Beijing Sounds – My Review

Thanks to Nicki and her comment on my little post about reductions, I have a new favorite Chinese-learning blog.

The guy who writes Beijing Sounds — 北京的声儿, does his best not to come right out and tell you who he is, but I gather he’s from the USA and married to a Chinese lady (most likely a Beijing rén). It also sounds like he’s living in Beijing and has been for a while. He covers topics from the “r” sound of North-eastern Mandarin to more general issues in learning Chinese (like tones).

The Best Things about Beijing Sounds:

  1. The writing is smart and fun to read.
    For starters, you might go to this post about how everyone who doesn’t speak Chinese pronounces “Beijing” with a soft, French-sounding “j” sound. Or maybe a better place to start would be this post about “Zhonglish.”
  2. There are authentic, from-the-field audio clips embedded into the posts.
    The award for “Cutest Post on a Chinese-learning Site” goes to: this post about the uses of that “r” at the ends of some words. The professor who explains it all is a six-year-old.
  3. Pinyin and English transcripts for all audio.
    This makes the site not only entertaining but instructive as well.
  4. The post called Where NOT to look for beginning Mandarin lessons.
    If you only read one thing from Beijing Sounds, let it be this. And if you only read one of the Top 5 list on that post, scroll down and read (and listen to) number 1. At random times during the day I think back to this post and the audio clip and just start chuckling again.

Wish List

Here are some things I’d like to see from Beijing Sounds:

  1. How to pronounce the Chinese name of the blog: Běijīng de shēngr 北京的声儿. It would be nice to have a bunch of audio clips of native speakers saying that.
  2. A post about the difference between Beijinghua and Putonghua.
  3. A post about which syllables can take the take the “r” sound–from that list of all possible syllables on the Pinyin Chart.
  4. A Table of Contents (like this) so that us new readers can know when we’ve read everything (and whether the things on my wish list have already been done).

In closing, I’d like to remind everyone to go read Where NOT to look for beginning Mandarin lessons.

12 Replies to “Beijing Sounds – My Review”

  1. gosh, shucks. Thanks for the undeserved kudos — hope it doesn’t all lead to disappointment.

    Good suggestions. I’ll definitely work on a couple of them, but I keep running into this darn day-job constraint :^)

  2. Aha , I’ve found this– a piece of crosstalk about Beijing hua which is made by the native Beijing ren.
    You can get the pronunciation of Beijing and shengr from it.
    Listen carefully and master them, you will pronounce the name ‘Bjing de shengr’ yourself.

    These the ‘r’ sound and the Beijing dialects are mentioned in it:
    1. Xiàng shengr
    2. zhèr
    3. zìr
    4. ràokǒulìngr
    5. zheiwèir
    6. diànyǐngr
    7. nàr
    1* diānr le颠了
    2* sāyāzi撒丫子
    3* cān le(luo) 餐了
    4* kěn (kèn)
    5* lùn ( lìn)
    6* kāileluo)开了
    7* lǔ leluo)捋
    8* diǎnbu 点补
    P.S. (…) —Beijing sound

  3. You said you wanted a list of all syllables that can have 儿化. It would be much simpler to give you a list of all syllables that can’t have 儿化:


    Those of you who are thinking that these aren’t pinyin syllables — I got them all from the pinyin index to _The Contemporary Chinese Dictionary_ (现代汉语词典). There are even characters for all of them.

    A deeper step in this direction would be to find and list all of the syllables that generally do or don’t have 儿化. But that might not help much because theoretically, all syllables (aside from the ones I listed above) can have 儿化.

    Good dictionaries like the one I listed above will tell you whether 儿化 is generally added to the syllable in a word or not

  4. Thanks Helen & Randy! I’m posit5ively delighted to see the discussion of Beijinghua expanding to other active Beijing blogs….including this one.Our answer to those press people who think that the indiginous local language and culture is on the wane….is found in efforts like this.We westerners can help preserve Beijing tuhua by using more of it ourselves,and by supporting the ongoing preservation efforts! Lao Beijing de wenhua….Wan Sui!

  5. Randy,

    Those syllables are indeed wondrous strange to me. Can you give us some examples of characters and/or definitions for the (what I shall now unscientifically call) “wacky syllables”?

    It does help to know that all syllables in (what I shall now call) “normal pinyin” are fair game for being R-ized. If indeed every syllable can have an “r” added at the end, why isn’t there a sound set of those available for online Chinese dictionaries to use? Anyone feel like taking that project on? I know MDBG could use it. I suppose it should be a northerner to do the recording, right?

  6. Hello Ken,
    Glad to see that you are so fond of Beijing wenhua, almost like a strong supporter. Your enthusiasm must be appreciated.
    But about ‘the indigenous local language and culture is on the wane’, we have to accept something of that kind is occurring with the tide of Civilization, however, this native language and culture the people do not put aside.
    People manage to speak the common tongue for an efficient communication and a better understanding. Actually, there’re lots of difference between Putonghua and Beijing hua.
    As far as I know, mandarin is supposed to be a language variation on pronunciation more than words or phrases. It has a clear tone and less ‘r’ sound, but in contrast, Beijing hua includes more the twang, r sound, stress, syllable-dropping and drawling voice. Besides, Beijing hua is such a dialect mixture that hard to be understood by the non-locals.
    Here’re some Beijing tuhua for having a guess about the meaning of each.
    1wánglǎo wǔ 王老五;2.bǎi lóngménzhèn 摆龙门阵;3.shuōhuà yàozǒu 说话要走;
    4.gàir bùlìn概儿不论; 5.jiānguǒ 尖果;6.dàná 大拿;7.chídēng迟登 ‘ ‘Beijing sounds
    A. : 1.nickname of a bachelor 2. chat 3. (I’m)leaving 4. don’t care/consider anything
    5.pretty girl 6. people in authority 7. hesitate
    It’s really pleasant to learn with you nice people.

  7. Randy & Albert,
    I suspect that there are more syllables which can’t 儿化. One area to look might be syllables beginning with ‘r’. Whilst ‘ren’ clearly can 儿化, I would venture that ‘rui’is near impossible.
    Any thoughts?

  8. To roll your r’s
    (A) the syllables end with a, o, e, u
    a → ar
    ia → iar
    ua → uar
    o or
    uo uor
    ao aor
    iao iaor
    e er
    u ur
    ou our
    iou iour

    (B) the finals are i, ü
    i → ier
    ü → üer

    (C) the finals are ai, ei, an, en, (including uai, uei, uan, uen, ian, üan )
    ai → ar
    uai (uan) → uar
    üan → uar
    ei er
    uei uer
    an ar
    ian iar
    en er
    uen uer

    (D) the finals are in, ün
    in → ier
    ün → üer

    (E) the finals with the ‘ng’ ending /
    This is the difficult part. The vowels a, e, o, u must be twang-ized while ng-dropping when make the r sounds.
    ang → ar
    iang → iar
    uang → uar
    eng er
    ing ier
    ueng uer
    ong or
    iong ior

    (F) the finals with the ‘e’ ending
    ie → ier
    üe → üer

  9. Randy,

    Nice example. I don’t think I can pronounce that. Can you? I still think there are some more though.

    I’ve tried ‘ruir’ out on a dozen or so people and they all insist it’s impossible – I think the all use an ‘English’ initial ‘r’ rather than the theoretical voiced partner of ‘sh’ though.

    I would also venture that ‘ri’ and ‘re’ cannot erhua.

    Also wonder about some of the syllables made solely of a ‘pure’ vowel: ‘e’, ‘wu’…

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