2009年 10月 14日, 星期三 - 格林尼治标准时间10:11

Emmet's Student Diary 伦敦学生博客第三周

Emmet Conlon O'Reilly

Wednesday 14th October 2009 – First Impressions

Hi everyone,

Xiè xiè to Liuyang for the information about military training before starting studies in Chinese universities; I can imagine how it instils a degree of discipline and co-operation among students from the beginning. I thought we had it tough with our twenty hours of classes per week.

I hope, like Anthea who also emailed, everyone enjoyed the National Day celebrations a couple of weeks ago as well as the Moon Festival. Thanks also to Stella’s email about the variety of clubs and societies in Hong Kong universities.

School of Oriental and African Studies

The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London

This week has been all about getting to grips with the sounds that occur in Mandarin. There are a couple of issues that students usually struggle with. First of all, there is the concept of the four different tones: even tone, rising tone, descending and then rising tone, and finally, the descending tone. After a few practice runs I think I got the idea.

However, the next stumbling block for a lot of people are the phonetic sounds that are alien to a student’s native tongue. All week I’ve been listening to the language cassette in my room repeating the sounds: “zh, ch, sh” and “ji, qi, xi” over and over again. These are the sounds that don’t crop up in English and I’ve had some trouble with them. It’s come to the point where the guys on my floor are wondering about the strange noises coming from my room. Practice makes perfect I guess.

I’m also studying linguistics as part of my degree and the phonetic element of languages really interests me. I recently read an article suggesting that many Irish and Eastern European people curse a lot because their original native languages are full of harsh consonant sounds. And the article said that perhaps when these people learned English, they found that the only similar sounding words in English are curse words. It’s an interesting and controversial theory but one that would be very difficult to prove.

School of Oriental and African Studies

SOAS teaches both classical and simplified Chinese

The aspect of the course that has really captured my imagination has been classical Chinese. SOAS is one of only three universities in the UK that still teaches the classical literary language rather than just the simplified version. I enjoy the logic behind so many characters. An obvious example is the word “hao”. The character meaning woman added to the character meaning man equals “hao” or “good” in English.

Back to “zh, ch, sh”, I’ve got about forty radicals to memorise in two days. We’ve got 214 of these common characters to learn throughout the year so I’d better get cracking. If I manage to get it done I’ll have earned a couple of hours watching the football. Ireland plays Montenegro tonight so fingers crossed.

Keep in touch, Emmet.

instils 灌输 a degree of 一定程度的 tough 吃不消的/难度大的 struggle 应对 practice run 尝试 stumbling block 障碍 phonetic 语音的 trouble 困难 floor 楼层 curse 诅咒语 harsh 生硬的 consonant 辅音 theory 理论 prove 证明 logic 逻辑 radicals 部首 earned 争取到

Emmet used the phrase getting to grips with, which means dealing with something, or learning how something works. E.g. “I’m getting to grips with riding a bicycle – I’ve only fallen off once today.”  He said that some of the sounds in Mandarin don’t crop up in English. He means that these sounds don’t appear in English. E.g. “I revised everything for my exam because I didn’t know which topics would crop up” or: “I planned some extra time for my project in case any problems cropped up.”  If something captures your imagination it means that it interests you so much you want to find out more. E.g. “The first chapter of the book captured my attention and I didn’t want to stop reading.”  Emmet said he’d better get cracking with his studies. This phrase means to get started. Here’s another example: “Have you packed yet? You’ve got to get cracking or you’ll miss the train.”   The term fingers crossed is a superstitious term used in English when someone hopes for good luck. For example: “Good luck with your exam, I’ll have my fingers crossed for you” or: “My essay will be ready by the deadline – fingers crossed.”

Question of the week

What aspects of learning English do you find difficult? What sounds of the English language are tough for you to pronounce?

Email me and you might see your answers at the bottom of this page.

Email Emmet at 按键 chinaelt@bbc.co.uk


Your Replies

Note: We do not correct the English in comments posted.
注意:我们对大家的英语留言不做任何修改和更正。

Dear Emmet, Hi my name is Angel. I'm Chinese from Hong Kong. We start to learn English since we are 3-year-old when we go to Kindergarden. We first learn alphabet with some words, eg, A for apple, B for Boy, C for cat, etc.

Even we learn English in so early age, but our English still not very good. Maybe we only use English at the English lesson, everything when you use less you will forgot it easily.

Actually, learning a new language is difficult, because it's not your mother tongue. But as you said "Practice make Perfect". I think grammer is the most difficult part of learning English. And some of the pronounciations is difficult for Asians. For examply "th", normally it's non sound.

I really like that BBC learning English web site, I found it very useful.

Now I'm learning also Mandarin and pinyin that I could type Chinese characters. For me, I also feel it difficult, coz Cantonese and Mandarin pronounce are different.

All the Best!! I will keep on eye of your diary. Good Luck!!

Angel, Hong Kong

Hello, Emmet. It seems you have a really tight schedule learning Mandarin.And your describtion of studying those “zh ch sh” and Chinese characters really captured my imagination. I remember days when i first studied these pronunciations and characters in kindergarten. And looking back, i can imagine how difficult it is for foreiners to learn Chinese. But as you said, practise makes perfect. And interest is the best teacher.

Right now i am just beginning to study French, so my French is at the same level with your Mandarin. I got totally crazy figuring out how to put my tongue right to make the sound "Tr, kr, dr…" but listening to cassettes and trying to imitate the sounds is really something fun to me. And after a while, you will definitely make progress as you get more familiar with them.

One thing about Classic Chinese, surely it is more subtle than the simplified Chinese but i think the majority of the foreigner are glad to learn the simplified version so that their pain is lessened. But when your Mandarin has reached a certain level, you have to learn Classic Characters. I am studying Chinese on my own, and the textbooks of ancient Chinese are all printed in classic characters. And if you are interested i can show you the picture of my textbook - The Ancient Chinese Language.

Liuyang, China

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