Welcome back!

Finally we are back to business! My blog had some technical problems these days and unfortunately at the same time my webhosting staff was at the Easter holiday. But now we are back and lets first review what have happened during this week.

I posted my Mandarin Monday video to Youtube:

You can also watch the same video on Youku!

I have painfully realized that my pronunciation and tones need a lot of work. I’ve got great help from more experiences language Chinese learners and already started experimenting with different methods to improve my spoken Chinese. I will write more about this in the future.

Las month I got a lovely award from talesfromhebei:

You can click the award and check out the amazing Tales From Hebei blog!

And finally I have a small poll for all of you. Recently I’ve been writing a lot about learning Chinese because that’s what I’m doing every day as it’s my major. But I would like to know if you would like to have more content about other topics. So please help me and click the topics you would like to read about:

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  • I filled out the poll. I don’t want to give you the wrong impression by not ticking the ‘learning Chinese’ response. In fact, I have enjoyed immensely your trials and tribulations of learning Chinese. Since your ‘on the ground’ in China, as it were, it’ll be brilliant to read about stuff in or about China that’s counterintuitive to our undertanding or perception of that country. Thanks, and you’re doing a great job.

    [Reply]

    Sara Reply:

    Thank you! Recently it feelsl ike that Chinese language is the only thing in my head right now, but I got some nice ideas of other blog posts. One of them was published this morning.

    [Reply]

  • Jack

    Hey Sara! Its been while since I check your blog! So its good to see you are still living your dream and going towards your goal!

    I just saw your video, I think you are very fluent now, still have that accent, but you sound more like a Cantonese/Hong Kong/Malaysian Chinese/Singaporean Chinese speaking Mandarin than a foreigner speaking mandarin! If I close my eyes I would think you are a Singaporean! Tones are still off as expected, but you are almost there.

    I can understand you almost completely except for a few words – eg. “夫妻” (“husband and wife”) is pronounce “Fu-Chi” and particulary your “妻” sound more like “情” or “級” which is quite wrong. It should sound like “七”. (same pronunciation!). Besides that, I think the rest of your pronunciation are okay, just off by the tones only.

    Anyway, I left comments in following posts:
    http://sarajaaksola.com/poor-china-expat/

    http://sarajaaksola.com/march-goal-check-in/

    BTW I was just reading another blog (http://laowaichinese.net/chinese-hanzi-adventure-method.htm) about
    Chinese “minecraft” (its a popular computer game) and it just hit me! You know why Chinese parents always expecting children right after marriage? Because
    好 = 女 + 子 !!! So, “Good” in Chinese means “a woman bearing children”!! :D How’s that for culturally ingrained idea!

    [Reply]

    Sara Reply:

    Interesting, never thought I would sound like Singaporean :)

    I’ve recently started working more on my tones. First I want to be able to finally here them correctly and then pronounce them correctly. I didn’t work hard enough in the beginning (and our teacher in Finland didn’t push us), so there’s a lot of work to be done now. Thank you for letting me spot my mistakes, sometimes it feels hard to hear my self speaking and find all the mistakes in there.

    [Reply]

  • Jack

    BTW, it *SHOULD* be easy to master pronunciation in Chinese! Because really, there are only 412 possible pinyin sound combinations in Chinese (not including tones)!!

    http://live-from-beijing.blogspot.com.au/2009/01/unique-pinyin-combinations.html
    http://live-from-beijing.blogspot.com.au/2009/01/how-many-pinyin-combinations-are-there.html
    http://laowaichinese.net/pinyin-chart.htm

    I think including tones, my conservative estimate will be 2060 (412×5) but its probably far less than that because not all combinations have all 5 tones.

    This compare with English I’ve forgotten now how many sounds are possible, but it’s on the order of tens of thousands.

    So rejoice! Its not that hard!! :D

    [Reply]

    Sara Reply:

    According to my 现代汉语 textbook there are 418 syllables, but with tones (and 轻声) it’s 1332 syllables. I think it would be more correct to count with tones, because my biggest problem at the moment is that I forget tones. I should learn them as ​jié, not jie+2nd tone.

    You can find all the syllables with audio here: http://www.lost-theory.org/chinese/phonetics/

    I like your attitude :) You are right, if I just learn those 1332 syllables, then my pronunciation should be perfect.

    [Reply]

  • iaing

    Hi Sara, you may have tried already, but if you haven’t, aichinese.com is excellent for working on tones (and pronunciation).

    [Reply]

    Sara Reply:

    Thank you for the link, I’ll check it out!

    [Reply]

  • Finally got the video working! You sound really confident but in some ways this could be your downfall. Complacency i guess? I think if all your university schooling had been done in Dong bei your accent would be different. I actually thought your tones were so much better in your Cantonese post. However I am in awe, well done!

    [Reply]

    Sara Reply:

    Oh ma, I’m in deep trouble if my tones in Cantonese are better than in Mandarin. Yeah, I think that because most of the people here understand me, and seem to understand me quite well, I stopped working with my pronunciation. But now I have to work really hard to fix it . It’s really eating my ego.

    [Reply]

  • Sara, I could get most of what you said. But I think you spoke with a lot of Kwantung twang. @Jack, I have to disagree. Malaysian and Singapore Chinese do not speak the way Sara speaks. I am a Malaysian Chinese myself and I have friends and relatives who are Singaporeans so I should know better. Just to prove that this is so, I had to about struggle a little to understand Sara. But for a foreigner and a beginner, I think Sara is getting along fine. But Beijing would have been a better place for her to learn and speak putonhua really.

    [Reply]

    Sara Reply:

    “But for a foreigner and a beginner, I think Sara is getting along fine.”

    My spoken Chinese problem is exactly inside this sentence. I’m not supposed to sound like a beginner, because I consider my self to be an intermediate level student in Chinese. But my spoken Chinese isn’t up to that level. One classmate of mine struggles to understand me (his own pronunciation is great!) and I just got confirmation from a Chinese women that my Chinese is bad.

    I think that this is my biggest problem at the moment and I will work harder with it during the coming months until I get it.

    [Reply]

  • BTW, Sara, I prefer more articles on your life in China and your personal take of your experience living life there. So, I have voted accordingly. Of course, you could still come out with the occasional posts on your experience learning Mandarin.

    [Reply]

  • c

    Hi sara,
    you spoke beautiful and clearly. i would not say you do sound like a beginner at all. Perhaps if you really truely want to sound like a true native, i can say if you talk to a normal chinese person, IMH, they do sound very animated, vocally expressive and a wide range of facial expressions (nodding, smiling, chuckling, innocent look etc). I think that’s just how normally a real friendly native in china would speak. They don’t have that monotone way of speaking unless you’re talking to people who live in the city where they don’t sound enthusiastic in their verbal expression

    [Reply]

    Sara Reply:

    I think that I do want to finally grasp the tones and improve my pronunciation, but at the same time I don’t want to end up talking exactly like a Chinese girl my age. For me they are way too cute in theri speech and experessions, something that doesn’t really fit me. I’m sure there’s a good balance somewhere not being that monotone like in the video and not becoming a giggly school girl.

    [Reply]

    ordinary malaysian Reply:

    Sara, it is of course not desirable that you should sound like the natives. You should sound like yourself and as long as the pronunciation is right who wants to sound exactly like the natives? So boring! For example, even in the case of the English language, Malaysians don’t speak English anywhere sounding like an English man, neither do the Indians in India sound like the English man when they speak English. But as long as the pronunciation is right and the listener gets what you are saying that’s alright. I personally don’t to live in a world where everyone sound like everyone else even if they are speaking in the same language.

    [Reply]

    Sara Reply:

    It is strange that I don’t mind my non-native accent in English, but I would like to have an excellent accent in Chinese. It’s also interesting that no native English speaker have ever that my English accent is bad, but at least two native Chinese have told me my Mandarin isn’t good.

    [Reply]

    Sara Reply:

    I deleted one of your comment accidentally, but I know you didn’t mean that I should sound like a giggly schoolgirl. I just find many Chinese girls my age to be too cute and giggly for me :)

    [Reply]

  • Orachat

    Hi Sara,

    This is great! When you mentioned that your accent is similar to your boyfriend I’m not sure what it is. When you pronounce “ben3 lai2”, that when I got it. I really like your talk, it’s natural. Oh! I like your cat’s sound in the background. Look forward to the next one ;-)

    [Reply]

    Sara Reply:

    I think I’m going to record these short video clips quite often, because improving my pronunciation and spoken Chinese is on the top of my list at the moment :)

    [Reply]

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