Chinese Studies at Uni - To what extent do you study pinyin? Watch

Ghassan
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As I will start to Study Chinese at uni this year, I would like to know to what extent one normally has to study pinyin besides studying the characters.
Of course I know that you will study pinyin i order to know how to pronounce a certain word. But I always thought that the different tones arent too helpful when studying the language. So my question really is if it is common to have a question in an exam at uni where you are given the English meaning/the Chinese character and have to give the appropriate pinyin form of the word including the tones of the pinyin form.
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generalebriety
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I don't do Chinese, but your question is a bit silly. Firstly, Chinese is a language built on tones; the same word can have four different tones and mean several different things in each one. So pinyin is actually quite a big part of learning Chinese. Secondly, university exams simply don't work as a "fill in the blanks" exercise like you seem to be suggesting, it's much more essay-based.
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Ghassan
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I am sorry if the question is silly....Firstly I am not too familiar with uni exams as I am not at uni yet. However if you start studying a language ab initio at uni it will be hard to have a language exam that is completely essay based.
Yet with Chinese and pinyin it is a different thing than with other languages. Pinyin is in fact only Chinese in latin characters. A lot of native Chinese speakers do not know which of the four tones is used for a certain word anyways and as its only purpose is to help people who learn Chinese in the end there is no real need to study it as you wont find any newspaper or book that is written in pinyin. You could only use it to know how a word is pronounced, yet to learn the pronunciation of word from a native speaker instead of reading it from a book in some kind of romanized Chinese will always be the better way of learning the language.
Thus I dont think my question is that stupid.... I mean when I started studying English I also did not study the phonetic spelling(given in the phonetic alphabet) of the words and still I do know how to pronounce them...
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Piers-
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Hey, I study Chinese :P

Well, pinyin is pretty important. Of course, the best way to learn pronunciation is to copy a native speaker; the pinyin only imperfectly shows the pronunciation. That said, every time you learn a new character or word, you're gonna have to learn it in conjunction with the pinyin (including the tone!). The two are basically inseparable. You do really need to learn the tones. At the very start you might find it easy to ignore them because your vocabulary will be so limited, but as you advance you'll come across a lot of homonyms, but the tones will be different. This will help you to differentiate the meanings.

In regard to pinyin in exams... you might have to write the pinyin and tones for certain characters when you first start studying it, though it's unlikely you'll get tested on that for long. Later on, it's kind of assumed that you know it :P
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Ghassan
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Thanks a lot I have to admit that I did not pay much attention to pinyin when I started studying Chinese but I guess thats really because its pretty unimportant when you begin.
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Leonardo85
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I study Chinese too and in my personal experience I would say that pinyin is one of the most important things you study. For instance the words 我是 and 卧室 have the same pronunciation (wo shi) but if you don't know the pinyin, then how would you know if you are saying "I am" or "bedroom" ?
I study it in Leeds and we have lessons where the teacher gives us a paper and asks to put the pinyin on the characteres or we have the pinyin with no tones and we listen to a tape and have to put the tones correctly. Of course, most people struggle with 2n and 3rd tones...
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Sprout_hair
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Are you chinese?
Dont know why.. but i always seem to have this shock when i find a non-chinese speaking chinese..
I guess theoretically its the same the other way round..
Pinyin is probs quite important as it well tells you hows it pronounced!
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Piers-
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nope :P are you?

to be honest I also find it pretty weird when westerners speak Chinese (ones that aren't in my class, anyway).
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Cunning Linguist
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I've studied Chinese Mandarin for a year (Beginner's course) where mostly everything was taught in characters and pinyin (both equally I guess) I'm going to do Intermediate level this year. I have heard from people who have done Intermediate that the text book has no pinyin in it, but the transition isn't as difficult as it sounds.

Pinyin is to help foreigners understand pronunciation, but too much reliance isn't good. At the end, you're not going to be reading pinyin, you're going to Chinese read by looking at characters.
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Leonardo85
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(Original post by Cunning Linguist)
Pinyin is to help foreigners understand pronunciation, but too much reliance isn't good. At the end, you're not going to be reading pinyin, you're going to Chinese read by looking at characters.
yes but without pinyin you wouldn't know in which tone pronounce the character and you'd be screwed! in my opinion pinyin is essential, nothing less.
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Cunning Linguist
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(Original post by Leonardo85)
yes but without pinyin you wouldn't know in which tone pronounce the character and you'd be screwed! in my opinion pinyin is essential, nothing less.
I'd say it's essential at the beginning. Then you should just learn the characters and the pronunciation (including the tone), trying to avoid pinyin. So when you simply look at a character, you recognise the pronunciation automatically. Do you get what I mean?
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Leonardo85
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(Original post by Cunning Linguist)
I'd say it's essential at the beginning. Then you should just learn the characters and the pronunciation (including the tone), trying to avoid pinyin. So when you simply look at a character, you recognise the pronunciation automatically. Do you get what I mean?
yeah I do... but still, pronunciation and tone are pinyin..simply just not "written" but if I say jiao 4th tone on the a, that's "imaginative" pinyin? don't know how to explain it.. :p:
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Piers-
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(Original post by Cunning Linguist)
I've studied Chinese Mandarin for a year (Beginner's course) where mostly everything was taught in characters and pinyin (both equally I guess) I'm going to do Intermediate level this year. I have heard from people who have done Intermediate that the text book has no pinyin in it, but the transition isn't as difficult as it sounds.

Pinyin is to help foreigners understand pronunciation, but too much reliance isn't good. At the end, you're not going to be reading pinyin, you're going to Chinese read by looking at characters.
Hey! Do you mean you learn characters without pinyin? That must be pretty tough seeing as characters aren't (entirely) phonetic :woo:
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Cunning Linguist
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(Original post by Leonardo85)
yeah I do... but still, pronunciation and tone are pinyin..simply just not "written" but if I say jiao 4th tone on the a, that's "imaginative" pinyin? don't know how to explain it.. :p:
Actually I understand what you mean. For example, to learn a character, you'd have to learn it by writing down it's pronunciation (pinyin!), only then will you be able to learn. So I guess you're right.
But I would try to always avoid learning just the pinyin without knowing what the character looks like.. if you get me..
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Leonardo85
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(Original post by Cunning Linguist)
Actually I understand what you mean. For example, to learn a character, you'd have to learn it by writing down it's pronunciation (pinyin!), only then will you be able to learn. So I guess you're right.
But I would try to always avoid learning just the pinyin without knowing what the character looks like.. if you get me..
yeah totally! I guess we are both right then. never learn a character only by the pinyin or without it!
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