suzmccarth wrote:
> >So the phonetic analysis required to use the alphabet has to be learned
> >in school? That is what I also believe.

Based on personal experience, I think that is the case. I drew that
conclusion trying to teach some Taiwanese friends Pinyin. They all
studied in the US, and were fluent speakers and readers of English.
I, American-born and Mandarin speaking, found Pinyin quite easy.
Simply by "sounding out" the letters, and knowing Chinese
pronunciation, it was easy enough to guess the word based on spelling.
There are a few quirks to learn, but once I did, I was set.

I soon figured out that teaching Pinyin to Taiwanese by telling them
to "sound it out" wasn't going to cut it. Even knowing English
spelling (which granted is not exactly phonemic), and even after I
explained the x's and q's and some of the vowels, they were still
baffled when confronted with say, "dang." Even when they knew "dang,"
they still had to ask about "dong" and "ding." Mandarin is taught as
initials and finals, and Bopomofo is written as initials and finals,
and it was clear that that was as far as they could analyse a Mandarin
syllable. They saw -ang, -ong, and -ing each as a distinct unit, and
had be told each separately, and couldn't break them down further to
a-ng, o-ng, i-ng. I went round and round explaining letters and
sounds and trying to get them to put them together till it got
comical, and finally just found a bopomofo/pinyin chart.

I once read that even in China, Pinyin is taught in terms of initials
and finals, even though the system is alphabetic. Does anyone know if
this is true?

> Cantonese-speakers rarely use phonetic input because they're not
> trained in school to do a phonetic analysis of the sounds they make
> when they speak, so it's very difficult for them.

Since everyone knows Mandarin has four tones, as a kid I asked my
father, a Taiwanese speaker, how many tones it has. He scratched his
head and said, "More than four." I even remember asking him, "How can
you not know?" And he replied, "I don't know, they don't teach it." I
doubt he'd have any luck typing Taiwanese phonetically.

On 8/25/05, Michael Everson <everson@...> wrote:
> At 18:38 +0000 2005-08-25,