Thursday, September 2, 2010
Chinese All Sounds the Same!
Before I knew a word of Chinese, I had the distinct impression that "Chinese all sounds the same", meaning it came across to me as strings of short little words with a lots of "sh" sounds to it. Like sure, sure, sure.
After I had studied Chinese for a few years, and the language was starting to make some sense, I was surprised that I still seemed to hear just a small inventory of sounds. Then one day, I came across a chart of syllables of Chinese. And I discovered there are only about 400 possible syllable constructions in Chinese, compared with about 10 times that many -- 4000 --- in English. Chinese has short little syllables with mostly just a consonant and a vowel, like ta, he, bu, shi, hao. In English, syllables can grow long and clumsy, with strings of consonants clustering around a single vowel, like plump, stretched, strives. So there! Proof that Chinese really does kind of all sound the same.