Weiben Wang wrote:
> 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?

It's how the little booklet from the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing
is organized -- it gives the py to character and vice versa equivalents
for a few thousand characters. (And nothing else.) (I remember getting
it at the only store Borders had outside Ann Arbor, in Oak Brook
Terrace, Illinois. You don't find such things there any more.)

> > 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.
Peter T. Daniels grammatim@...