Normally I wouldn't want to call attention to a program as vapid as the one transcribed in the "quasi-blog" post linked to below, but the intelligent, critical comments that are interspersed by the blogger make it an instructive exercise after all.
Here's the introduction:
Kelly spoke to three different people. First up was Professor David Crystal, a prominent British linguist, who spoke in a very informative and entertaining manner about accents in the United Kingdom and, to some extent, Australia.
This was followed by an interview with Associate Professor Felicity Cox from Macquarie University, who held a very intelligent discussion about accents within Australia.
Finally, in what appeared to be a nod at accents in foreign languages, Kelly held an interview with Xing Jin from the Confucius Institute at the University of Sydney.
What was most remarkable about the interview with Xing Jin was the fact that Kelly Higgins-Devine did not manage to elicit a single comment pertaining to the topic at hand — "accents in Chinese" — during the entire interview. That is a breathtaking achievement. Although the average Australian listener might have gleaned a few morsels of intelligible information from the interview, for the most part the two participants were speaking at cross-purposes from start to finish.
What could have turned a potentially interesting discussion into such a disastrous failure? That's what I want to delve into here.
I will reproduce the interview below, interspersed with my own notes pointing out where the problems lie. I know it will sound nitpicking, but fathoming a communication failure of this magnitude requires a fine-grained look at the assumptions and thinking that led to it running off the rails in such a spectacular manner.
If you want to listen to the interview yourself, you can go to the recording here.
The segment on Chinese starts at around 30 minutes — if you click on the 30 minute mark you'll catch the tail end of the interview with Felicity Cox; the Xing Jin segment starts almost immediately afterward.
Some additional comments from the blogger:
I must say that while Xing Jin isn't totally impressive she does try to convey some of the basic contours of Chinese. [Yet, i]n her well-worn role as an "explainer" of Chinese for foreigner listeners she basically fails to either understand or stick to the topic. Her own English accent, while good, might not always be understood by Australian listeners. But the real problem was the questions from the Kelly Higgins-Devine, which betrayed such lack of knowledge about the basic situation in Chinese (starting with the issue of "dialects") that it was inevitable from the start that the interview would go nowhere.
We have made countless posts on these subjects at Language Log, but I'll only list a few here:
"Voice recognition vs. Shandong accent" (3/1/15)
"When intonation overrides tone" (6/4/13)
"Cantonese intonation" (4/3015)