An Outstanding Resource for Learning Chinese
If you are studying Mandarin Chinese, this is a resource you simply have to check out.
Marilyn Shea is a University of Maine at Farmington psychology professor who fell in love with China when she visited the country for the first time 14 years ago. But the books and tapes then available to self-teach the language left her cold, Shea said.
She discovered that the perfect accents and diction on language tapes sounded nothing like the language she heard on the streets of Beijing.
So she set about creating her own database of English and Chinese words and phrases. Today the database has morphed into the Ting Center at http://hua.umf.maine.edu/Chinese/faq/funaq.html. Launched in 1997, it was one of the first language sites on the Internet. About 70,000 people per month visit the site. Its popularity is probably partly a result of Shea's insights into how people learn new languages, and to a booming interest in China, which has been steadily climbing the ranks as a destination for American students studying abroad.
Shea had no ambitions to create an online language center when she started her project.
"I just got fascinated with the problems of learning this language," she said.
Part of the problem, she said, is that most foreign language curriculums involve recordings of actors speaking slowly in the most correct form of the language.
"But if you just talk among your friends, you hear people who talk fast, slow, slovenly or mumble," she said.
As she says on her Web site, people put just enough energy into their language to get their point across. So they are prone to contracting or omitting words, slurring, grunting and dropping off the ends of sentences.
On her site, five or six people say the same word or phrase in different accents to give visitors a real feel for how they actually will hear the language in everyday conversation.
Shea collects the words and phrases during mostly annual trips back to China, where she has a legion of friends eager to help her come up with the latest phrases and words and lend their voices to the project.
Source: Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram