Or “how not to speak Mandarin”.

In our studies, we all do some things we’re not proud of. Reading Sailor Moon Fist of the North Star, taking English language breaks (well, I wanted to hear how it sounded before it was translated!), etc. No, the biggest mistake I’ve made was getting into the habit of “rapid-fire Mandarin” where, through some tragic series of events, I’ve learned ‘speaking faster meant getting understood better”. Let me explain.

Before, I would speak slowly, which often lead to a lot of misunderstanding, mostly because I was still in the very early stages of learning (ignorance was also bliss, because with a more limited vocabulary, I could only say so much yet was quite clear about that. Now I know too much but can’t express it all. Ack!). Then, I found, speaking faster seemed like it was easier for people to understand me. I don’t know how or why this occurred. I’m also not the only one to notice this, either, as I have had other classmates come to the same conclusion.

This conclusion is wrong. So very. Very. Wrong.

No, instead you come off sounding like you’re trying to gun down their ears with your broken tones and un-retroflexed shi, zhi, and r’s and, god bless the native speakers, they just try to figure it out. In fact, it has actually lead me to MORE misunderstandings than when I spoke slower in my younger more innocent days.

So, a piece of advice and something to try and remember when you speak–much as I have to–keep it slow. It doesn’t have to be 56.6k1 slow, but at least try and keep it at a nice comfortable speed. In addition, try and keep it even (as best as you can). Slow and even. If you speak like you’re on your 6th cup of coffee of the last 15 minutes, then that’s too fast. Go for more “the morphine is starting to kick in now” speeds.

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1Am I the only one disturbed that people have actually uploaded videos on Youtube JUST for the old dial-up sounds?