Frustrated with Mandarin

Ha. I got told the opposite… my first tones sounded like 4th.

But you always worry you sound like you’re ordering people around with those 4th tones… even though that feeling makes no sense.

Vietnamese has 6 tones, so I didn’t bother.

Bahasa Indonesia is probably by far the easiest SE Asian language, for many reasons. You can read it straight out of a phrasebook in their latin script, and they understand 95 percent of the time. Its also kind of a second language for all of Indonesia, which puts everyone on equal ground.


My Mandarin breakthrough moment was learning by speaking with non Mandarin speakers in China. Sounds kinda stupid but my learning got a huge boost in competence once I was learning with people who didn’t really speak Mandarin very confidently. Like you said it kinda put us in a more even position. The town I learned in spoke a Hmong-miao-xiang hybrid language. So a mix of a Sinitic and a non Sinitic language. Everyone understood Mandarin but most didn’t speak very confidently, some not at all. Just like me :sunglasses:

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I guess that’s what they mean by 教學相長

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The only reactions I’ve ever gotten in Japan when I speak Japanese are thinly veiled contempt and a look of uneasiness like they wish I would stop.

It’s a viable strategy in the south of China including Taiwan. Be aware though that northern Chinese tones are much wider. Like, you can really hear the tone whereas here it’s takes a good ear to pick them up.

It’s the same speaking with indigenous Taiwanese. First time I ever spoke with an indigenous Taiwanese I thought they were taking the piss out of my accent.


haha, welcome to SEA.

My landlord used to talk to me with a perfect 50/50 mix of obsequiousness AND contempt at the same time. He was able to transmit both emotions simultaneously.

They might be more friendly up in Hokkaido, Osaka, or Okinawa… but Ive never been.

One guy I met in Bali said he’d lived in Japan for 10 years and never been accepted.

Had this convo with my gfs dad a number of times, hes a taxi driver. It infuriates him.

A ton of importance is placed on tones. But still i dont understand how he is dumbfounded by a mispronciation. For example dan shui with wrong tones throws them off but no such place exists… how hard is it to reason that the customer meant danshui just said it wrong.

He has no idea how foriegners can make such mistakes… even tho he himself makes mistakes. He told me the other day he had ‘pizza guomin’…


I think you have to learn to NOT understand.

It sounds weird, but here is the thing: In Chinese, if you would “more or less” understand, than you loose meaning. For example, a friend of mine mentioned that “zhong1wen2 tai2nan4”. Obviously, I understood and all of you will understand it as well. But the overseas Chinese didn’t due to incorrect tones.

Think about a brain that doesn’t mishear something. Suddenly, you have a word that creates 20 different meanings in your mind. Everything gets completely messed up. You would die of exhaustion.

Now, wouldn’t it make sense to be able to understand foreigners when they speak and to assume they mean the most basic words no matter the tones? Yes! Other foreigners, but also Mandarin teachers would probably all understand Dan1Shui3 means the place in the north of Taipei. But they have learnt this due to exposure to a lot of incorrect pronunciation. They have to have experience listening to foreigners, putting in extra effort and assuming only basic Chinese is spoken.

My Chinese is still just soso, but I know I have to master tones. It is incredibly difficult. Not only knowing or pronouncing the right tone, but to really naturally pronounce it. Too often, the 4th tone becomes an exclamation mark. As if you shout commands at others.

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Like some others said in this thread, Mandarin is not something you can just dabble with, I fully believe you need to spend a good 3-4 hours per day for at least a couple of years, preferably In a classroom when starting out. Aftet 2 years, you should have a firm grasp of the grammar structure and rules.

I started learning in 2018, I did 3 semesters at the MTC and then went back to my home country and self studied for 2 years. at this point I was able to read most fiction books and started to practice reading newspapers. I then headed back to Taiwan to do a bachelors degree where I learned lots about Chinese History and Arts (100% in Chinese)

Nowadays Chinese is my main language, I can go many days without using my mother tounge and rarely encounter any words I am unsure of. My advice to you would be a combination of reading and listening to the radio/podcasts, your Chinese ability will skyrocket.

Well sure you say something wrong, and it doesn’t click, that’s all that is happening.

I just think its a bit over the top considering the context of being a taxi driver. And expecting tourists to have perfectly pronounced all correct tones Chinese, or you couldn’t even guess where they want to go, its pretty ridiculous imo.