19 April, 2018

Qin Dynasty

Bear with me. This one requires a bit of an intro.
Where I live. Why I learn Mandarin.

In learning Mandarin, the first thing they teach is how to read pinyin, which is the way they spell out character pronunciations using Latin letters. But most of them aren't "right" for an English speaker! I'm lucky to have a linguist for a husband, who reminded me early on that a lot of languages utilizing the Latin alphabet pronounce things their own way. In German, J has a Y sound. In Spanish, J is more like H.

In Chinese pinyin, Q is sort of like ch, but with a bit of a TS to it.

The Qin Dynasty was the first unified dynasty, and maybe that's why we call this country China now? I'm not trying to do research on this right now, although I would be very interested to study Chinese history.

I'm not really writing about the Qin Dynasty, but the use of "Q" in pinyin is part of my everyday life. I've had to open my mind to the fact that pronunciation of ANY symbol - Latin or otherwise - is arbitrary. Since this culture calls Q "ch", that is the correct pronunciation ... here. 
I go to Visual Mandarin (dot-com) to look up stroke order when practicing my characters.

There are a LOT of Q words. Except they aren't Q words. They are distinct characters that may have a meaning alone, but also have several meanings when coupled with other characters. It's a paradigm shift. 

Which brings me around to a sort of vague connection to Life Wisdom: If something as simple as letters can be so very different from a different perspective in a different culture, what else do we look at as black and white that may be completely different from a different view? Have you ever had a basic premise contradicted in your life?

(If you're visiting from A to Z, please include the name of your blog as it is on the Master List so I can return the favor!)


  1. Good grief - this makes learning another language look like a walk in the park! All those brushstrokes and different ways to pronounce things and Latin roots - it makes my poor little head hurt!

    Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au
    Q for Quality not Quantity

    1. Ironically, living in China has re-ignited my desire to learn German. I started in school, but only know snippets. I hear more German than English among the few non-Chinese faces I see here. So after I've settled into Mandarin for a couple years, I'll probably restart that.

  2. Greeting from East Tennessee, Red! Heck, I have enough trouble with the English language why on earth would I subject myself to torture to learn another language? lol Of course, it really is fascinating when someone such as you explains some of these basic differences. Am I understanding correctly that if I were Chinese and I saw an English Q-word I'd try to pronounce it as the 'ch' sound like as in match? If so, then my brain is having quite the wrapping around how to say said Q-words. That's too much to think about this early in the morning even coffee #2 isn't enough to unscramble this interpretation. Thanks for visiting yesterday which was today for you. :) Boy, am I confused!

    Curious as a Cathy
    A2Z iPad Art Sketch Quaint Living room

    1. Since kids here start learning English at a young age, I doubt they would actually try pronouncing an English Q word with a ch, but they sometimes forget to use a U in spelling!
      I'm learning so much more about English, too, just from having to explain certain words or phrases. Just think how much baseball jargon is everyday - third strike, time out, home run ...

  3. When I studied Asian philosophy in college, we had to get used to some of this. If the letter had an apostrophe after it had a completely different sound. Stuff like that.

    This is a good reminder how different cultures see the world differently.

    Liz A. from Laws of Gravity

    1. In words, sometimes they use an apostrophe to clarify which character it is. For example Jing'an zhuang is a bus stop near me. Without the apostrophe, if you didn't know the characters, you might thing it was Jin gan zhuang. Totally different characters!

  4. This post is really interesting. I enjoyed reading it. :)
    I know a word 'Qi' - the circulating life force whose existence and properties are the basis of much Chinese philosophy and medicine.

    Best wishes!

    Jui Positive Cookies


I enjoy a good debate. Feel free to shake things up. Tell me I'm wrong. Ask me why I have such a weird opinion. ...or, just laugh and tell how this relates to you and your life.