All the different sounds
|Sometimes the road feels a bit long...|
Every sound has a meaning
|Is it chicken meat or muscles?|
One of the things every foreigner struggles with in the beginning is the fact that Chinese have different tones; Four different tones that are really five as there is one that is called a neutral tone as well. I will write more about the tones from a western perspective later, but for now; Just be aware that there is a difference, and that even if you chose the right word but get the tone wrong, people may not understand you. You have to study people's reactions when you talk to them, it is the best indicator. That does of course mean you have to go out and speak to people – the locals, not the other foreigners.
|Patience. Patience. Listen listen listen listen!|
You need to be exposed to Chinese, put yourself in situations where locals are talking chinese. It is the one thing I need to do myself as well; Go out and get exposed to the language. I just need to try and find the time to do so!
I actually very very recently found a good way of getting my head around sounds; There is no point in practising the Chinese tones on my own, when I am out walking or in my room, I don't have anyone here who can correct me and I end up practising the wrong thing and then have to relearn, which is far more difficult. The sounds I can practise - how to twist your tongue and so forth, as that is a matter of where to put your tongue, to hold your mouth open or closed, how to twist your tongues and so on. I just can't practise tones, not on my own - the best way and the only way is listening to and being around Taiwanese and Chinese people. But I realised that I can practise tones with words from the languages I already know; That way I can easily hear the difference - the sounds are already familiar to me - and because I know the other languages so well it doesn't impact my normal language, instead I can hear the same word and contemplate on the differences when I apply the Chinese tones to them. It works well, and I can't believe I didn't think of it before.
About mandarin and other Chinese languages
One thing that is important to remember that there are many different languages in China as well as in Taiwan. Don't make the mistake that people in the west sometimes STILL do, of thinking that there is only one language in China and Taiwan. Many Chinese people (as in people from mainland China) don't speak as mandarin as their first language, even if it is the official language in China, there are a lot of people that have another language as their native language It is the same in Taiwan. Mandarin is the official language but Taiwanese is a very important language here too, and there are many other big languages as well. These other languages may be completely different from what we in the western world like to call "Chinese" or mandarin. In Hong Kong, for example, Cantonese is the first language, and many people that I met in and from Hong Kong are telling me that they find mandarin difficult, the way many people in Europe don't speak English very well, even if it is their second language.
Notice: One of the reasons I am in Taiwan is that I want to learn traditional characters, which is what they use here. In Mainland China the characters used are the simplified, this means there may be differences in my examples and the characters you see elsewhere. If you read traditional you can normally understand simplified as well; We just have more lines... Separate post to follow.