Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tonal Errors

In a language such as Taiwanese, tones are critical (even more so than Mandarin Chinese).  Today I across three phrases in which one change in tone with the same exact romanized spelling for the entire sentence results in laughable differences:

Example 1:

Intended sentence: He saw a bad person.

Change in one tone: He is a bad person!

Example 2:

Abraham has many descendents.

Abraham has lots of rain shoes.

Example 3:

Jesus instructs people (as in on the Sermon on the Mount).

Jesus bites people to death.

I am two days shy of finishing my one month of intensive full time Taiwanese language study. I hope in the future as I pick up more vocabulary I can be careful with tones!


TinaH said...


I hope you find the fun part of learning Taiwanese as I did when I read your article. ;-)


Jeannette said...

I would have my foot in my mouth all the time. I just don't hear the tonal nuances. I had a terrible time learning Italian when I was there.

Jeannette said...

I would always have my foot in my mouth! I just don't hear the small nuances!


Ed Look said...

Mother scolds the horse.