Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The long PS (on mispronunciation)

I mentioned this in my earlier post on raising a multi-lingual kid. It took a long while cos I was too busy posting photos of ZK. Anyway, this is about mis-pronunciation of words.

Earlier, I mentioned "tuition" and "撞". Let's start with English.

Even earlier, I wrote about how Singaporeans tend to not pronounce terminal consonants. And earlier, the ubiquitous use of "ever". I must admit I'm no expert and I make mistakes too but some common mistakes really really irks me. Besides what's here, I can think of the following:

1) Every day vs. everyday - I take supplements every day. Farting is an everyday occurrence.

2) Comprise vs. consist - Guess which word should not have "of" after it??

3) Can/could, will/would - This, I cannot explain in a one-liner! Read it here.

4) Revert - You don't ever revert to an email; you reply. Unless you were an email before you're human! What's worse? "I'll revert to you." !!!

5) Sheep vs. ship, fifteen vs. fifty - what's the difference? Often, I can't tell one from the other cos people tend not to differentiate the ee sound from the i sound.

I was going to list more but I found a lot on our very own Speak Good English Movement website! (Um, the link doesn't work anymore - I wrote this that long ago!) This one, in particular, is hilarious!

WRONG: “Please excuse me. I have to leave now to put my children TO SLEEP.”
RIGHT: “… I have to leave now to put my children TO BED.”
(EXPLANATION: It is a criminal offence to put a person “to sleep”. In Singapore it carries the death penalty.)

Yes, I'm often conflicted when I say I'm putting ZK to sleep hoho! Habitual.. I should change that *.*

And now, Mandarin! This, I have a lot more to say.. And as I type, a lot of common mistakes jump into my mind! Let me list them:

Or I should say, words with different 声调 instead. The most common are 不 and 一 which changes 声调 with use. Generally, 不 is bu4 on its own and 一 is yi1 on its own. But they change 声调 when placed before words of different 声调. Here's the explanation in my trusty Chinese dictionary, duly stamped and permitted for use during exams:




a) 第一声变第四声
The most common words that suffer this are 吃 and 喝 - both to do with food for some strange reason! I've been hearing this all the time and everywhere, especially since I started work - I'm very afraid that I'll get "infected". Come to think of it, 第四声 seems to be Singaporeans' favourite.. I have a cute "闭子" instead of 鼻子 *.*

b) Dialect influence?
Or at least that's what I think it is. Example, the only reason I can think of for pronouncing 虾 xia1 wrongly as xia2 is that it's hae2 in Hokkien! And of course, all the yu# - I closed the windows when Mother said 下蚁了 (omg!) to prevent rain from coming in and I grew up eating yi2 which should be 鱼 yu2. The second example also brought about much confusion - for a while in my childhood, I thought, why is 大姨 a big fish??

And just recently, Mother wondered out loud if there was going to be a 机会 and I was quite lost for a while until she put it in context - she meant 聚会!Why I never corrected her, I don't know. But I do know that if my kids say that, I'll correct them - by repeating their sentence using the right words instead of an outright "wrong" or "no". We really should say less "no" to our kids...

c) Missing you
Some months ago, an uncle asked me about ZK: "几个夜大?" I was tempted to say “150个夜左右吧⋯⋯!” But I grew up hearing this all the time so I do know he meant 月 instead; for some reason, the u in yue is often not pronounced by the older generation. So you have 夜 for 月 and 越 etc, "do-h" for duo. I think this can be attributed to dialect influence too..

d) Random - cos I can't think of a reason!
I turned in amazement when I heard Sito say 耳朵 for the first time - er2 duo3!!! I think that prompted a discussion that I should be the one to teach our kids Mandarin! Anyway, it should be er3 duo1 or er3 duo, i.e. 轻声...

And speaking of 轻声, I find that we don't use it much, such that I sit on a "疑子" instead of 椅子 - if we pronounce 子, it's 上声 so it's right that the preceding 上声 word should change to 阳平 but in this case, 子 should be 轻声! Sighs... I miss my old Chinese teachers in primary school whose pronunciation was so clear and crisp - and accurate!

e vs. i confusion
I was in the office last Saturday to finish up some work. There happened to be some touch-up reno works going on and I overheard this: 红四、红四!拿红四的来!

Another common one: I often hear 热 being pronounced as ri4 instead of re4.

g, the wandering terminal consonant
This is very common. Read the first sentence of the third para of this post - yup, the same thing happens for Chinese as well! Except that sometimes, we also put in a g where there is none! Come, let's do a test:

音乐 - yin or ying?
开心 - xin or xing?
高兴 - xin or xing?
升级 - shen or sheng?
敏捷 - min or ming?

*h, the mysterious rrrr sound
I still remember my primary one Chinese teacher who taught us how to pronounce all the ch-, sh- and zh- sounds, all so clear and unmistakably rrrr. But with time, I've lost my rrrr - it's more like just r now. Or worse, there's hardly any discernible difference between sheng and seng for example! Its relative, the initial r, sometimes becomes an l, e.g. 让 becomes lang4. Time to warm up the tongue, people! Rrrroar!

我先吃 vs. 我吃先
The former is the correct one. But I don't find anything particularly wrong with the latter so well, close one eye... Just don't go 我先吃先!

Yes, I'm super anal but for now, I can't think of any more mispronunciations. Till I remember or come across some more...

Anyway, I started writing this a long time ago. Recently, Sito and I decided that we should both speak Mandarin to ZK. It's more difficult than English, which he'll pick up in school. After all, his mum started speaking English only from primary school and turned out fine :)

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