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21 July 2005



The funny thing about that article and the story of Shi, is that whenever Sabrina and I watch a Chinese movie (I read the sub titles) I always comment that it sounds like everyone is talking just like that, shi shi shi. For me, thats just what it sounds like, but for Sabrina and all Chinese speakers I guess in the context it all makes sense.


Definitely is not like this. First, there are three types of Chinese words that sound like"shi" and these are "si, xi, shi", are ponounced in a slightly different way and have totally different meaning. Second, the Chinese language has four tones. Meaning that each one of the above "shi" may be pronounced under four different tones and have four different meanings. In total it may be possible to get 3*4 = 12 words that sound "shi". However, all these can be clearly expressed and distinguished in Pinyin, but this is something the professor forgot to mention...Let's do not forget that similar cases we have in every language, where the same word may have multiple meanings.

Destin Hubble

I would like to reiterate the strength of the former point. Pinyin accurately depicts every distinction made by a chinese speaker in speech. In other words, if a person can understand someone telling this story, they can understand it by reading *accurate* Pinyin. I'm not exactly sure how you can teach Chinese without using characters or Pinyin with tone marks included.

Unfortunately, what I have said above is not always true. Although Pinyin always accurately represents speech, speech does not always accurately represent meaning. Sometimes Chinese speakers have to write down characters to be able to communicate a word or in the least, they have to describe the word they are trying to communicate in a redundant fashion. The biggest example I can think of is names. Often in English, we have to ask how to spell a last name but much more often in Chinese, you have to spell (describe the characters of) the name. I've always felt this redundancy and reliance on written word is unfortunate and symbolizes a fault in the system.

I may sound harsh, but I love Chinese. Mostly, I just can't stand the fact that China didn't anchor to Pinyin when they had a chance 100 years ago. I'm convinced that Chinese would be the universal language by now if they had done so. Anyone I've ever spoken to that has decided not to take Chinese, is because of the characters.

Andrew Parke

I may be in the minority here, but I decided to learn Chinese specifically because of their characters; had Chinese adopted pinyin as its sole written system, I would not have even bothered trying to learn the language.

I am a very visual learner, and reading / writing Chinese (mostly using traditional characters) is far more sensible to me than speaking it.


Pinyin is ONLY for Mandarin. Mandarin is NOT the same as Chinese. Chinese has many dialects, NOT languages. Pinyin is no way an accurate system. None of the romanizations are accurate in fact. They are approximations only. Pinyin with the diacritics is laughable: diacritics are used mostly in European languages and a handful of Asian languages like modern Vietnamese, otherwise, you ought to just write in Chinese characters just the way Manchu, Japanese, Mongol, Vietnamese and Korean had to adopt and write in characters, either to rule the Chinese people or because they had no language of their own and had to learn from Chinese people. Guess what? Chinese wasn't written with an alphabet, because Chinese doesn't just represent the sounds of the language but also the meaning, either in whole or in part. Pinyin? A lot of foreigners love to use and promote that, a faulty system, and the only romanized system used in China now. You can't learn other Chinese dialects using Pinyin at all!!!

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