Who invented Romanization of Chinese?

Hello all

I hope to come to Taiwan next year and so have been trying to learn a little Chinese. I have a workmate from China and he has been helping me out with the pronunciation.

But what is the deal with the romanized Chinese? I mean, on the page it says wo de ming si shi (name) but when my friend says it it sounds almost totally different. He speaks Mandarin, and assures me it’s just like in Taiwan, but with differences in the writing.

Are there a lot of different accents in Chinese, so maybe some people would say it like “wo de ming si shi” and others wouldn’t? Or (my guess) the romanization was developed by some half-witted English opium dealer in a previous century and has never been fixed up.

Your confusion lies in the fact that you expect the Chinese romanization to have English-language phonetic values.
Chinese has different sounds to English, and Romanization methods just use Roman (not ‘English’) letters in systems to represent those sounds. You have to learn the whole thing anew; you can’t expect to just have a comfortable English-type language to read. Would you learn French by pronouncing every word you read with its English phonetic value?

Much more information on;

Thank you for the link, I have taken a quick look and will examine this more carefully later.

I definitely don’t expect Chinese to use English phonemes, and I know the roman script is an approximation, but from the very little I have seen so far it seems a very slight aproximation.

Is there any website that gives the IPA pronunciation of words in Mandarin? Or even a site explaining the Chinese phonemes? I remember doing an exercise on Mandarin phonemes in a linguistics course but that was many years ago and half a world away from here.

Unfortunately where I am now (small-town Mexico) there are no Chinese resources at all, except the Ceramics teacher, who I do not want to overload with thousands of questions as he is busy improving his Spanish.

What do you think it should be an approximation of? English? Chinese Romanization systems are complete systems in and of themselves; they don’t refer to external languages’ phonetic/spelling systems. In a way, it’s better that they don’t, because that way you learn the true phonetic values of the language rather than always using approximations.

I am sure I am not the only person who feels that you need to be listening to real Chinese sounds rather than reading about them. Maybe you could get hold of a cassette or CD course through an online retailer such as Amazon.

Still, once you’re already listening to Chinese it can sometimes be useful to read a description of how the sounds are produced. There are some good tips in the textbook I have - don’t know whether there are any online. I hope somebody can give you some links.

Most of the things I would say, joesax has said already. So I’ll add just a few things.

For an introduction to IPA and Mandarin, try here:

The situation, however, is actually more complicated. For details on this, order a copy of issue no. 52 of the Sino-Platonic Papers, which gives a chart of Mandarin morphemes with a variety of IPA equivalents.

Ocrat.com has recordings of Mandarin news announcements, along with transcripts in simplified characters and pinyin, from the Voice of America.
(Use the “full audio” versions.)
The accent is definitely mainlander (as opposed to Taiwanese), but don’t let that stop you.

Definitely find some learning materials with an audio component. The sounds of the Chinese language are very different from English or Spanish to begin with. Then, the Chinese speaker you talked with may not make a good Chinese language teacher. He may not understand what sounds/tones you might have difficulty with. He also might not be enunciating, perhaps a mumbler by nature. Regardless, to learn spoken Chinese you’ll need to hear the language! Otherwise, you’ll have a bunch of useless of “words” in your head that you can’t say, can’t recognize when you hear them, and can’t even use to help you read Chinese (characters). So go find some Chinese to listen to and good luck!

Yes, I’ve noticed :slight_smile:

To me he speaks very clearly. However his approach is maybe oversupportive, I get a continuous stream of congratulations although I don’t feel that I am doing particularly well.

This is what I am afraid of. Anyway, I hope to be in Taiwan by February, so I’m sure I’ll hear plenty of Chinese speakers then.

Thanks to all who have replied for the above info

Wo de ming zi shi (name)…

Wo de ming su si (name) - = Taiwan Chinese :wink:

si = four
si = ten

si si = fourteen
si si = forty

There is quite a bit of interference from Taiwanese in Taiwan Guoyu, but as Mandarin is a second language for almost everyone who speaks it, L1 interference is the norm.