Monday, May 08, 2006

Chinese Movies as Listening practice

After reading this post and it's comments on ChinesePod I decided to have a Chinese movie night, so we went and hired a couple and watched them last night.

The first was a Hong Kong movie called "Breaking News". This was originally a Cantonese movie, however we watched the Mandarin dubbed version. Now this was a good movie, but of no use to me as far as listening practice is concerned. I find that people speak far too fast in Hong Kong movies for me to be able to keep up. I don't know if all Cantonese speaker are like this, but in Hong Kong they certainly speak at a very fast pace, and unfortunately the Mandarin dubbing has to be as fast as the original Cantonese.

I find that movies from Mainland China are much more understandable, but I think for clear speech and a reasonable speed of speaking Taiwan films are by far the best.

The second movie I watched last night was a Horror film from Taiwan called "The Heirloom". This film was much easier to follow and I noticed something about using a Chinese movie for listening practice that I hadn't noticed before.

My level of Chinese is still a long way from me being able to understand an entire movie unaided, but I have got to a point now where I am finding the English subtitles are actually adding to my confusion. The problem is the structure of a Chinese sentence is very different to the same sentence in English. I find that when I watch a Chinese movie I listen to the speech and if think I can understand what they are saying (or even if don't understand) I read the English subtitle to see if I am correct. However I don't actually listen to the whole sentence then read the English, I do these two things simultaneously.

For me to keep up with the conversation I need to listen in one language and simultaneously read in another when there may be no correlation at all in word order. In fact the sentence can be almost back to front in one language as compared to the other.

I am sure that once I get beyond this point it will mark a real milestone as far as my ability to listen and understand Chinese is concerned.


Blogger Matt Whyndham said...

That's the challenge of translation - a translation that's close to the spirit of the original is often gramatically nowhere near, even in languages that have similar grammars.

Turn off the English subtitles if you can, on the second viewing.

6:56 PM  

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