So I have just basically started learning Chinese. My teacher has told me I am not to use any form of pinyin at ALL because she told me its not the ‘right’ way to learn Chinese. For example, many Asians who learn English and try to spell out English words in their native language never end up speaking fluently or pronouncing it correctly. Instead shes got me going basics, like reading and writing out my bur pur mur fur’s.
The thing is I don’t have the option of doing it differently with her as she sets the rules. I just want some other opinions on her teaching methods. Is this a good way to start off learning?
She knows how to teach using bopomofo and probably doesn’t know how to teach using pinyin. She’s displaying her rigid thought structure and her inability or refusal to accommodate her client – you.
I don’t know about the “right way” to learn – do they actually use bopomofo anywhere else in the world apart from here?
Your teacher is correct partially – if a beginner does not hear the sound of the language enough, when he sees a word in Pinyin he must rely on the rules of reading he already has in his head to decode the sounds (instead of simply recognizing the sound form stored in his head), and that is indeed the reason why the IMPROPER use of Pinyin can lead to accent issues.
However, as an adult learner coming from a Western educational background, your comfort level dictates that you need to write something down. It is the way you have been trained to deal with things you are learning.
There is also the matter of the time and effort needed to memorize bopimofo right at the outset. And if I had to guess, I would guess your teacher probably has very little experience using Pinyin – maybe just a short-term “training” course in teaching Chinese, which are essentially useless.
I doubt that your teacher is using any realistic replacement for writing in Pinyin, and I doubt that she realizes how ubiquitous Pinyin is as a tool to learn Chinese. There may also be something of a political agenda operating – some reject Pinyin simply because it is not from Taiwan. If she insists, I would ask to see the research data that proves Pinyin is harmful (there isn’t any that I am aware of).
And if she’s telling you its called “bur pur mur fur” its probably best that you run far far away from her and give your money to someone who knows what’s what!
She’s only the teacher, don’t forget. YOU are the one paying HER, not the other way around. Make sure she’s aware of this.
While you should learn the Mandarin Phonetic Symbols later on because they are very useful in Taiwan when learning to read, the myth that somehow Hanyu pinyin distorts pronunciation etc is complete nonsense and a sure sign of more trouble to follow with this teacher. Politely but firmly demand to change teachers to someone who teaches Hanyu pinyin if that is an option.
If you are in a group class at Shida, you are probably stuck though, so just deal with it.
Well I would love to change teachers but unfortunately I don’t have that privilege right now because:
I am currently living in a country where finding any kind of Chinese teacher is like finding a needle in a haystack.
This teacher is hot.
This teacher is actually my wife.
I don’t pay her a dime where as normal students pay her as much as 1600NT an hour for private lessons (I kid you not. All about supply and demand here), she only gets half of everything I earn instead.
I am desperate to learn Chinese though before I move to Taiwan (2 years time). So even though I know its not a good idea learning from your SO who actually has very little patience as a teacher (with me at least), I am limited for choice here. Sometimes its just so frustrating.
But thanks for the input, at least now I have some better understanding on the subject.
To be fair, given the low amount of input students get around here, it’s probably not totally myth. I believe that Pinyin probably does account for much of the foreign accent you hear, but it is not the fault of Pinyin, it’s the fault of poor teaching method. And “curing” the problem by eliminating Pinyin, rather than increasing input, is just silly.
(You will forgive me for assuming that the teacher in question is not, um, rigorously prepared for the theoretical issues involved with teaching Mandarin?)
I charge less than that for Skype-based lessons, and you can use Pinyin… no requirement about half your income for life, either (although you can voluntarily contribute large sums of money if you wish!)
I notice that people who started in Taiwan usually have a stronger foreign accent (and more tone inaccuracies) than people who started out in a decent US university program and then studied in Taiwan or China. I also chalk it up to bad teaching, not the orthography.
If it is your wife, then you had better just do it her way since she is not a professional teacher and cannot be expected to know much about modern teaching methods.
Why not just wait until you come to Taiwan and then make a real point of doing a year of classes WHEN YOU FIRST ARRIVE. Save the money and sign up before you arrive. Choose where you live based on where your school is.
Using pinyin will not lead to accent issues if you actually know the pronunciation rules of pinyin. Your teacher/wife most likely does not know hanyu pinyin since she’s from Taiwan. When I started learning Chinese in high school, my teacher who was Taiwanese, always used hanyu pinyin to teach us as she recognized the advantage of using it over bopomofo.
Bo po mo fo is useless. Learning Chinese using pinyin will not cause a worse accent than using bo po mo fo, though that is a common prejudice here. You have to be taught how to pronounce pinyin, true - if you just pronounce it the way it looks to an untutored native speaker of English, then yes you’ll sound terrible. But that is remedied by learning how to pronounce pinyin and by listening to a lot of Chinese.
Just learn both pinyin and zhuyin (BPMF). There’s only 37 BPMF symbols, and it definitely will help you to know them once you live in Taiwan. If you’re lacking for Chinese teaching options, you may as well work with what you’ve got available.
Here’s a handy conversion chart for you from one of our site’s posters: pinyin.info/romanization/bopomofo/basic.html
Many, many moons ago when living in Taichung, I was in the Caves bookshop and overheard a discussion on which dictionary to buy between a western man and his Taiwanese SO. The guy wanted to get a dictionary that had HYPY, but his SO kept telling him that one can’t learn Chinese properly through a foreign writing system (HYPY). This poor guy had just started taking lessons somewhere (probably TLI) and didn’t know what was what, but he was clearly being taught with HYPY in his lessons. His SO just couldn’t accept that this could be the case, and insisted that his pronunciation would remain unintelligible if he used “English” to learn Chinese. I finally interrupted and told her that over a billion people in the mainland use HYPY, not Zhuyin Fuhao. Telling her this gave me a sense of satisfaction, but she still didn’t seem to get it, and I’m certain she didn’t change her mind.
Huang Guang Chen has said on these forums before something like this: An SO is usually a lousy language teacher for an elementary or intermediate learner, but they are pretty useful for helping a high-intermediate polish his/her language skills to the the advanced level. OP, be aware that trying to learn from an SO can lead to real tension.
Yeah, you tend to have higher expectations of your SO and therefore get more fustrated with the beginning stages of teaching language (i.e. banging your head repeatedly against a brick wall (unless your ironlady, who I am now convinced is the goddess of language teaching)).
I think if she wants you to learn using BPMF then that’s what you learn using. It’s really not that hard. You can make up your own sort of pinyin to it to help you out if you want. It’s like Korean though - once you get used to it, it’s easy (like anything really)… it’s the getting used to it that sucks.
Mindset is half the battle! Everybody’s right that pinyin is much easier, but if you learn BPMF HYPY is easier to learn after anyway.
I think, this “latin letters = ‘English’” mindset of the Taiwanese is a problem. But what does this have to do with Zhuyin?
I don’t quite understand why every beginner course has to be in Pinyin. Imho, the problem is that 99% of the learners will then think that Zhuyin is such a weird, unnecessary and difficult thing and never learn it.
You can actually apply this to simplified: Over 1 billion people are using Simplified (seems to work fine), almost every chinese course outside of Taiwan uses it and you will never see any book in traditional (except when you are in Taiwan).
And how many people who start learning Chinese have an opinion about simplified and traditional at the beginning? Most people will just continue using that what they learn at the beginning.
Actually, all the stuff I read about Zhuyin, I also read about Traditional Chinese.
So why not teach Chinese through Zhuyin? I haven’t yet read a really huge problem with Zhuyin. I think, an adult should be capable to learn this 37 letters at the beginning, right when he starts learning the pronounciation. Don’t forget the advantages like putting the reading into the text without much intruding like Pinyin or writing vertically.
Don’t forget that you can actually ask Taiwanese how to write the reading down.
But this “using English to write Chinese” opinion of Taiwanese is just some other problem, which I actually don’t really care about. I think, 英文名字 or assuming that every foreigner doesn’t speak Chinese/only speaks English is much worse.
So why don’t start using Zhuyin in the beginning and learning Pinyin afterwards? That way is much easier.
Don’t forget, if you learned Japanese or Korean, you would also have to use a different script right from the beginning.
It’s just an unnecessary handicap to someone familiar with Latin orthography. Pinyin works fine and the idea that’s it’s likely to lead to pronunciation problems is a misconception; most Chinese sounds don’t present a problem to foreigners, and those that do won’t be made easier by the use of Zhuyin. It’s the tones that give difficulty.
Learn both, why not, but to restrict someone beginning a difficult task from using a very effective, readily available tool doesn’t make sense.