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Freakyqi, my pleasure! Yes, I do know you've just landed in China. I've been following your adventures with great interest, on your other thread. I was in China for a while too, and am also a beginner at Chinese. Yes, keep going. You provide a most refreshing perspective on life in China. |
Of course, we do have intonation in English, as you have observed, which is different from the Chinese tone system in that it is dependent on context and not fixed to syllables according to pre-determined rules. And, intonation can give away someone who is not really a native speaker of the language.
My personal feeling regarding intonation is that it is culture-dependent. In my opinion, people with cultures that have much closer interpersonal relationships tend to add a lot more intonation, because they attach that much more emotion to each word they say, which in turn arises from their sense of closeness with the person they are speaking to. Whereas, it is a lot less in western culture where people have lots more interpersonal distances. English spoken by other cultures, especially Asian, can sound sing-song to westerners for this reason. It can be quite hard to change one's intonation habits, and can take lots and lots of listening and practice.
I have no doubt, as Canchin pointed out, that Chinese speakers too have their own conventions for smooth connected speech (that's definitely one of the reasons why I find it so hard at times to comprehend spoken Chinese :-) However, native English speakers trying to speak Chinese may not intuitively follow the same system of connected speech. In fact, they probably won't. They'll more likely try their own version of connected speech, fondly imagining that they are speaking like native Chinese speakers. Merely slurring your word endings does not make for connected speech.
English is a stress timed language, where the time durations between one content word's stressed syllable and the next are approximately equal within sentences, leading to a rhythmic production of word groups with unequal word lengths.The function words may barely be audible, which can make it hard for non-native English speakers to understand native English speakers. I don't think this happens in Chinese which is a syllable timed language (do you have things like strong and weak forms, assimilation, elision, juncture, intrusion, etc?). But native English speakers may be applying their own versions of these unconsciously, stressing on what they consider content words and going easy on the others.
You will also need to get used to differences in syntax; your word order. That could be a dead giveaway. For example, how does your placement of adverbs of time in sentences compare in Chinese and English languages?
Damn. So many things. Wonder if I'm ever going to make it.