LoneAcorn Post time 2013-2-16 11:27:20

Why correct inflection is important

Mandarin is a tonal language, and a misused inflection can change the meaning of a sentence.

Take for example the syllable “ma”. It can mean mother, sesame/hemp, horse or even verbal attack, depending on the inflection, which could lead to awkward moments at the dinner table.

Here is the word ‘ma’ with four tone marks:






LoneAcorn Post time 2013-2-16 11:42:23

Here's another example:

小姐, 水饺一碗多少钱?
Xiao3jie3, shui3jiao3 yi1 wan3 duo shao qian?
Waitress, how much is an order of dumplings?
小姐, 睡觉一晚多少钱?
Xiao3jie3, shui4jiao4 yi1 wan3 duo shao qian?

水饺 shui3jiao3 (both third tone) means dumplings
睡觉 shui4jiao4 (both fourth tone) means sleep

The two different tones of "shui jiao" not only indicate two totally different meanings but also change the meaning of what "Xiaojie" stands for (waitress/prostitute) and "yi wan" (an order or one bowl/one night).

LoneAcorn Post time 2013-2-16 11:42:48

So it's important for beginners to also focus on pronouncing the correct tones.

youknowhat Post time 2013-2-20 03:03:52

therefore the accent of a native and a foreigner makes it a huge differ in conversations; it takes years to come to get rid of accent or even to adapt it  {:soso_e114:}{:soso_e113:}

LoneAcorn Post time 2013-2-20 20:36:13

youknowhat Post time: 2013-2-20 03:03 static/image/common/back.gif
therefore the accent of a native and a foreigner makes it a huge differ in conversations; it takes y ...

True in some cases {:1_1:}

querist Post time 2013-3-14 22:39:08

I've had my own "adventures" with this problem...

I was talking to one of my Chinese colleagues, and after she had explained a different grammatical point to me, I wanted to thank her for her kind offer to answer future questions that I may have about your language. So, I intended to say:
"我不明白的时候,我可以问你。" wo3 bu4 ming2bai2 de shi2hou, wo3 ke3yi3 wen4 ni3.

问 - wen4 means "to ask" (for those who do not know the word.)

But instead I said:
"我不明白的时候,我可以吻你。" wo3 bu4 ming2bai2 de shi2hou, wo3 ke3yi3 wen3 ni3.

吻 - wen3 means "to kiss".

And to make this worse, that female colleague of mine is quite beautiful and only about a year younger than I am.

She laughed and explained my mistake in a very good-humoured way. I was rather embarrassed, of course, but she was quite understanding and kind about it. I'm VERY careful with my tones now.

querist Post time 2013-3-14 22:44:00

This post was edited by querist at 2013-3-14 09:44

youknowhat Post time: 2013-2-19 14:03 static/image/common/back.gif
therefore the accent of a native and a foreigner makes it a huge differ in conversations; it takes y ...
I guess maybe my background in music has helped, because while my vocabulary is limited, I have been told by many Chinese that my pronunciation is very standard and I sound like someone from Beijing. The credit goes to my colleagues in China who have all been very patient with me and have helped me considerably with my Chinese.

That's something I've noticed in my many trips to China - the Chinese people, in general, are very patient with foreigners who are trying to learn their language and they are all quite helpful, even a busy clerk at a cash register in a store. I've been all over the world, and I have to say that by far the friendliest and kindest people I've ever met anywhere have been in China, with Mexico being a close second.

(edited to correct typographical error)
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