Som (সোম)
The dominant sounds in Chinese
I know zero Chinese, but since a few days I've been following the cooking channel of a young woman from Yunnan by the name of Dong Meihua, better known by her online name Dianxi Xiaoge. It's a great channel and she's a charming young woman who really slogs to convey that idyllic rural image.

I have to turn on English subtitles to make sense of the discussions, though it's quite possible to figure out things visually. The sounds I hear are predominantly sh, zh and kh, while from the childhood I've been told that it's ch, n and ng.

My question: did those who tell me the wrong version have any first hand knowledge? Even the ones who did, why were they off to that extent? There are ch and ng sounds as well, but those aren't there predominant ones.
Jun 21, 2020 4:30 PM
Comments · 9
Chinese “dialects” are, by European standards, separate language families, like Romance and Germanic. When I was a kid, all the Chinese I heard in Chinatown or in the movies was Cantonese (or other southern languages). Mandarin, especially in the Northern half of the country, sounds very different. Even within Mandarin, with hundreds of millions of speakers, and lots of regional varieties, you can imagine. You could take the exact same words, pronounce them in another Chinese “dialect”, and it would be incomprehensible to the untrained ear. Besides the consonants and vowels, the isochrony is totally different. Since Chinese people weren’t able to travel abroad much when I was a kid, the first time I heard actual Mandarin, you could have knocked me over with a feather — it didn’t sound like “Chinese”. By the way, we could comment more specifically if we knew exactly what sounds sh, zh and kh represented. Is KH an aspirated K, or a spirantized K? ZH is used in the current official romanization as a sound similar to the English J, but you are probably referring to the sound that is currently romanized as R (somewhat between R and SH). In Beijing Mandarin in particular, several different “retroflex” sibilants tend to be reduced to R in rapid speech.

June 21, 2020
"did those who tell me the wrong version have any first hand knowledge? Even the ones who did, why were they off to that extent?"
Well, you would have to ask the people who told you that. Maybe they had a stereotypical idea of Chinese. Germans often think that Chinese just sounds like "Ching, chang, chung" which is of course false.
June 21, 2020
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Som (সোম)
Language Skills
Bengali, English, German, Hindi, Portuguese, Spanish
Learning Language
German, Portuguese, Spanish