Pinyin story

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Tweet by Lori Belinsky:

Since this story is written in a kind of Globalese, even people who don't know Mandarin will be able to get a gist of what's going on.

The language is very simple, the sentences are short, the tones are correct.

Very happy to see this example of Pinyin in use.

[h.t. Eric Vinyl]


  1. Ellen Kozisek said,

    July 16, 2018 @ 10:59 am

    I notice that although they otherwise put tone marks on the pinyin words, Beijing does not have them.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    July 16, 2018 @ 12:03 pm

    I noticed that too and thought about it. It's probably because they consider Beijing a word that has been assimilated into English.

  3. Eric Vinyl said,

    July 16, 2018 @ 3:29 pm

    I thought it was an interesting example of how pinyin/alphabetically written languages assimilate foreignisms in a way that Standard Written Chinese does not (e.g. Motorola as opposed to 摩托羅拉/Mó tuō luó lā, Danvers instead of 丹佛斯/Dān fó sī). And the abbreviation of names Ah Q/gloss-style.
    (See also Prof. Mair’s Implications of the Soviet Dungan Script for Chinese Language Reform.)

    Also, it’s funny your comment about Beijing. This is a pet peeve with Spanish learners, when they drop into an Am.E. accent for place names like San Francisco or Palo Alto. They’re already Spanish words!!!

  4. Gabriel Faure said,

    July 16, 2018 @ 3:59 pm

    Can we get some background about what CI is in this context?

  5. Victor Mair said,

    July 16, 2018 @ 4:22 pm

    Click on #CI in the tweet.

  6. Lugubert said,

    July 16, 2018 @ 5:06 pm

    I clicked. Following an ad for Mamma Mia, I found Cigars International, Cochlea implants, Cheer intensity, Competitive Intelligence, Continuos Integration, Compra Individual, Comunicación Interna, Centre d’Instruction, Coordenadoria de Inteligência, Classes Inversees, Collective Impact, none of which makes sense to me in this setting.

  7. Rafael Trindade said,

    July 16, 2018 @ 5:56 pm

    It means Comprehensible Input. It's a very interesting hypothesis in language acquisition by Dr. Stephen Krashen ( It's kind of an educated guess, full of anedoctal evidence (the ones I find most amusing, aside Dr. Krashen's, are AUA school in Bangkok ( and Beniko Mason's work on Story Reading ( I'm very interested in this kind of research, and I'm planning to do some myself.

  8. Victor Mair said,

    July 16, 2018 @ 6:21 pm

    It means Cheer Intensity. The vast majority of tweets in that stream are about Cheer Intensity. This Language Log post is already up there. There are other tweets that have to do with language learning, esp. Mandarin, including a "very cool" one (hǎo kù). There is a linked Twitter stream about language learning (click on the #NTPRS18 in the o.p. above).

    The CI does NOT stand for "Confucius Institute"!

  9. Eric Vinyl said,

    July 16, 2018 @ 6:27 pm

    Gabriel Faure/Lugubert:

    Comprehensible Input is a language-learning model wherein instruction is in the target language, and highly context specific so that students should be able to infer meaning. If you already know my name, and I say My name is Eric and point to myself, you can make a reasonable guess at what I’m saying, if I hold up a red ball and a red pen, while using sentences with the word red, that’s a good way to learn the colour.

  10. Eric Vinyl said,

    July 16, 2018 @ 6:50 pm

    I'm reminded of the alternative: how Winston Churchill learned Latin

  11. Ross Presser said,

    July 16, 2018 @ 10:41 pm

    "even people who don't know Mandarin will be able to get a gist of what's going on"

    Well, I failed then. All I can tell for sure is that there are some smartphones being talked about by at least two people. I'm not sure exactly how many people, nor do I have the foggiest idea what they're doing.

    (context: I cannot speak, read or understand any languages except English, some Hebrew, some Spanish and some German.)

  12. Victor Mair said,

    July 16, 2018 @ 11:48 pm

    Look again. You'll see that there are two main characters, Diane and Jeff, who are associated with Danvers, MA and Beijing, and two minor characters, Bess and Jason, who are each mentioned only once. Since Jason is the last word of the story and is followed by an exclamation point, he must be important to the plot, but probably in an ironic way. The sad, crying emoji after "Facetime", then a happy, smiling emoji after "Iphone" + "Facetime", indicates that there has been an emotional turn relating to or resulting from the juxtaposition of these two conditions. The sequence of four exclamation points right before the smiling emoji and at the end of the following three sentences shows that excitement is building. Then there are four sentences without exclamation, followed by the concluding sentence with its final exclamation point, which (even if I didn't know Mandarin) I would interpret as a surprise ending.

    At that point, if I were sufficiently curious to discover more about what was going on, I would look up the following words and phrases: hǎokàn, zài, bù, kàn, yǒu, méiyǒu, and gāoxìng, since they each occur more than once. And you wouldn't have to count strokes or figure out radicals, just look them up alphabetically. If you pronounce "Ǎi ya!" (I would write that as "āi​yā"), you'll most likely realize that it's an exclamation.

    So, if you tried, you'd find that you actually know a lot more from reading this little story than you thought you did ("All I can tell for sure is that there are some smartphones being talked about by at least two people. I'm not sure exactly how many people, nor do I have the foggiest idea what they're doing.").

    Anyway, that's how I read languages with which I'm unfamiliar, and it's also the way I set about learning them.

  13. B.Ma said,

    July 17, 2018 @ 12:00 am

    I agree with Ross Presser; if I didn't know Mandarin I wouldn't have a clue what was happening, but there seem to be other pieces of paper above where vocabulary has just been taught (I see ku = cries) which would be interesting to see.

    Maybe I'm just slow but it took a while to get that they were abbreviating the names with initials, and only North Americans would instantly understand what M.A. means.

    I also don't understand how you tou1tou1de kan4 someone on facetime (even though J didn't have facetime yet when he was doing that).

    Also, I'm not sure whether in "correct" pinyin you have to change 不 to 2nd tone when it's followed by a 4th tone. The first bu (in buzai) is marked with the 4th tone but the last one (in bukan on the last line) is given the 2nd tone. If they are writing it as per pronounciation then hen on the first line should also be 2nd.

    iPhone is capitalized incorrectly.

  14. Eric Vinyl said,

    July 17, 2018 @ 7:50 am

    All I can tell for sure is that there are some smartphones being talked about by at least two people.

    That sounds like a gist to me, no?

    the concluding sentence with its final exclamation point, …I would interpret as a surprise ending.

    I don’t know. I might just interpret it like, “The dog was very happy to get his bone!” or even a triumphant, “And they lived happily ever after!” which are hardly surprises at all.

    only North Americans would instantly understand what M.A. means.

    Not even. It might have been more apparent to an East Coaster familiar with the geography, but that it was a state abbreviation never even occurred to me because who puts a period after each of the first two letters of Massachusetts?? Who does that???

    just look them up alphabetically.

    And where might one find an alphabetically arranged general usage dictionary of Mandarin Chinese, Professor Mair? ;)

    iPhone is capitalized incorrectly.

    Yeah, that was driving me up the wall, too.

  15. Victor Mair said,

    July 17, 2018 @ 9:32 am

    After looking into the related Twitter streams and the links to which they lead, I have to agree with Rafael Trindade that CI as a language teaching tool / method stands for "comprehensible input". From the Wikipedia article on "Input hypothesis":


    The input hypothesis, also known as the monitor model, is a group of five hypotheses of second-language acquisition developed by the linguist Stephen Krashen in the 1970s and 1980s. Krashen originally formulated the input hypothesis as just one of the five hypotheses, but over time the term has come to refer to the five hypotheses as a group. The hypotheses are the input hypothesis, the acquisition–learning hypothesis, the monitor hypothesis, the natural order hypothesis and the affective filter hypothesis. The input hypothesis was first published in 1977.[1][2]

    The hypotheses put primary importance on the comprehensible input (CI) that language learners are exposed to. Understanding spoken and written language input is seen as the only mechanism that results in the increase of underlying linguistic competence, and language output is not seen as having any effect on learners' ability. Furthermore, Krashen claimed that linguistic competence is only advanced when language is subconsciously acquired, and that conscious learning cannot be used as a source of spontaneous language production. Finally, learning is seen to be heavily dependent on the mood of the learner, with learning being impaired if the learner is under stress or does not want to learn the language.


    The NTPRS in the cited tweet and in my third comment above means "National TPRS":


    TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) is an input-based approach to teaching language that focuses on the systematic instruction of vocabulary in a highly comprehensible, personalized and contextualized manner.


    TPRS is CI in action.

  16. Victor Mair said,

    July 17, 2018 @ 9:33 am

    Below are a number of tweets from the #NTPRS18 related thread to think about. This is my kind of language learning and teaching. It makes learning another language fun instead of dreary drudgery, fearing that one might make a minor error. TPRS emphasizes language acquisition and communicative competence. It does not dwell upon grammatical, tonal, etc. mistakes. The goal of TPRS is to help learners understand and express, not to intimidate and impress. TPRS teachers are not afraid to talk about EMPATHY with their students. That is wonderful!!

    I love what this enthusiastic group of teachers are doing. They emphasize high frequency lexical items and they put them up on a "word wall" that students utilize in coming up with creative stories.

    There are hundreds of tweets in this and related threads. To me they are all inspiring. I've just chosen a few to illustrate their method, spirit, and aims. To prevent these quotations from growing into an overly long comment, I will break them up into several comments.


    Kelly Ferguson‏ @Kelferg Jul 10

    “Spend as little time grading homework as possible. Get your life back because you grading homework doesn’t make them speak French better.”

    Sra. T‏ @SraTrimmer Jul 9

    #NTPRS18 real Superheroes! Real inspirations, kicking off National Teaching Proficiency through Reading & Storytelling.

    MiddleSchoolMaestra‏ @valinemoreno Jul 12

    #ntprs18 that face you make when you’re completely amazed and inspired by the person who just killed it on the drums! Except it wasn’t a drum! It was a TABLE!!!

    Mike Coxon‏ @coxon_mike Jul 13

    "Doesn't our world need a little more empathy."

    Señora Schweitzer‏ @SraSchweitzer Jul 13

    An annual tradition: “Bedtime Stories with Bess & Andrea”… French/Spanish volleyball reading/language exchange between hotel roomies. A BIG shout out to @KarenRowan and @fluencyfast for providing us w/her CI version of Don Quijote in both langs. ¡Gracias! Merci!!! #ntprs18

    MiddleSchoolMaestra‏ @valinemoreno Jul 9

    #ntprs18 this is the face of a hungry and tired teacher from California who is enthusiastically learning Russian in Massachusetts on summer vacation in order to be a better Spanish teacher in the fall.

    Jay Carter III‏ @Jabbergluck Jul 12

    Don't hover while students are reading. The less you expect from them, the more genuine interest they're allowed to feel. Someone doesn't want to read? They'll get bored and read eventually. Or not. And that's fine. Reading should be fun, not a chore!

  17. Victor Mair said,

    July 17, 2018 @ 9:33 am

    Gusfirefly‏ @gusfirefly Jul 10

    #ntprs18 Grammar is an editing tool. It does not lead to fluency.

    Lori Belinsky‏ @loribelinsky Jul 9

    #teach the verb “think” early so they can express their opinions as soon as they are ready. #NTPRS18

    Kristin Archambault‏ @HeyArchy Jul 11

    BVP wants us to get rid of the word “foreign” when we talk about language and use “second” or “another.” Even better, we should rename our departments to Department of Languages and Culture. #ntprs18

    Kristin Archambault‏ @HeyArchy Jul 9

    My aha moment: When students signal that they don’t understand, my defaultshould not be translation immediately. #ntprs18

    MiddleSchoolMaestra‏ @valinemoreno Jul 10

    “The best way to learn to speak is to listen. The best way to learn to write is to read. The best way to learn to think is to write.” Thought provoking! #ntprs18

    Kris Heinrichs Earle‏ @MadameAHS Jul 11

    Don’t underestimate the power of the word wall! This kept me feeling super secure with Linda Li. #ntprs18 #NTPRS18

  18. Victor Mair said,

    July 17, 2018 @ 9:34 am

    Kelly Ferguson‏ @Kelferg Jul 11

    Second word we need to ban? ERROR. This implies something has gone wrong. Define: "act or condition of ignorant or imprudent deviation behavior." There are no errors, only reflections of where you are. It shows "developmental form" or "developmental structure."#ntprs18

    Kristin Archambault‏ @HeyArchy Jul 10

    #ntprs18 “Grade the comprehension, celebrate the production” – Jason Fritze

    Deborah Climie‏ @DeborahClimie Jul 10

    When teaching a novel…If it's boring, personalize it. If it's action, dramatize it. If it's cultural, YouTubeize it. @ProfeSwag in #IntermediateTPRSTraining at #NTPRS18

    Kristin Archambault‏ @HeyArchy Jul 9

    #ntprs18 Jason Fritze says, don’t be afraid to use English, but use it purposefully and judiciously.
    Barbara Jeanette Rachman‏ @cafemiss Jul 10

    Correcting papers does no good. “Let it go! Let it go!” @jasonfritze #ntprs18

    Kristin Archambault‏ @HeyArchy Jul 13

    Craig Sheehy says that an Australian author named Ian Irvine has a blog with 41 ways to build suspense. He also says that building suspense in our stories is what makes our stories compelling. #ntprs18

  19. Victor Mair said,

    July 17, 2018 @ 9:34 am

    Kris Heinrichs Earle‏ @MadameAHS Jul 13

    Blaine Ray: think like a student when you walk into your class and have fun with your students. #ntprs18

    Jay Carter III‏ @Jabbergluck Jul 11

    Among reading, writing, listening, and speaking, which will you need the least if you were in a foreign country? If you answered "writing," you are correct; so why do our tests focus so much on writing skills?

    Jay Carter III‏ @Jabbergluck Jul 11

    It is unreasonable to expect perfect language production. In anyone. Even native speakers. People are far more willing to accept *grammatical* mistakes than *cultural* mistakes. #acquireculture #ntprs18
    Tina Flores‏ @SraFlorest Jul 11

    “No parent is going to say, ‘I want my kid to just memorize stuff for the test and then forget it.’ Explain what your goals are to your parents.” Michelle Kind #ntprs18

    Sra. T‏ @SraTrimmer Jul 13

    Stories promote empathy. Share your story. Have empathy. @MartinaBex keynote #ntprs18

  20. Victor Mair said,

    July 17, 2018 @ 9:35 am

    Magister P‏ @MagisterMrP Jul 11

    Bill VanPatten: “Technically, in acquisition there is no such thing as errors.” #ntprs18
    Deborah Climie‏ @DeborahClimie Jul 11

    Proficiency and grammatical accuracy are not the same. @Michelle_Kindt in #IntermediateTPRSTraining at #NTPRS18
    Lori Belinsky‏ @loribelinsky Jul 9

    30 minutes into #Mandarin lesson. 95% Target language use, 90% comprehension and a mini-story staring @BlaineRayWrkshp #NTPRS18

    I salute Stephen Krashen and all TPRS teachers who put his theories into practice.

  21. Eric Vinyl said,

    July 17, 2018 @ 10:36 am

    Addendum: I can think of one circumstance in which one could reasonably place full stops after each letter of an abbreviation, and that’s if you wanted to emphasize the pronunciation of each letter as a letter. Still, I think I’d write the Lou Reed lyric as “Holly came from Miami, F-L-A,” with hyphens, not periods.

  22. Scott P. said,

    July 17, 2018 @ 12:50 pm

    Look again. You'll see that there are two main characters, Diane and Jeff, who are associated with Danvers, MA and Beijing, and two minor characters, Bess and Jason, who are each mentioned only once.

    The primary Danvers I am familiar with is Supergirl's secret identity.

  23. Ellen Kozisek said,

    July 17, 2018 @ 1:47 pm

    I would never have guessed M.A. meant Massachusetts before Googling Danvers. Once I did that it was clear though.

  24. Ross Presser said,

    July 17, 2018 @ 8:24 pm

    I guess my main obstacle was not twigging that D and J were abbreviations for Diane and Jeff. Especially with the M. A. with periods appearing so close to that. I just saw a whole bunch of initials and I guess I gave up.

    I wasn't really in the right frame of mind when I came to this. It was my morning "waste a little time before settling down to work" time and I just wanted some breezy light reading. If it had been evening maybe I could have approached it more like a puzzle solver and gotten a little further.

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