February 12th, 2010

Mis-hearing, Mis-speaking Mandarin Chinese [To//From English]

Hello All!

I’m writing a story where an English-speaking character interacts with a bilingual Chinese (Mandarin)//English character. The English speaker is in the process of learning Chinese (Mandarin), and is having the usual pronunciation // mishearing issues that come with learning any new language [especially Chinese (Mandarin)].

What I’d like to do is, during select early-on conversations between these two characters, to have the English speaker mis-hear or mis-pronounce Chinese (Mandarin). For example, I’m sure there are “common” mis-hearings or mis-pronunciations English speakers make when learning Chinese (Mandarin). Or a word that hasn't been yet learned, but sounds similar to some other word that has been encountered.

Theoretical Example:
A: [attempted Mandarin] "Good afternoon, I have a package from Hayden Industries to deliver."
B: [response in Mandarin] "Your sister's a pink elephant from Pluto? What?"
A: [attempted Mandarin] "Excuse me, please speak slower. I am to deliver a package from Hayden Industries."
B: [response in English] "Oh, Hayden Industries... So this must be the package... what was all that about your sister?"

Short of learning Mandarin myself [under consideration in the lonnnng-term, truth be told], it may be best to simply write out some select sentences, go to a real-life Mandarin-speaker, and ask him//her, “How could I misunderstand you saying this?” and/or "How could I mis-pronounce this, and what would that mis-pronunciation mean?". However, that may get old fast in terms of convenience of everyone involved.

I've come across tons of instances where Chinese folks have a heavy English accent [which can be misunderstood to native English speakers], but that's not what I'm looking for. I'm wanting to go the other way, in terms of mis-hearing when spoken to and mis-pronouncing when speaking.

Do any of you kind folks have any thoughts, tips or ideas as to what I could do? Or websites I could go to [or that would be enlightening]?

Thank you all so much!

My Weak Google-Wiki Fu.
Chinese mistranslation
Chinese misheard
Mandarin misheard
Mishearing Chinese
Mishearing Mandarin
Mishearing Chinese -lyrics
Learning Chinese difficulty
Spoken Chinese translator
Spoken Mandarin trouble
Mandarin English pronunciation
Mandarin English common problem

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