听一听 (Ting Yi Ting; Listening Makes Perfect)
The acquisition of lexical tone is often cited by Anglophone learners of Mandarin Chinese as the most daunting hurdle in learning the spoken language. Indeed, the challenges of lexical tones, in addition to the opaque writing system, contribute significantly to the classification of Mandarin Chinese as one of the most difficult for English speakers to learn. In addition to tones, English speakers also struggle with specific phonemic distinctions that are not present in English. The situation is complicated by the use of the Hanyu Pinyin system of Romanization, which was originally designed to promulgate standardized pronunciation among native speakers, not for use in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. Indeed, some of the spelling conventions of Hanyu Pinyin, particularly the spelling of rimes, have been shown to cause confusion for learners and even to negatively impact pronunciation. When mastered, however, Hanyu Pinyin is a highly useful tool that enables learners to look up new words in a bilingual dictionary, to type Chinese characters, and to read and pronounce the names of unfamiliar people and places. However, because instruction in Pinyin is not communicative in nature, and extensive work would use valuable class time, it is usually given scant attention as a learning tool.
Ting Yi Ting (Listening Makes Perfect) will be an online guide that enables learners to hear and identify phonemic categories in Mandarin, including lexical tones, in a variety of phonetic contexts, and to associate those phonemes with correct Pinyin orthography. It will be structured as 27 modules, with eight focused on tone recognition, eleven focused on initials and simple finals, and eight focused on compound finals. The project will present a new approach that is specifically geared toward native speakers of English. The presentations will include video tutorials, extensive audio examples, computer-graded comprehension checks, and downloadable pdf worksheets. Modules in this project will be released in a serialized fashion, with work completed during the summer of 2020.