Second talk with Mao! 4/19/2013

My second meeting with Mao was just as interesting as our first. While we continued to have a conversation that flowed, this time I stopped Mao to correct her on her pronunciation of words. Additionally, I focused on the way she was constructing sentences. At around 2:23, Mao says she “took paht…”. It is very difficult for students of specific languages who are learning English, especially Chinese students, to pronounce certain clusters, vowels, and consonants. The “th”, “s”, “r”, “l” are all letters that as I talk to Mao, I have to stop her in her sentences and help her pronounce the sounds of these letters. I noticed that when Mao is not being conscious of her pronunciation of words (such as part), the “r” sound is missing from her speech. However, when she is conscious of it, she can pronounce words almost perfectly in English. Another example could be found later in the video during our conversation of TV shows and the pronunciation of “episode”. Here one can observe that Mao mistakes the pronunciation for “episode” as “sepisode”.

Chinese is an analytic language, meaning it is a language that does not use inflectional affixes to convey grammatical relationships. Words have one grammatical form and the language lacks tense, gender, and number. With this being said, Chinese depends on syntax rather than morphology to relay messages/meanings. Early in the conversation I ask Mao “what have you been doing for the last week” and rather than replying “I have been dancing”, Mao simply replies with “dance”. Chinese is a language where they do not say more than they need to. As stated in my previous post, in Chinese, you only need to indicate something one time in a sentence. Because I was talking about the past, Mao did not need to clarify that last week she had been practicing a dance for school. Because Chinese does not have more than one grammatical form for words, it is difficult for Mao to develop sentences expressing these parts of our sentence structures. Mao says when I ask when her dance is “23rd, this month”. Here the words “the” and “of” are missing simply because these words do not exist in Mao’s language. There is no need for them.

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