My teacher doesnt want me to use pinyin at ALL

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. [/quote]This is exactly why I didn’t want to learn bo po mo fo. The textbooks I was using had the characters with the bo po mo fo at the side. How convenient for learning the readings of the characters! - which is what my classmates thought. But what it actually did was make it unnecessary to learn the characters - and so they didn’t. It’s like when the pinyin is right underneath the sentence - the eye naturally goes there. Put the pinyin on another page at the back of the book and don’t let me be lazy.

Don’t forget that you can actually ask Taiwanese how to write the reading down. [/quote]You can also ask them to pronounce the word clearly and write it yourself in pinyin. It will often be ‘wrong’ either way because of the retroflex.

Don’t forget, if you learned Japanese or Korean, you would also have to use a different script right from the beginning.[/quote]Yes, but these scripts are actually used in everyday life. Bo po mo fo isn’t.

First let me agree that with the proper teaching methods, pinyin is fine. But I think pinyin has some very obvious problems that without proper teaching methods, people are just not going to get. For example, the pinyin “spellings” are not as consistent as zhuyin and there were many things I just did not get until I moved here and started paying attention to zhuyin. For example, pinyin learners will naturally say rui as ‘ruee’, but zhuyin makes it clear that it should be pronounced ‘ruei’, having the same end sound as hei, bei, etc; wo encourages a ‘w’ sound where there is none, but the zhuyin is clearly ‘uo’, the whole sound being the same as the end sound for duo, tuo, etc. It should also be the same end sound as in mo, but for some reason pinyin makes these silly rules where after ‘m’, the ‘uo’ sound is represented by just ‘o’.

I know people say that if you learn pinyin correctly, this should all be no problem. Fine, but the consistency of zhuyin, IMHO, far exceeds the inconsistency of pinyin. I think these inconsistencies are a big problem with pinyin-so for me, if I had it to do all over again, I would prefer to start with zhuyin.

ㄩ + ㄥ = yong/iong
ㄨ + ㄥ = ong
ㄧ + ㄣ = in

Hmm. Learners need to be taught these combos in bopomofo, just like learners need to know the rules of Pinyin. Neither system contains ambiguities, however.

As for your Pinyin inconsistencies, “rui” is a contracted spelling of “ruei”, and it is explicitly stated thus in the rules of the system. Regarding “mo”, bopomofo does exactly the same thing: 模 = ㄇㄛˊ and not ㄇㄨㄛˊ - it is not an idiosyncrasy of Pinyin. Won’t argue about the “w” and “y” onglides, though. Both schemes have their little oddities. Just learn them, and move on - they’re not big problems for either system.

As a person who mastered Chinese up to the intermediate restaurant level, I’d suggest you start learning with Pinyin first. This will make your initial progress faster, thus making it less likely that you become disappointed with your results and abandon learning. Bopomofo is an interesting oddity, and you can learn it later should you feel inclined to, but generally both Pinyin and Zhuyin are just means not ends. Anyway your focus in the long run should be on learning the characters, and Pinyin is just more practical, even more so for someone already familiar with the Latin alphabet. Bopomofo is only “more cute” and that’s about it.

Listen to Scomargo. Learning the zhuyin (bopomofo) won’t kill you. If your wife can’t write properly in pinyin it’s not the end of the world. Once you’ve got yourself at a particular comfort level with the pronunciation of the zhuyin you can look up the conversions to pinyin at your leisure; it’s very easy and it won’t take you long to learn both systems.

Then, you’ll be able to read your wife’s transcriptions of pronunciation and you’ll also be able to write your own in pinyin if you want.

And somewhat off-topic, but I’m a little surprised by how many foreign learners in Taiwan can’t at least read zhuyin. It’s really useful due to how few locals can write pinyin correctly and it was actually taught when I first came here (in 1997). I’m not saying I prefer it - Pinyin is much faster and more comfortable for me, especially for typing, but it’s not hard to learn compared to the commitment of learning Mandarin…

Who says the wife knows how to teach this guy bopomofo?

What we have here is a fairly well-meaning volunteer native speaker, period. Not a teacher. For most beginners, having to first memorize a bunch of meaningless symbols, without having any sense of how they are used – because he doesn’t speak Chinese yet – is demotivating. It merely sets the tone that Chinese is difficult, boring, and relies on rote memorization. All of which are completely untrue, or should be.

Reading, even of sound symbols, needs to be based on some prior exposure to the language. Not on book memorization alone.

[quote=“ironlady”]Who says the wife knows how to teach this guy bopomofo?

With all due respect (and I do in fact have a great deal of respect for you), bopomofo isn’t rocket science. It’s really not hard to either learn or to teach. A friend taught me the system in a day which actually meant I was ahead of many of my class when I finally started.

In my opinion, the problem’s not whether she knows how to teach bopomofo; it’s what comes afterwards that will prove whether or not she knows how to teach her own language.

What we have here is a fairly well-meaning volunteer native speaker, period. Not a teacher. For most beginners, having to first memorize a bunch of meaningless symbols, without having any sense of how they are used – because he doesn’t speak Chinese yet – is demotivating. It merely sets the tone that Chinese is difficult, boring, and relies on rote memorization. All of which are completely untrue, or should be.

Reading, even of sound symbols, needs to be based on some prior exposure to the language. Not on book memorization alone.[/quote]

Perhaps the thought of learning these “meaningless symbols” is actually exciting because they’re the first steps in learning his wife’s language. There’s only 37 of them, they even form some of the basic shapes of characters… If they’re enough to discourage someone then good luck to him in learning the rest of the language.

Hate to break it to you, but there are literally millions of people who speak fluent Chinese yet cannot read it. Knowing how to read, even sound symbols, is not necessary to become fluent in a language.

[quote=“ironlady”]Who says the wife knows how to teach this guy bopomofo?


We do know that she has no idea how to teach in pinyin however. It might be more painful at the beginning to learn bopomofo but is it really more beneficial to learn pinyin if your instructor doesn’t understand it? And is it worth it to force it and cause a rift with your tutor (wife). And FWIW I pronounce things poorly but some of the other students have terrible pronunciations using pinyin because they can’t break free of the English appearance of the language.

I don’t think it matters which system you use since you need to learn the correct pronunciation of either bopomofo or pinyin. I’m still in the beginner end of the spectrum but I’m still learning new stuff about pronouncing pinyin. I definitely prefer pinyin but I I think I would be having these same pronunciation problems in bopomofo but I wouldn’t be able to get help if my tutor didn’t understand pinyin.

To the OP: if you find you’re learning something, even if the lessons are a bit frustrating sometimes, I’d say carry on.

Pinyin v.s. Zhuyin isn’t so much of a big deal, as it only takes a couple of days to learn another system once you’ve learned one thoroughly. As for learning meaningless, isolated sounds and symbols before actual words, it’s far from ideal, but in my opinion it’s still better than nothing. I went through that experience twice - once with Pinyin in the UK, then learned a few real words and phrases, then went through the whole isolated phonemes thing again with Zhuyin here. It wasn’t terribly pleasant, but I feel I did learn something from it.

Of course it’s better to start from meaningful language learning, but you make the best of the situation you’re in.

Isn’t this Piaget stuff?

When I first came to Taiwan, one of my colleagues was complaining about how hard pinyin was because when he saw the word “you” (have), he read it like the English word. I wonder how he would have gone with the letter j in other European languages. I wonder if people who say it’s impossible to learn Chinese using pinyin freak out when they travel to another country because 1) the 1,000 currency notes are not blue, or 2) they have denominations not found in Taiwan. The mind boggles.

Well I have now basically got the hang of using zhuyin. I can say it was pretty tedious memorizing those 37 symbols but it became a lot more fun when I used them to spell out some words. Right now I am repeating the whole process going over the symbols again and again as teachers instruction. The wife has also told me to get used to my numbers, counting from 1 to 1000. :discodance:

Well, that should work fine, since you have a) strong motivation, b) a teacher who works for free, and c) no particular hurry. The way you describe is nowhere near being efficient or modern, but it will keep your wife happy, which is the main thing in the long term.

ㄩ + ㄥ = yong/iong
ㄨ + ㄥ = ong
ㄧ + ㄣ = in

First of all, How do I add those zhuyin characters to my font set??? That is so cool.

I am studying using the Zhuyin fu hao. I think it has many advantages over the pinyin system.

The biggest problem with westerners using the pinyin system to learn is that we have a clear ingrained sense of what sound each letter represents in our own mother tongue. A very simple example is the difference between the sounds represented by the letters b and p. In English the difference between the two is that one is voiced at its onset and other is voiceless. In Chinese, however, the difference between the two sounds is that the p sound is plosive, and the sound represented by the symbol “b” is not.
What makes this important is that one is likely to continue to pronounce each letter as we learned to pronounce it in our mother tongue. And as a result it is very difficult to get rid of that foreign accent.
Learning the 37 symbols of zhuyin makes it easier to learn the nuances of the correct pronunciation of each without the interference of the “correct” sound of each letter “b, p, m, f, d, t, n” etc. as we each learned in kindergarten. Also, using the limited 26 letters of the Roman alphabet to represent the 37 distinct sounds of Chinese means that there are different sounds for each letter depending on context. Zhuyin does not have this problem.
A common misconception is that if one is reading a text with the phonetic script next to each character, then a lazy student will focus only on the phonetic script and take longer to learn the much more complex target character next to it. I am a fairly lazy learner and have not found this to be the case. You most remember that when the zhuyin is written next to a character, as it is children’s books and Taiwanese text books, that the zhuyin is only 1/6th the size of the character it is next to. Because of this one naturally learns to recognize the characters and only skim over the zhuyin as one improves and starts to pick up speed.

My two cents.


[quote=“Tempo Gain”][quote=“Hellstorm”]

So why not teach Chinese through Zhuyin? [/quote]

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.[/quote]

Not to mention you can type with pinyin, really fast.

[quote=“Snooker”][quote=“Tempo Gain”][quote=“Hellstorm”]
Not to mention you can type with pinyin, really fast.[/quote][/quote][/quote]

Typing with bopomofo is faster than pinyin once you have learnt it. With a good IME it requires roughly 25% less key strokes by my math.

And regarding using pinyin. After sitting through soo many elementary and supposedly intermediate classes full of people reading pinyin as if it was english, I am beginning to think using bopomofo would be a much better start.

  1. Force the possibly not perfect teacher to start off by teaching people how to read/pronounce bopomofo
  2. Force the students with a possibly not perfect teacher to start by focussing on how to pronounce.

Seriously, a class full of beginners reading out loud to each other “nigh ho mah” is NOT learning chinese!!!

Sure you might get some good teachers that focus on pronunciation at the start, but in my experience they are few and far between.

This is quite possibly also to do with forcing the students to produce far before they are ready/capable. The students need time to really listen to the language before they’re ready to start speaking it. When a child learns its first language, its parents don’t sit down and teach it phonics in “Lesson 1” and they certainly don’t bring out a whiteboard and markers and start writing. The baby hears the language and then starts trying to speak when it feels the need/desire. Later, it learns to read, and later still, it learns to write. Some kids speak much later than others, but with the exception of those with genuine learning difficulties or cognitive impairment, they all end up speaking at some point.

How babies learn and how second language learners study language can’t be compared. Basic linguistics calls for a completely different method. Second language learners need to start listening and producing sounds right away…babies can’t, which is why you can’t teach them phonics. Read any text on second language acquisition and you’ll find that each starts with the premise that learning a second language and learning a first before 6 years old requires a whole different set of rules. There are heaps of studies on this. There is a reason almost every Chinese class starts with pronunciation. If we were the same as babies, we would all sit there and listen to the teacher talk for a few semesters…and no one would learn a thing :wink:

With the exception of anything by Krashen or his supporters.

With the exception of anything by Krashen or his supporters.[/quote]
Even he wouldn’t say we are the same as babies. He still emphasizes interaction/natural communication.