words with similar tones and the native speaker

April 25, 2011, 06:30 PM posted in I Have a Question

I have been curious how the native Chinese language speaker handles the deciphering words with similar tones when listening.  For instance in the following sentence;

游泳是有用的演习 (Yóuyǒng shì yǒuyòng de yǎnxí) "Swimming is a useful exercise"

Is it more because 游泳 is a noun and 有用 is an adjective and is more about context?  Or does one can really decipher the tones?

As my vocabulary increases, I am finding it difficult.  I wonder I need to pay more attention to the over all grammer of the sentence.



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April 27, 2011, 05:41 AM

First of all, I would like to suggest thd following sentence instead:

游泳是有用的锻炼(exercise in a sense of sports, while 练习 normally means practices or exercises as in homework)。

Yóu yǒng shì yǒu yòng de duàn liàn. 

Secondly, I think the context bits help a lot with the similar tones problem.

For example, A是, we would always assume the A would be a noun. 

B的, we would know the B would be an adjective. 

Then this would certainly help us to understand and decipher the two when listening to that specific sentence. 

Finally, I think finding this kind of difficulty means you've got to a relatively high level of the language capability. So good luck and keep on! 

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thanks much for the reply and the kind words of encouragement.

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April 27, 2011, 08:34 PM

You could think of it like this. How would you cope with someone saying to you

They're puting their swiming pool over there.....

we handle this stuff quite normally in our native language and we don't have the tonal difference to clue us up. Now how you achieve that contextual understanding in 普通话 I can't help you with as I'm still searching for it myself. I just assume if I listen enough and talk enough eventually something will click :-)

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Such a good point. One forgets... Thanks.