Pinyin or intuitive/phonetic as pronunciation guide

estudiantedeespanol

Senior Member
English - America
I am looking for some feedback on Chinese pronunciation for English speakers. I am working on a basic language guide and want to include the best pronunciation possible. Some guides go with Pinyin and others go with intuitive pronunciation e.g. wǒ yǒ pyào (for I have a ticket).

Any thoughts on what would give English speakers of Mandarin the best shot at being understood?

- Erin
 
  • kittikat

    New Member
    English - American
    Intuitive might be easier for people whose main target is to learn to pronounce words quickly and easily, for travel purposes maybe. Pinyin would be more useful to learn in the long-term, because it's more accepted and widely used. Which of these reasons would be more helpful to you?
     

    estudiantedeespanol

    Senior Member
    English - America
    I am going to include the Chinese characters as well so I am really interested in getting the most accurate pronunciation w/r/t to pinyin vs. phonetic pronunciation. This said, I am confused about whether Pinyin is phonetic pronunciation or a simplified written language that would always be accompanied with pronunciation itself in a language guide. Can you please help me out with this? Thanks!
     

    kittikat

    New Member
    English - American
    Hmmm.

    Pinyin can be difficult to pronounce phonetically if the speaker doesn't get the basics of the Pinyin system. For example, someone with no understanding of Pinyin whatsoever might mispronounce "Zhongguo"...but once you've learned basic Pinyin, pronouncing things is easy.

    So I guess to answer the question simply, yes, Pinyin is phonetic pronunciation.

    But does that help?
     

    estudiantedeespanol

    Senior Member
    English - America
    I'm still a bit confused...it sounds to me like Pinyin is a written "language" which would require pronunciation rules to sound out the same way English or Traditional Chinese characters would. If this is the case, it would seem to me that English speakers would want to see the Chinese characters, the associated pinyin and finally, the pronunciation of the Pinyin characters? What is your thought? To keep it shorter for purposes of a language guide, however, it seems like it would be okay to leave out the 'written pinyin' since users can point to the Chinese characters if people are not able to understand their Pinyin pronunciation. Do you think this makes sense?

    Thanks for the help.
     

    kittikat

    New Member
    English - American
    Yeah, you could say that, you could compare it to another "language" of sorts. I guess I would say it's a bridge between the English alphabet and Chinese characters, a little step mid-way.

    It sounds like you are writing a basic guide to help English speakers pronounce each individual Chinese word (learning Chinese for conversational/travel purposes), rather than a guide to teach the entire language (like learning Chinese as you would in a university course).

    In my opinion, considering the intended purpose is really important to making the right decision between Pinyin and intuitive pronunciation here. You said "to keep it shorter for purposes of a language guide, however, it seems like it would be okay to leave out the 'written pinyin' since users can point to the Chinese characters if people are not able to understand their Pinyin pronunciation"...I think that sounds like a good approach.

    Hopefully this isn't too frustrating! lol.
     

    palomnik

    Senior Member
    English
    I don't know if you're doing anybody any favors by trying to avoid Pinyin.

    Back in the 1940's (I think), Yale University developed their own transliteration system, which was supposed to be "easier" to learn correct pronunciation from, at least for Americans. They produced a whole generation of textbooks using it. Some examples:

    Pinyin: xiao Yale: syau
    Pinyin: si Yale: sz
    Pinyin: zhong Yale: jung
    Pinyin: jiao Yale: jyau
    Pinyin: hong Yale: hung.

    Personally, I really don't think that the Yale system is any closer to an accurate reflection of correct pronunciation than Pinyin is.

    What's worse, it can cause confusion. I'm learning Thai right now, and one of the most confusing features of the language is that every textbook uses a different transliteration system. Sticking to the well-tested has its virtues.
     
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    Forero

    Senior Member
    Pinyin is phonetic. Except for the occasional ambiguous syllable division, one can always look at the pinyin and pronounce the words. The bo-po-mo-fo system is another good one, but pinyin gives us the advantage of already knowing how to write the symbols.
     

    Ripple.Z

    Member
    Chinese (Beijing dialect)
    I don't know if you're doing anybody any favors by trying to avoid Pinyin.

    Back in the 1940's (I think), Yale University developed their own transliteration system, which was supposed to be "easier" to learn correct pronunciation from, at least for Americans. They produced a whole generation of textbooks using it. Some examples:

    Pinyin: xiao Yale: syau
    Pinyin: si Yale: sz
    Pinyin: zhong Yale: jung
    Pinyin: jiao Yale: jyau
    Pinyin: hong Yale: hung.

    Personally, I really don't think that the Yale system is any closer to an accurate reflection of correct pronunciation than Pinyin is.

    What's worse, it can cause confusion. I'm learning Thai right now, and one of the most confusing features of the language is that every textbook uses a different transliteration system. Sticking to the well-tested has its virtues.

    After reading the Yale transliteration system I can't agree with this point more.
     

    alphaprincess

    Member
    Chinese
    I'm still a bit confused...it sounds to me like Pinyin is a written "language" which would require pronunciation rules to sound out the same way English or Traditional Chinese characters would. If this is the case, it would seem to me that English speakers would want to see the Chinese characters, the associated pinyin and finally, the pronunciation of the Pinyin characters? What is your thought? To keep it shorter for purposes of a language guide, however, it seems like it would be okay to leave out the 'written pinyin' since users can point to the Chinese characters if people are not able to understand their Pinyin pronunciation. Do you think this makes sense?

    Thanks for the help.

    Well I'd say pinyin to native Chinese speakers is nothing but phonetic pronunciation, and that's basically because we mastered it from childhood. Technically, it's not a formal variety of written language but it's usually used as phonetic annotation for children who still can't recognize complex Chinese characters. My mom is a Chinese teacher at a primary school and I am fully aware of her methodology in teaching little kids to first identify and then read pinyin by doing little "bo po mo fo" practice with them. Likewise, after some proper training, all Chinese learners will eventually get how exactly pinyin and phonetic pronunciation match up and form in their heads the corresponding relationship between the Chinese pinyin and the international phonetic alphabet.

    As for your confusion about the difference between intuitive pronunciation and pinyin, my suggestion is "take it easy". In fact, either way will do and the difference to me seems all about the form and appearance. Apparently however, precise pronunciation is your top concern so perhaps pinyin is more effective in terms of getting rid of a foreign accent, considering you will have to completely scrap the old way of pronunciation and toss it onto the rubble heap.

    But let's say, "wo yo pyao" enunciated by westerners sound pretty much like "wo you piao" by native Chinese speakers. I've done an interesting online research before and the result turned out, for the most part, that native English speakers found it much easier to pick up the Chinese language by using intuitive pronunciation, or in other words, your version of pinyin. The bottom line is the same Latin letters in different countries are pronounced differently, so why not carry on with your own convenient system and just try to adapt it a little bit? At least that way, your book will be more practical and hence more attractive.

    In fact, most of the time, it's only the clearness of pronunciation that really matters. Admittedly inside, we all possess a fairly high threshold, pertaining to our tolerance of accents.
     
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    samanthalee

    Senior Member
    Mandarin, English - [Singapore]
    The bottom line is the same Greek letters in different countries are pronounced differently, so why not carry on with your own convenient system and just try to adapt it a little bit? At least that way, your book will be more practical and hence more attractive.

    I couldn't agree with this more. Indeed "intuitive phonetic" will need to be adapted to your target audience. I personally thinks Pinyin is closer to German than to English; but that's just my opinion.

    My American colleague was asking me why "cai" isn't written as "tsai", since it sound closer...but she understood immediately after I told her to pronounce "chai" and then try dropping the "h" sound, ie. "chai". So...Pinyin really isn't "intuitive" for English speakers as the correlation between English pronunciation and English spelling is rather complicated... :D
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Pinyin is about as intuitive as a system based on Western spelling can get and still be accurate. Any other spelling, though it may seem "intuitive", will likely level multiple sounds into one symbol and slow down the learning of the Chinese phonemes. Pinyin uses the Latin letters in a fairly familiar way and is designed so that (with the exception of syllable division) two sounds never have the same symbol or pair of symbols.

    The few digraphs in pinyin are no problem to English speakers. The digraph ng comes naturally to those accustomed to reading English, and the digraphs ch, zh, sh can be pronounced as plain c, z, s for a Southern "accent" without much loss of understanding. For English speakers, of course, ch and sh are familiar, and zh is analogous to z (pronounced as in Italian) as ch is to c (as in German) and sh is to s. Both sh and s are as in American English, not as in German.

    The syllable division issue only comes into play with the sequence "vowel n g vowel". Being unfamiliar with the elements of a word, we might read the ng as a digraph when n followed by g is meant, or vice versa.
     

    Nigel Patel

    New Member
    English-American
    There is Zhuyin (also known as "bo-po-mo-fo") that has 37 phonetic symbols for converting Pinyin. The simplified characters are used as a teaching aid for children in Taiwan.
     

    indigoduck

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I am looking for some feedback on Chinese pronunciation for English speakers. I am working on a basic language guide and want to include the best pronunciation possible. Some guides go with Pinyin and others go with intuitive pronunciation e.g. wǒ yǒ pyào (for I have a ticket).

    Any thoughts on what would give English speakers of Mandarin the best shot at being understood?

    - Erin

    -Why invent the wheel AGAIN ?
    -"pinyin" system is recognized by far-more chinese and chinese students alike
    -What happens to their learning after your book ?
    -What if they seek pronounciation from people who don't know your system ?
    -Language learning was never intended to be the short-cut
    -pinyin is mostly intuitive
    -provide additional examples or an appendix if you will.
    -Pinyin is already a complete/consisten system.

    Why take my word for it ?
    Include a few examples of those words/phrases you'd like to include in your manual, and let us show you how we'd present them so that they are intuitive to English speakers.

    Or, perhaps you'd like to use a combination ...

    For example:

    English = small
    Chinese character = 小
    Pinyin = xiao
    Intuitive = Shell + Wow (Sh like Shell, Ow like Wow) *here's a system that i like
     

    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    If a reader has no previous knowledge of Pinyin, then he/she will have to learn some basic pronunciation rules, particularly for the following:

    zh/ch/sh
    j/q/x
    z/c/s

    When I learnt Putonghua, we started with Pinyin pronunciation lessons and this included learning the tongue position and the degree of aspiration for each of the above.

    My feeling is that Pinyin is not intuitive for a learner and so needs to be explained in advance.

    Hope this helps.
     
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