Posted in Studying

Hearing and Pronouncing

So that moment came. When it was revealed to my teacher and my classmates that I had some problems with certain consonants. This time it was the “z” and “j” sounds in Mandarin Chinese that could never be produced from my mouth. Since the people in my class tried so hard to help me say these two sounds correctly, I had to stop them from wasting time by telling them the truth: I basically cannot tell the difference between the (wrong) sounds that I make and the (right) sounds from them. This is not about my mouth; it is more about my ears. In the region that I was born and brought up, people don’t speak with these sounds, so I never learned to produce them when I was a kid. And probably I would not know how to do so in the future either.

There are some sounds that I never knew they were not the same until after I left my hometown. I only learned to tell the difference between the “s” and “sh” sounds in English when I was 17 years old while others may have known this since they were toddlers. This is somewhat frustrating, yet I have come to cope with it anyway.

So, the point is it is obvious that what people hear when they were babies will decide what they speak. We all know that if a kid hears no human talking during his/her childhood, he/she would grow up being mute even though his/ her ears and mouth are in perfect conditions. And if a kid happened to hear only a limited amount of sounds when he/she learn to speak, it would be hard for him/ her to learn new language with a wider range of sounds. Oh, isn’t that just my case? Hahaha ^_^There are languages with narrower and wider hearing ranges. That is why there are some people can easily learn a language and struggle with another one. Evidently, the easy-to-learn one has the same or narrower range and the hard-to-learn one has the wider range in comparison with their mother tongue. I’ve read in an article that someone with a l’oreille francophone will have trouble learning Russian while someone with a l’oreille russophone will have some advantages when taking up French classes.

I guess it is a little unfair, but still it is an interesting fact to me. I don’t force myself hard on making my pronunciation perfect. I may learn the sounds gradually after living in Taiwan for several years. And even if I may not, I will make do with it. After all, what really matters when we talk with people is our attitude and how we arrange our ideas, not for the fact that we can make perfect pronunciations of some sounds.


3 thoughts on “Hearing and Pronouncing

  1. Interesting….Guess it’s much the same for francophones who have great trouble hearing – and therefore pronouncing – the English ‘h’ sound. Even after many years, I still have to remind my husband to say ‘h-h-uman’ instead of ‘uman’. Conversely, I have trouble marking the pause that the French ‘h’ requires on many words that start with ‘h’.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hmm, that’s a really big problem… But guess what? You can easyly go over it!! How? For those who spend time teaching themselves another language, there’s some really helpful resources to get better in one language. I’m talking about the International Phonetic Alphabet. The IPA will allow you know exactly how make the sounds of any language. It teachers you how to move your tongue and your lips. Probably there’re lots of youtube videos about the IPA of your targed language. So, take a look at it. I hope it to really help you if you decide to take sometime to learn the IPA.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! That’s a very helpful thing to know! I will take a look into it. Luckily, this semester I took an extra course with a very good teacher and she helped me a lot in correcting these sounds. ^_^

      Liked by 1 person

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