese characters.
See you in class. Don't forget -- no class next Monday, so see you the following Monday.
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