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August 12, 2009

Creating a foreign language listening environment

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 4:34 pm

August 1, 2009

I mentioned in a previous post about getting started with a foreign language that input is king. Input is what gives your brain examples of correct, native language to copy as you slowly convert incomprehension into comprehension. One way to get this input is to read, and read a lot. The other is to listen.

Listening ≥ watching

Notice I said “listen” and not “watch.” There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Listening alone is harder than listening and watching. Turn on the TV, mute the sound, and watch it for a while. Odds are, unless it was the news or something equally dry, you were able to generally follow along based solely on what you saw. TV shows and movies do a lot of their communicating via (language-neutral) imagery — that is, after all, why TV and movies have largely replaced radio as the world’s main source of media entertainment. If all you have is the audio, you’ll only be understanding what you actually understand, without the benefit of your visual cortex filling in the holes.
  2. You can listen while you do other stuff. Obviously the more concentration you give what you’re listening to, the more good it will do you. In reality, though, you have a lot more time to listen while you’re doing other things than you have to listen all by itself (and I am convinced that you benefit from listening to language even if you’re not paying 100% attention to it). Movies and TV shows are more difficult to consume while doing other things.

That’s not to say that you should never watch movies or TV shows — nothing of the sort — but rather that I’ve found using pure audio to be more effective.

The gear

The equipment you’ll need to create your foreign language listening environment is simple, and you probably own most or all of it.

  1. MP3 player. I’m partial to my iPod, but any MP3 player will do. The key is that you can take it with you everywhere you go, not what brand manufactures it.
  2. Comfortable headphones. With an emphasis on comfortable. If you’re listening for hours per day, you’ll need comfortable headphones. I’ve found earbuds start to bother me after a few hours. I’m currently using Creative HQ-140 backphones, and am liking them.
  3. Various other audiovisual software. I’ll mention some software below (mostly for Macs as that’s what I personally use, though I’m sure there are Windows/Linux equivalents for everything). For general audio editing, check out Audacity. It’s open source, free, and does about everything you’ll need to do.

All the media that’s fit to hear

Now that you have your gear squared away, it’s time to start filling that MP3 player. You’ll do so from three different sources:

  1. Music
  2. Podcasts
  3. TV & Movies

Music

MC HotdogMC Hotdog

One of the best things you can do is find music that you enjoy in the language you’re learning. It’s not always easy — it took me a long time to find Chinese music that I really enjoyed, to the point that I could listen to it on repeat for hours without going crazy. It wasn’t until I discovered MC Hotdog and started digging deeper into mainland Chinese and Taiwanese hip hop that I finally found music that I could really enjoy. Depending on your musical tastes and the language you’re learning you may have an easier or harder time of it, but if you persevere you’ll find something that makes your head bob.

Some people are going to say, “but music isn’t always grammatically correct!” Well, it’s not, but neither is most native speech, at least not in the way that grammar books and language textbooks think of grammatically correct. But it is language meant for native speakers, and it will help you develop your listening skills. Anything that will do that and induces you to break out into dance and sing in the shower can’t be all bad, can it? Of course not.

Podcasts

If you don’t know what a podcast is, read up. Podcasts have all of the advantage of radio — broad topic areas, native speakers with varied accents and cadences, etc. — with none of the drawbacks, like having to tune in at a certain time or, erhm, own a radio. Podcasts are often short (under 15 minutes, though they certainly don’t have to be), which are perfect to consume on the go or while do other things.

It can be a bit hard to find podcasts in a foreign language, though, especially when you’re starting out and can’t read all that well. One trick for some languages is to use the iTunes Music Store to do the finding for you. While you can only buy things from the iTunes store in your home country, podcasts are free, and so you can change your iTunes Store to, say, Japan, and then check out the podcast section to see which podcasts are most popular among Japanese iTunes users. This is only available for countries that have native iTunes stores (North America, most of Europe, and Japan), but will certainly expand as Apple opens up more music markets. Another good place to look for podcasts of the newsy variety are various international broadcasters like the VOA, BBC, Deutche Welle, and NHK, all of which publish news broadcasts in many world languages.

TV & Movies

I may have badmouthed just a few minutes ago, but they still have a place in this grand scheme of mine. I do enjoy watching them, but what I enjoy even more is ripping them and cutting them up into little bite-sized chunks for me to listen to from my MP3 player.

Here’s what I do:

  1. Buy the movie/TV show on DVD. Pretty self-explanatory. It’s rather… less expensive… to do this in China, but wherever you are, thanks to Amazon and other online retailers, you’ll be able to find TV shows and movies in the language you’re learning.
  2. Rip the audio. I use Mac the Ripper for this, and there is a variety of software available for other platforms and personal tastes. Play around until you find one your like. The goal is to get the audio into an MP3 file.
  3. Spit the MP3 up into little pieces. Listening to an hour or two of audio can be difficult. I prefer to split the file up into bunches of little 3 or 4 minute audio chunks. I use MP3 Trimmer for this, and it works well. I then copy these little chunks into iTunes and sync them across onto my iPod like they were songs.

Though it seems strange, listening to the TV or movie audio in little chunks like that is a lot of fun, and is a great test for your listening (because you have to figure out what context the clip is from).

And then press play

I’ll cover some tips and tricks that I have for making the most out of my foreign language listening environment in future posts, but for the most part, you just need to start listening as often and for as long as you can. The effects, though subtle at first, add up in proportion to the time you spend listening.

Reader feedback time

There a so many resources available for people trying to listen to a foreign language these days, this post (as long as it is) cannot hope but to scratch the very most superficial surface. So, I ask you, loyal reader, what are you listening to? Leave links in the comments!

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How I study foreign languages

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 4:32 pm

August 6, 2009

I’ve spent the last several weeks talking about various parts of language learning, and I wanted to tie them all together and talk about how I normally study. Like the disclaimer in this post, I want to emphasize that this is just what works for me, and your mileage may well vary, perhaps significantly.

A three-legged stool

My study is divided roughly into three parts — active reading, passive reading, and passive listening. Though the latter two consume the majority of my language study time, the former is probably the most critical.

Active reading

Active reading is what I call reading with the express purpose of gaining new vocabulary and increased understanding of grammatical structures. This is reading that I do not necessarily for fun (though I still do it with interesting material), but for the purpose of being able to learn how to talk about the subject in question.

Here’s the general workflow:

  1. Pick a topic. Sometimes I’ll go to Wikipedia and look up a topic that I’m interested in, and then switch languages using the language list on the lower left to a language I’m studying and read about it in that language. Other times I’ll go to newspapers and just read about current events. Depending on your interests, other online periodicals and newspapers will probably fit the bill. I strongly recommend using electronic media, as it makes the following steps a lot less painful.
  2. Read with an eye for the unknown. When I talked about how to read in a foreign language previously, I was primarily talking about passive reading, which I’ll get to in a minute. For active reading, though, I do the opposite — I specifically hunt down things I don’t know and look them up. Any sentence that contains a word that I don’t know, or a structure that I’m not familiar with or would like to use more myself, gets carried into the next step.
  3. Move material into Anki. All of those funky, unfamiliar words find their way onto new cards in Anki. Generally I just copy the sentence as the question part of the card, and then definitions for words that I don’t know as the answer. If it’s a particularly interesting word I’ll look up other examples of it per the steps I outlined here.
  4. Rinse and repeat.

I aim for 50-60 new sentences per day. As I mentioned here, my current new material setting for Anki is 50 cards per day, and I find this to be a comfortable if slightly challenging pace. Collecting 60 sentences generally takes me about an hour per day, though I find that once I start I tend to keep going for longer than an hour.

Passive reading

Passive reading is the “pleasure reading” that I do. I’ve already talked about how I read. The majority of this reading I do while on the move — my commutes are never bookless, and I read a number of foreign language newspapers and blogs via my iPhone while traveling. While I’m not actively trying to retain material while passively reading, I know it is reinforcing things that I’ve already learned.

Passive listening

I’ve talked previously about how I have built a foreign language listening environment and how I maintain it using iTunes. Passive listening also includes TV and movies. Again, I don’t try to learn anything specific (though if I hear a word over and over that I don’t know I might look it up), but rather just try to get used to the sounds of the language, and improve my ability to distinguish sounds.

What about actual communication?!

Maybe you’ve noticed that I haven’t included “talking to people” as part of my studying. In a way, I find that talking (or writing) isn’t something that helps me improve, but rather is something that I can do because I’ve improved. Though talking certainly helps my mouth become accustomed to making the right sounds, but in terms of improving my language skills it is, at best, as good as passive listening. Not that I in any way discourage communication — that is, of course, the entire point of learning a foreign language — but I wouldn’t personally expect it in itself to do very much for my ability to communicate in that language.

August 4, 2009

A review of Chinese 24/7

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 11:48 pm

The book “Chinese 24/7″ is written by Albert Wolfe. He is also the author of the blog laowaichinese.net.

I wish this book had already existed before I came to China. It has tons of helpful tips for people just starting to learn Chinese. It is in many ways also useful for people who have already lived for a few months in China. What I like about this book is that it is extremely practical. You find a lot of vocabulary in it that one can use straight away. The vocabulary and gramar section are ordered quite logical and the layout is done nicely too.

The tips are more about Chinese usage for day-to-day life. As I am studying Chinese in China, I’m glad to have this collection of vocabulary which is sometimes difficult to find in my University textbook. As Albert comes from the practical side, you will not find any tips about how to study Chinese at University. He also writes that he would only start with learning to read and write Chinese characters after a year of living in China. In my case, this isn’t possible as teachers expect you to learn how to write the words at the same time as you learn to say them. I’m actually quite glad for this, as I don’t want to remain illiterate.

However, even though the author is not a linguist, I think he did a good job. Thank you Albert!

August 2, 2009

Why Is Nǎlǐ 哪里 Written Wrong?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 10:10 am

Why Is Nǎlǐ 哪里 Written Wrong?

2009 May 24 – 7:16 am | Categories: Tones| Leave a comment

First of all, let’s just hear what nǎlǐ 哪里 is supposed to sound like when said by a native speaker (excerpt from Chinese 24/7 audio files):

(hopefully Firefox users won’t have trouble with these)

qù nǎlǐ 去哪里? = Where are you going?

//

Now by itself: nǎlǐ 哪里

//

It’s clearly a 3-3 combo, just like nǐ hǎo 你好:

//

If it were really nǎli, it would sound like other  3-5 combinations such as zǒu ba 走吧:

//

In a 3-5 combination the second syllable is basically a 1st tone (maybe a little shortened).  That’s not how nǎli sounds to me.  I’m not talking about the 3-3 turning into a 2-3, we know that.  I’m talking about whether the second syllable is up high (like a 5th tone would be after a 3rd tone) or down low (like a 3rd tone would be at the end of a compound word).  I can’t hear it as anything but a 3rd tone.

Ok, is everyone convinced?  It’s pronounced nǎlǐ (tones 3-3) and not nǎli (tones 3-5). I’ve never heard it pronounced with a 3-5 combination that I can remember.

Now let’s do a little research.  Check all your dictionaries and see how it’s written.  Here are my results:

  • Chubby: Nǎli – WRONG!
  • Lenny
    • “Where” (E-C): not present, only gives nǎr 哪儿
    • 哪里” (C-E): Nǎli – WRONG!
  • Big Red
    • “Where” (E-C): Nǎlǐ – CORRECT!
    • 哪里” (C-E): Nǎli – WRONG!
  • MDBG: Nǎlǐ  – CORRECT!
  • Nciku: Nǎli- WRONG!

So my questions for everyone are:

  1. What does your dictionary have for 哪里?
  2. Has anyone ever heard nǎlǐ 哪里 pronounced with a 3-5 tone combo?
  3. If so, where are you?
  4. If not, why is it wrong in 4/6 places in my dictionaries?

I didn’t think about this until after my book had already gone to print so I’m sorry to say that it’s consistently written as “nǎli” throughout the pages of Chinese 24/7.  I thought the variations in the writing of the tones was due to the “secret tone” phenomenon.  You know, like cōngming 聪明 or péngyou 朋友, where everyone knows what tone that second character has (2 and 3, respectively) but some people will pronounce the real tone (especially if they speak slowly) and some people will pronounce it as a 5th (”light”) tone.

If I’d only really thought about it, I would have seen that’s not the case with nǎlǐ 哪里.  Why, oh why did I trust the majority opinion of the dictionaries?  Why didn’t I listen to my heart?  If we ever do a second printing, I’m definitely going with nǎlǐ unless someone can back me off the ledge and tell me everything’s going to be ok.

[update 3 June 2009]

I guess I should have included more examples of what I’m talking about.  Here are three different ways to say “nali” 那里 with three different tone combos.

Before we get distracted, the real issue is not my pronunciation of these three examples.  I’m not a native speaker and I’m not claiming these are the “correct” ways to say these combinations.  I’m just hoping I got close enough to give ya’ll a ball-park idea of what the differnet tone combos might sound like.  Feel free to criticize the zhonglish tones if I got them wrong.

But the real question is: Which of these have you heard native speakers say? (We’re going for descriptive rather than prescriptive rules here.)

Option #1: nǎlǐ (na3 li3)

//

Option #2: náli (na2 li5)

//

Option #3: nǎli (na3 li5)

//

My theory is that we’ve heard #1 and #2 but never #3.  If that’s true, then it is written wrong (as option #3) in many dictionaries.
Similar Posts (computer generated):

  1. 31 Responses to “Why Is Nǎlǐ 哪里 Written Wrong?”

  2. Jonathan SPAIN said:

    The hanzi for your second sound example needs to be altered.

    Interesting post!

    Comment date: May 24, 2009

  3. Albert CHINA said:

    Thanks Jonathan. A little copy-paste problem I guess.

    Comment date: May 24, 2009

  4. Nicki CHINA said:

    http://www.yellowbridge.com:
    “nǎli , sometimes listed as nǎlǐ”

    How are the book sales coming?

    Comment date: May 24, 2009

  5. 大羽 CHINA said:

    @Alerbt

    To be a native, sometimes I also feel very strange for some Chinese word pronunciation. Some word you can’t seperate that from a sentence, if you did, the pronunciation will be different.

    For example:

    你周末要去哪里? nǐ zhōu mò yào qù nǎ li
    I believe the native with a good flat accent will pronounce 哪里 with “nǎ li”

    If someone pronounce that “nǎ lǐ”, that’s sound not smoothly. That means, in there,you needn’t foucus on “ only a light tone is ok,otherwise the pronunciation looks really like “LaoWai” do.

    If I speake “你周末要去哪里?” to a westen guy. I will speak this slowly and word by word. So, in this situation, “哪里” will be pronounced as “nǎ lǐ”, Becasue I want to foucus on each word. But this pronounciation will let Chinese native feel very strange.

    As same as 聪明,in the following sentence , I suggest you guys prounce as “cōnɡ minɡ”.

    Meanwhile, I don’t suggest you follow the dictionary’s explain. you learn Chinese, the goal is speak as a native. If the dictionary suggest you pronounce that 3-3 tone, maybe that can only let you get a right answer but lost the “native” pronunciation.

    Comment date: May 24, 2009

  6. ShyNloc CHINA said:

    书面语言是:哪里 Nálǐ
    口语里面是:哪里 Náli
    更重要的是注意语境了。

    Comment date: May 24, 2009

  7. Albert CHINA said:

    @ShyNloc,
    Yes, you’re right. That’s how it sounds. But the question is not whether it’s “Nálǐ” (2-3) or “Náli” (2-5). Those are both pronounced very similarly (especially when spoken quickly). If it appeared in dictionaries as either of those I wouldn’t have written this post.

    The question is whether it’s ever pronounced “Nǎli” (3-5)?

    @大羽,
    When the “li” is pronounced lightly (in a good flat accent), we just want to know if it’s light up high, or light down low?

    Comment date: May 24, 2009

  8. 大羽 CHINA said:

    @Albert
    I peruse your post, however I really can’t understand what’s light up high or light down low?

    Would you pls clarify that clearly?

    Comment date: May 24, 2009

  9. Ho Sun Yan NORWAY said:

    I’m not a native speaker of Mandarin, but Albert is obviously right that 走吧 and 哪裡 have totally different tonal contours even though both are spelled 3-5 in pinyin.

    My best guess is that with a neutral tone is influenced to a certain extent by its “underlying” third tone, so that it behaves like a third tone except for being shorter and lighter. , of course, is not associated with the third tone in any way and so does not behave like this.

    Whatever the case, the dictionary compilers who write “nǎli” probably know what they are doing; they intend the word to be pronounced differently from a full “nǎlǐ”. But what they have in mind is most certainly not the tonal contour of “zǒu ba”.

    Comment date: May 25, 2009

  10. www.ChineseTeachers.com CHINA said:

    To answer your original first question “What does your dictionary have for 哪里?”, the iPhone QinWen application gives back Nǎli

    Maybe you can consider asking the Chinese teachers at http://www.chineseteachers.com to see how they say it – always best asking the natives.

    And with the free $5 credit until the end of the month, you can ask the question AND practice the tones for nearly 20 minutes with them for free!

    Hope you enjoy the offer – ends May 31st

    Comment date: May 25, 2009

  11. 大羽 CHINA said:

    “nǎli” probably know what they are doing
    ————————————————————————

    I agree!

    Example 1:
    Mother said to Mike: Mike,你明天要去哪里(nǎli

    Son: 和我朋友去参加聚会。

    I suppose , Mike’s mother had a feeling his son will go out and hope to make clear where he go…so , in this situation, 哪里 will be pronounced “nǎ li”.

    Example 2:

    My friend Mary: 你周末要去哪里?“Ná lǐ” (My opinion: “nǎ li” is also available )

    I 我要去长城。

    Mary totally don’t know what’s my plan at weekend, so she want to know what’s my plan at weekend—Where will I go at the weekend.

    Comment date: May 25, 2009

  12. Duncan CHINA said:

    I think this is one of those cases where it’s not really supposed to have a tone, eg in 喜欢, but people tend to put one there anyway, either by speaking slowly, for emphasis, or by force of habit.

    So I’m going for a 3/5, and I also believe that in 走吧 doesn’t have to be high – it’s only high when you are adding emphasis or again talking slowly, and in a normal situation it shouldn’t be high.

    I reckon the problem with these fifth tones is that when you are thinking about them over again in your mind you end up placing emphasis on them, which can be misleading.

    Comment date: May 25, 2009

  13. Mikael SINGAPORE said:

    Well, books tend to give the “theoretical” tones for and even in words or sentences where they aren’t pronounced with that tone due to tone sandhi. I guess it’s the same here – the dictionaries use the “official” tone for even though it is obviously pronounced with tone 2 in 哪里. Another interesting example is 指甲which is often given as tone 3 – tone 3 but is pronounced something like tone 1 – tone 5.

    Comment date: May 27, 2009

  14. Ho Sun Yan NORWAY said:

    I wonder if there is a special, unwritten rule governing the pronunciation of 3-5(3) words (i.e. disyllabic words in which the first syllable is 3rd tone while the second has a neutral tone derived from a 3rd tone) like 哪裡 and 指甲? (指甲 is given as 3-5 in some dictionaries but, as Mikael pointed out, is not pronounced in the expected manner.)

    Comment date: May 27, 2009

  15. 大羽 CHINA said:

    Toooooooo much complicated………..you know, native guys don’t care the things like sandhi etc. Just like western guys, do you guys learn phonetic symbol and pronounce according to it strictly ?

    Just like I learn english, the english phonetic symbol is very usuful when I began my english learning. But I found if I strickly pronounce according to it, it will lead me to a wrong way. becasue sometimes the western guy’s pronunciation have some small difference with what the phonetic symbol told me.

    So the best way for me to practice english is install a Satellite dish and watch CNN,BBC,Discovery, HBO. Becasue I know that’s the real pronounciation that native do.

    Comment date: May 29, 2009

  16. Bryce CANADA said:

    I absolutely agree with 哪里 having the wrong tones if it is written na3li5, since it is definitely na3li3. (or with tone sandhi: na2li3)

    走吧 is a true 3-5 tone combination.

    The from 哪里 can be pronounced lightly, but as can the from 你好, as can the from 没有, for example. Even if this is indeed pronounced lightly, it is still not a 3-5 tone contour.

    I am not a native speaker, but I pay very close attention to tones (having also been in a semi-Chinese speaking environment for years) and have studied some phonetics before.

    This is at least what I have noticed through personal experience.

    In respose to 大羽:
    I have never heard a native speaker of Chinese pronounce 哪里 with a 3-5 tone contour (which would be the same tone contour as 走吧). Perhaps this exists, but it does not sound like standard Mandarin. (at least not standard Mandarin from Mainland China).

    Comment date: May 30, 2009

  17. 大羽 CHINA said:

    @ Bryce:

    I consider that again and again, I agree 哪里 should be pronounced 3-3tonebut sometimes the second 3tone is very shortened.

    Compare with 走吧 3-5tone, 哪里 shouldn’t be 3-5tone…

    Maybe I can find a way record my pronounciation and post the hyperlink there.

    Comment date: May 30, 2009

  18. Bryce CANADA said:

    @ 大羽:

    I think that the 3-3 tone combination is very rarely pronounced like it is taught in the classroom/textbooks. I had trouble with this years ago when I first started learning Mandarin..

    The second 3rd tone from 哪里 or 没有, etc. is rarely realized as a full 3rd tone, but can be effectively described as a low 5th tone/shortened 3rd tone (which doesn’t go up). However, it is not the same as the official 5th tone (the tone of which changes in all 4 tone combinations).

    What is confusing is that the official 5th tone has 4 different realisations (sounds?) depending on the tone which precedes it.

    Tone of first syllable,Pitch of neutral tone
    1 ˥ ˨ (2)
    2 ˧˥ ˧ (3)
    3 ˨˩ ˦ (4)
    4 ˥˩ ˩ (1)

    (Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_Mandarin)

    If one looks at the “true tones” of the 5th tone (where it actually “realizes itself” (not sure if that is correct Eng)), one will see that the tone contour of the 3-5 combination (走吧) is similar to a 3-1 combination, with the second tone being shortened.

    The 3-3 combination, when the second tone being shortened/pronounced lightly, (which is very frequent) is similar to a ˨˧˥ – ˩ combination. (this being my personal observation)

    (I think it is more clear when you look at these bars (like the ones used in Cantonese), since they represent the tone contours better than the tone numbers/diacritics in 拼音)

    Comment date: May 30, 2009

  19. Bryce CANADA said:

    Note: The chart did not come out clearly in the previous message.. it might be better to click on the following link:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_Mandarin#Neutral_tone

    Comment date: May 30, 2009

  20. Bryce CANADA said:

    (oh.. where did my last message go? It was here last time I checked… ) Ha anyway you can check out wikipedia for information about the neutral tone.

    Comment date: May 31, 2009

  21. 大羽 CHINA said:

    @ Bryce

    That’s a great pronounciation lesson for me,hehe….It’s very impressive.

    Last time another western guy ask me, what’s the difference between “我们” and “咱们 I answered the question thoughtless,”Both are same….but 咱们 looks more friendly and intimate ” Few days later, that guy tell me what’s the difference, I totally agree with that.

    Thanks Bryce!

    Comment date: May 31, 2009

  22. Albert CHINA said:

    I’ve just posted an update with me pronouncing the different tone combos. I hope that will clear up any confusion on what I’m talking about. I’d be very curious to know if anyone thinks my theory is right (i.e. that it’s never pronounced “na3 li5″).

    I hope I got those audio files and the link embedded correctly.

    Comment date: Jun 3, 2009

  23. Bryce CANADA said:

    Ah~~ now that I see your explanation, Albert, I realized that the na3li5 should indeed be a na2li5.
    (perhaps more clear than what I had written before : “˨˧˥ ˩”)

    It is also more clear with your sound files. Thanks for the update.

    Comment date: Jun 4, 2009

  24. Christophe Strobbe BELGIUM said:

    Li Dong’s Beginner’s Chinese Dictionary (Tuttle, 2004) says “na3li5″. 那里 is rendered as na4li5, and 这里 as zhe4li5.

    Comment date: Jun 11, 2009

  25. Antonio UNITED STATES said:

    @大羽

    You says “nǐ zhōu mò yào qù nǎ li
    but the “na3li5″ I never heard.

    Pleae don’t confuse us, ok? if you think you are right, post a audio record.

    and I just ask several my chinese friends, in daily they just simply say “nǎr” ,and if read text on class ,it is “na2li3″ .

    The “na3li3″ just in single word, if in sentence, very few, because it’s too formal.

    Comment date: Jun 24, 2009

  26. Taiwanonymous TAIWAN said:

    I think Chinese dictionaries from Taiwan will list the tones as na3li3. There is no entry for 哪裡 in the Ministry of Education’s dictionary, but the entry for 那裡 lists the pronunciations as na4li3 and na3li3.

    http://dict.revised.moe.edu.tw/cgi-bin/newDict/dict.sh?cond=%A8%BA%B8%CC&pieceLen=50&fld=1&cat=&ukey=1846592160&serial=5&recNo=1&op=f&imgFont=1

    Comment date: Jun 29, 2009

  27. Zero UNITED STATES said:

    It’s quite simple actually.
    It is at heart a 3-3 word. But the “li” goes neutral. Nonetheless, the phantom third tone of the “li” still carries enough weight to make the 3-3 tone sandhi come into play. Tht would of course make it into a 2-3 combination. But again, the “li” has gone toneless.
    Hence, 2-5.
    Na2li is the standard pronunciation.

    Comment date: Jun 30, 2009

  28. Albert CHINA said:

    Zero,

    I think you’re right, and your explanation is great (I love the “phantom tones,” which was one of the original names for a Star Wars movie by the way, but it got changed in pre-production). But I don’t think that’s very simple. This is a very common word for first year (week) learners of Chinese to encounter and they shouldn’t be expected to figure that out on their own.

    I think an alternate explanation is that it’s really a 3-3 (like you and others have said) but that the second 3rd tone just falls away as so many do at the ends of words. In the sentence: “Wǒ yào hē shuǐ” 我要喝水, the final shui3 would sound “toneless” most of the time just because it’s a 3rd tone at the end.

    Comment date: Jun 30, 2009

  29. 大羽 CHINA said:

    I searched many files in the library,the answer should be as following:

    When two 3rd tones come together, the first tone changes tinto the 2nd(but its tone-graph remains “V”). e.g

    你好nǐ hǎo” and “哪里nǎ lǐ ” is actually pronounced as “你好ní hǎo” and “哪里ná lǐ”

    Comment date: Jul 19, 2009

  30. 大羽 CHINA said:

    One more thing,

    When a syllable in the 3rd tone precedes a syllable inthe 1st,2nd,4th or neutral tone, it is pronounced in the “half 3rd tone”, that is, the tone only falls but doesn’t rise.

    e.g
    你们nǐ mén”—-> “你们ni(half 3rd tone) mén “

    Comment date: Jul 19, 2009

  31. 大羽 CHINA said:

    e.g

    走吧zǒu ba”—-> “走吧zǒu(half 3rd tone) ba “

    Comment date: Jul 19, 2009

  32. Albert CHINA said:

    大羽,
    Thank you very much for the evidence that 哪里 should never be written as “na3 li5″. I think we’re all in agreement now that, judging by the way it is pronounced (we’re talking “descriptive” here people), the pinyin should be “na3 li3″ OR “ni2 li5.” I think, given those two choices “na3 li3″ is a MUCH better option since both and have 3rd tones when written by themselves.

    As for tone changes and combinations, I’ve mapped them all out. I wish I had an electronic copy to show everyone, but it’s just in my book. For complete explanations and diagrams of all two-tone combinations, see page 83-84 (unfortunately the Amazon “Search inside this book” feature isn’t up and running yet).

MDBG Dictionary Plugin for WordPress

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 10:07 am

MDBG Dictionary Plugin for WordPress

2009 June 3 – 4:51 pm | Categories: Computer| Leave a comment

Ok everyone (Joel), the suspense is over.

I have been working with (read: begging) MDBG for the past few weeks to develop and test something that will make self-hosted WordPress bloggers’ lives better.

I’m very proud to announce the arrival of the MDBG wordpress plugin (fanfare please)!

My favorite feature is the automatic linking of all hanzi in posts and comments (!) to the MDBG dictionary.  This is especially useful for my “power pidgin” writing style when I often write a sentence with English and Chinese hùn zài yìqǐ 混在一起 and  I don’t want to have to explain every word.  But it also includes a pinyin tone converter that turns “hun4 zai4 yi4qi3″ into “hùn zài yìqǐ” (with an optional link to pinyin pronunciation files).

That reminds me of a question I’ve been wanting to ask everyone (not just you Joel):

What do you use to make pinyin tones on your computer?

Before this plugin I always used this.

As a final bonus, if you use the plugin on your blog, you get added to a special VIP list at the bottom of the plugin page!

If anyone else is using some sort of auto-linking dictionary plugin, let us know how this one compares.

Can anyone who has a self-hosted WordPress blog think of a reason NOT to use the MDBG plugin at least for automatic linking in comments?

Why Is Nǎlǐ 哪里 Written Wrong?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 10:01 am

Why Is Nǎlǐ 哪里 Written Wrong?

2009 May 24 – 7:16 am | Categories: Tones| Leave a comment

First of all, let’s just hear what nǎlǐ 哪里 is supposed to sound like when said by a native speaker (excerpt from Chinese 24/7 audio files):

(hopefully Firefox users won’t have trouble with these)

qù nǎlǐ 去哪里? = Where are you going?

//

Now by itself: nǎlǐ 哪里

//

It’s clearly a 3-3 combo, just like nǐ hǎo 你好:

//

If it were really nǎli, it would sound like other  3-5 combinations such as zǒu ba 走吧:

//

In a 3-5 combination the second syllable is basically a 1st tone (maybe a little shortened).  That’s not how nǎli sounds to me.  I’m not talking about the 3-3 turning into a 2-3, we know that.  I’m talking about whether the second syllable is up high (like a 5th tone would be after a 3rd tone) or down low (like a 3rd tone would be at the end of a compound word).  I can’t hear it as anything but a 3rd tone.

Ok, is everyone convinced?  It’s pronounced nǎlǐ (tones 3-3) and not nǎli (tones 3-5). I’ve never heard it pronounced with a 3-5 combination that I can remember.

Now let’s do a little research.  Check all your dictionaries and see how it’s written.  Here are my results:

  • Chubby: Nǎli – WRONG!
  • Lenny
    • “Where” (E-C): not present, only gives nǎr 哪儿
    • 哪里” (C-E): Nǎli – WRONG!
  • Big Red
    • “Where” (E-C): Nǎlǐ – CORRECT!
    • 哪里” (C-E): Nǎli – WRONG!
  • MDBG: Nǎlǐ  – CORRECT!
  • Nciku: Nǎli- WRONG!

So my questions for everyone are:

  1. What does your dictionary have for 哪里?
  2. Has anyone ever heard nǎlǐ 哪里 pronounced with a 3-5 tone combo?
  3. If so, where are you?
  4. If not, why is it wrong in 4/6 places in my dictionaries?

I didn’t think about this until after my book had already gone to print so I’m sorry to say that it’s consistently written as “nǎli” throughout the pages of Chinese 24/7.  I thought the variations in the writing of the tones was due to the “secret tone” phenomenon.  You know, like cōngming 聪明 or péngyou 朋友, where everyone knows what tone that second character has (2 and 3, respectively) but some people will pronounce the real tone (especially if they speak slowly) and some people will pronounce it as a 5th (”light”) tone.

If I’d only really thought about it, I would have seen that’s not the case with nǎlǐ 哪里.  Why, oh why did I trust the majority opinion of the dictionaries?  Why didn’t I listen to my heart?  If we ever do a second printing, I’m definitely going with nǎlǐ unless someone can back me off the ledge and tell me everything’s going to be ok.

[update 3 June 2009]

I guess I should have included more examples of what I’m talking about.  Here are three different ways to say “nali” 那里 with three different tone combos.

Before we get distracted, the real issue is not my pronunciation of these three examples.  I’m not a native speaker and I’m not claiming these are the “correct” ways to say these combinations.  I’m just hoping I got close enough to give ya’ll a ball-park idea of what the differnet tone combos might sound like.  Feel free to criticize the zhonglish tones if I got them wrong.

But the real question is: Which of these have you heard native speakers say? (We’re going for descriptive rather than prescriptive rules here.)

Option #1: nǎlǐ (na3 li3)

//

Option #2: náli (na2 li5)

//

Option #3: nǎli (na3 li5)

//

My theory is that we’ve heard #1 and #2 but never #3.  If that’s true, then it is written wrong (as option #3) in many dictionaries.
Similar Posts (computer generated):

Pirate This: Music of the Laowai

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 9:59 am

2009 May 21 – 10:25 am | Categories: Blog Updates| Leave a comment

The idiom for the day:

rù xiāng suí sú 入乡随俗 = When in Rome, do as the Romans do

For me that means embracing piracy and actually encouraging downloading and file sharing of my music.  I’m sure I’ll never make a penny off of any of it (which would be more than some of it’s worth actually).  I’m letting people zìjǐ dòngshǒu 自己动手 to my songs for free!  Why so generous realistic?

Here’s exactly how it happened:

  1. My friend Jason and I wrote a Chinese pop song called “Wǒ Bú Shì Dōngxī 我不是东西” during the October holiday in 2007.  We didn’t think anyone would care, but the students loved it.
  2. I played the song at various shows and events around campus and even recorded a little demo mp3 in my amateur home recording studio.
  3. On March 15, 2009 I was interviewed on a Radio Guangdong show called “Voice of the City” during which they asked me about the song and ended up playing the demo mp3 on the radio.
  4. The students here at the campus radio station didn’t see any reason why a real radio station should play the song and not them, so they played my demo on the campus loudspeakers a few weeks ago.
  5. Since then, I’ve had several students from each class ask if they can please have the song.
  6. Some of the readers of my book have expressed disappointment that the “About the Author” section says I’ve “written a few Chinese pop songs,” but they aren’t available for download with the audio files.

So to answer these demands, I’m pleased to announce my new music website:

http://music.laowaichinese.net

(also available by clicking “Music” in the menu tabs at the top)

As a bonus (some would say punishment), there are other songs besides “Wǒ Bú Shì Dōngxī 我不是东西” on the site.  There are, in fact, three separate albums in process.

About half a dozen other songs for the various albums have already been written and will be released in the months ahead.

If you’d like to stay up to date on any new music as it gets recorded and released, you can subscribe to the music site in the side bar or by clicking here.

Enjoy!

Book in Hand- Lao wai chinese

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 9:56 am


I’m happy to announce that I’ve actually got a copy of my own book now.  The box from the publisher arrived a few days ago with 12 běn for me.  (Now there’s an indication of how excited I am: going out of my way to use a measure word–sheesh!)

This will most likely serve as my final communication to the book updates news letter, for a while at least.

But there are a few final bits and pieces to tell you about:

1. If anyone in China who ordered the book via Amazon actually receives it (and I have no doubt you will), would you please let me know how long it took to get here from the shipping date?  I’m curious about that.

2. The publisher has told me the most helpful thing anyone can do (besides actually buying the book) is to write a review on Amazon.  Apparently, those are the real currency of online book sales (whatever that means).  If anyone who has the book finds it useful, would you consider typing out a few kind words and clicking a few golden stars here?  You have to register an account with Amazon, but that’s pretty easy to do.   I’ve also added a “Write your own review” button to the sidebar for easy findability later.

3. If you’d like to see the “audio companion site” for my book, it’s here.  The MP3s are all free, but you’ll need to get the book to see the transcript and translation (and sometimes the excuse) for what’s being said.  Doing it this way saved us from having to press CDs and shrinkwrap them with the book.

4. Last and certainly least: because of peer pressure from MDBG, I’ve created a Facebook page for my book.  I have no idea what that means or what it’s for, but I have a feeling that someday I could post book-related news on there as well as here.  If anyone can explain what in the world a Facebook page is good for, I’m all ears?

Thanks again to everyone for the support during this process.  It finally feels like this project is over.  Now I can get back to work on those 45 draft posts that have been glaring at me for so many months.

Đa dạng hóa ngoại tệ trong TTQT

Đa dạng hóa đồng tiền trong thanh toán quốc tế

http://cafef.vn/20090720102122376CA34/da-dang-hoa-dong-tien-thanh-toan-ngoai-te-dau-chi-la-usd.chn

Có lẽ nói hơi quá, nhưng chuyện thanh toán bằng USD ở VN thì quả là nhiều thật …

http://cafef.vn/20090721013118961CA34/viet-nam-su-dung-usd-nhieu-nhat-the-gioi.chn

Định hướng thanh toán bằng ngoại tệ khác – Bài của TBKTSG

http://dantri.com.vn/c76/s76-339420/dinh-huong-thanh-toan-bang-ngoai-te-khac-usd.htm

Nói chung đẳng cấp là đẳng cấp, không giống mấy bài nhảm nhí đăng trên một số tờ lá cải.

Bà con vẫn lách, biết làm sao, là do cái tỷ giá liên ngân hàng ấy

http://dantri.com.vn/c76/s76-336020/lach-tran-ty-gia-usdvnd-chua-co-hoi-ket.htm

NH thừa USd tiền gửi, thiếu USD thanh toán … chuyện dài nhiều tập

http://cafef.vn/2009072509413286CA34/nhieu-ngan-hang-thua-usd-tien-gui.chn

Nút thắt tỷ giá

http://www.vneconomy.vn/20090723033226714P0C6/nut-that-ty-gia.htm

WordPacks: an introduction

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 9:45 am

This post is an introduction to what I call “WordPacks” – explaining what they are, and why I use them. Through use of WordPacks, your Mandarin study can be made more efficient and more focused.
There are different of types of WordPacks, and I have no interest in attempting to accurately categorise them. I mention a few types with the intention of creating frameworks in your mind that will allow you to start to see patterns yourself in what you’re learning.
Same Endings
Why would you memorise the following words at the same time:

* perfume, shampoo, tap water, saliva, glue, lemonade, sexual secretions, tears?

You wouldn’t – not if you were starting with English. But if you knew that all the words took the form “X shuǐ” [X 水] (where shuǐ means ‘water’), then you’ve already done most of the work.
Some of them are really obvious, like perfume which is “xiāng shuǐ” [香水] mearning “fragrant water”. (It’s the same “xiāng” as in the Mandarin word for Hong Kong, literally meaning “fragrant harbour”.) Others you may have to just memorise, like salary being “xīn shuǐ” [薪水].
With a little extra effort, you can learn 5-10 words in the time it takes to learn 2-3 independent words, and with a higher retention.
Same Beginnings
We can do exactly the same by looking at words which start with the same character. In this case we consider 真 (zhēn, meaning ‘true’ or ‘real’).
* zhēn huà (truth) (真话 => true speech)
* zhēn xīn (sincere) (真心 => true heart)
* zhēn zhèng (genuine) (真正 = true principle)
Word Build-up
WordPacks needn’t only be constructed on the basis of the characters which make up words – but can be based on parts which make up the character. This is of particular interest to people who are learning to read & write Chinese.
Consider the following:

* 上: shàng: on/previous
* 止: zhǐ: stop/prohibit
* 正: zhèng: correct/principle
* 证: zhèng: prove/proof

You’re basically adding one stroke at a time (two, in the last case) – and if you know the build-up of the character, you’ll sometimes find overlaps in meaning (as we see above), you’ll be less likely to confuse two similar-looking characters, and again your learning will be more efficient because you’re learning in “packs”.
Run-Ons
Another way of learning with WordPacks is based on a series of words which lead into each other. For example:

* huǒ chē – chē zhàn – zhàn tái
* train – station – platform
* 火车 – 车站 – 站台

Again, three words with less effort than memorising three independent words.
Radicals
A radical is where a character is embedded into another character, generally affecting the meaning of that character. You can find a radical index here.
So for example, whereas 女 (nǚ) stands alone to mean woman or female, it can be added to other characters as a ‘radical’ as we see in the following examples: 妊 (rèn, to conceive or be pregnant); 奶 (nǎi, meaning milk or breast). In both cases, you can see the link between the meaning of 女 and the meaning of the words which include the 女-radical.
Clearly, creating WordPacks on the basis of words which share the same radicals can make it much easier to remember.
Homonyms
The following characters are all pronounced exactly the same (including tones). It might be easier to learn these words together (you only have one pronunciation to learn!), but it might also be useful in avoiding confusion when you hear someone say shì.

* 是, 市,示, 世, 式, 事, 视

Theme
This is the most common way that people seem to teach & learn, by grouping words by theme. Unfortunately, it’s not the most efficient type of WordPack – as you can see if you were trying to learn the names of a few fruit, for example:

* táo zi: 桃子: peach
* níng méng: 柠檬: lemon
* píng guǒ: 苹果: apple
* xiāng jiāo: 香蕉: banana
* jú zi: 橘子: orange

It’s useful to group words like this, but obviously not as easy as using the other types of WordPacks.

Review: MandarinSpot (annotation)

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 9:43 am


Summary: If you’re looking for a website to annotate Chinese text, I recommend (and yes, I use) MandarinSpot.

Whether you’re learning to read Chinese, or are already mostly fluent, you’re going to be looking at Chinese text. (Yup, I worked that part out all by myself.)

And every time you come across a word that you don’t know, you copy & paste it into a web dictionary, and then move on. But that’s a painful process – especially if you’re a beginner and you’re pretty much looking up every word.

To speed that up, you can use annotation websites. Basically, you load the Chinese text through the annotation site. However, when you now hover your mouse over a word or a phrase, a little popup tells you how to pronounce it in pinyin, and what it means.

MandarinSpot allows you to enter web addresses, or to paste Chinese text – either of which get annotated.

1. Websites

You can see MandarinSpot in action on the BBC Chinese-language site from the following screen capture, and note the transliteration & translation wrt the phrase I’m hovering over:

There are many different annotation tools out there, but my reasons for using MandarinSpot include:

  • it preserves the appearance of the website (some annotation sites seem to reformat the page a bit, or not cope well with images)
  • it preserves the function of websites (a couple of other sites I tried made a mess when I clicked links on annotated pages)
  • it doesn’t just translate individual characters, but gives you the entire word or phrase where relevant (again, see screen capture above)
  • it gives you five options for annotation, including Hanyu Pinyin, Tongyong Pinyin & Wade-Giles)

And at one point I had problems where it was giving me cached versions of one particular page, so I emailed MandarinSpot – and Alex replied, did some tinkering, and it worked. So they feel more ‘personal’ to me.

2. Pure Text

If you simply have text, then paste into into the text box on the MandarinSpot page, and you get something along the lines of the following (text taken from the BBC sports page). Note how the transliteration is provided alongside the Chinese text, with the popup window also giving you translations:


Reasons for using MandarinSpot in this context include:

  • Again, you have five options for your method of transliteration
  • There is a print option – see the screen cap below – which does two great things: (a) it formats the output for printing, and (b) it gives an option to have the vocab from the text neatly presented at the end of the text (if you’re an advanced reader, you can choose just to have words listed which are HSK Level x and above)

Finally, other things worth noting are:

  • MandarinSpot also has a dictionary
  • It’s all powered by CC-CEDICT
  • They provide javascript-based bookmark links, so that you can make using the site’s tools even easier for yourself
  • There is a mobile version of the site, for people accessing it through a Blackberry, iPhone, or similar
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