I’m exchanging language instruction with my Taiwanese brother-in-law and have encountered several mysteries of spoken Chinese that are befuddling me. He spent ten minutes tonight patiently teaching me how to correctly place my tongue against my teeth to make the final “zz” sound of the Mandarin word follow but I just couldn’t get it, even though I was convinced that I had imitated his sound exactly.
We gave up and moved on. Shortly thereafter we were working on the opening “juh” sound of the clause that way and he announced all of a sudden that I was making the earlier unattainable “zz” sound correctly somehow.
When I asked him to alternate between both words I could clearly hear him going back and forth between the “zz” sound and the “juh” sound and he couldn’t hear any difference whatsoever. This has happened on several other sounds. I hear a clear difference. He hears only complete consistency.
This has also happened when I teach him English. He continually pronounces made as make to my ear and he can’t hear any difference whatsoever.
I’ve had this nerve-ratttling experience many times before with other native Mandarin speakers so it’s not just my brother-in-law.
What in the world is going on here? Do I have a tin ear or does he?