It’s all about the Tone

This Tone?

Don’t be ridiculous.  A slice of late 8os hip-hop (or is it rap?) has no place here, although I admit it retains a certain je ne sais quoi.

No, I’m referring to the much-maligned tones in the Chinese language.  I say maligned.  I mean misunderstood, or misheard, or mispronounced.  It’s a minefield out there.

Anyway, I’m guessing that pretty much any foreigner who has studied Chinese lately will be familiar with this irritating little ditty.

Essentially, this revolves around the common problem of sleep and dumplings.

Sleep. 睡 (shuìjiào)

Dumplings. 水餃 (shuǐjiǎo)
[edit: the accents should be over the i and the a – can’t figure out how to get it to display it like that…?!]

I (now) understand the difference (4th tone and 3rd tone, respectively), but can I hear the difference?  Can I fu…

…nnily enough, no.  (Okay, I won’t use that again.)

On a more serious note, tone is rather important in English.  It can be very difficult to pick up on the intended tone of a Tweet or other written communication, and this is undoubtedly the root cause of much misunderstanding.  Sarcasm, among many other elements of language, has a heavy reliance on tone.  I’m looking forward to the day I am proficient enough in Chinese to *cough* compliment some of the more idiotic clowns in cars and on scooters.  “Hey! Nice use of the indicator, Coco!”

Back to sleep and dumplings.  I think this is why I feel more comfortable focusing my efforts on learning to read and write.

I think (我得, wǒ juédé) 睡 and 水餃 have nothing in common, so I needn’t fret too much about misreading and misunderstanding.
[Edit: as above, accent displaying in an odd way – should be over the o]

Oh crap!  The red characters, 我得 and 睡are written exactly the same way and have completely different sounds, tones and meanings.

Yeah!  Thanks a lot ancient Chinese scholars, or whoever it was who came up with this.  Learning Chinese is going to be so easy.

 

 

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: