Pronunciation

Chinese Southern Charm

In the United States, the charming southern accent is all about vowels that get swapped around or changed. I still remember this great game of Catch Phrase where the southern belle mother gave this clue “It’s long and thin” and someone guessed “pin!” She was delighted and passed the thing to the next player (her […]

Better Mandarin Tones Diagram

True Story from Yesterday (names changed to save my face) Me: So, are you and Jenny…you know…an “item” now? Tommy: Oh yeah. You didn’t know that? Me: I just heard from Edgar. How long has that been going on? Tommy: Hmm…I guess since about May. The moral of the story (of my life) is: I’m […]

Parrot People Help My Tones

Similar to my astonishment at the previously-discussed Chinese proclivity for stating the obvious, I’ve often been struck by how much of what I say in Chinese gets repeated right back at me. At first I was a little annoyed, and then I realized “Hey, I can use that!” I’m convinced the hardest thing about speaking […]

Banana Shoes

A few weeks ago in my English classes, I was doing lightning safety (it was stormy here, ok?). I ended up using the following joke in each class. One of the tips from the students would inevitably be: “Always wear shoes if you’re outside.” I would follow that up by asking why. They’d say something […]

Tone Changes

Let’s face it people: Those 4 (actually 5) tones in Mandarin Chinese don’t really play by their own rules. Sure, if Chinese people are saying one word by itself, and if they’re saying it really slowly, then the tone will probably sound like the textbook says it should. But most of the time they’re not […]

Dots for Tones

If you’re writing a lot of pinyin on the computer, and you’re not good with the numbers, you may want to try using something I call “diǎndiào”点调 (dot tone). It uses periods in lieu of tone numbers, like this: dian…diao…. = diǎn diào As opposed to: dian3 diao4 Sometimes, in a chat, or an email […]