Sanjiazi 07: Showing off students

Previous entries: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

A couple of students came to the office to demonstrate their Manchu skills.  Mrs Guan was given the third book I mentioned in the last post (which you can open up and look at to follow along, if you like), so she could say some words in Chinese and have the students say their Manchu equivalents. 

Showing off students

She picked a word from the first page of the book, ten thousand (#13 in the lower right hand corner: 一万, yīwàn), and the students quickly reply:

emu tumen (note that I’m not using the book’s crazy romanization)

No problem there.  Next she asks the word for one hundred million (#14: 一亿, yīyì).  The students stumble for a second, and get it wrong saying emu minggan.  One of the students quickly realizes their mistake, and says that’s the word for one thousand, and then they quickly correct it.

emu bunai

We can see clearly here that the student’s native language is Mandarin, because as soon as the student realizes the mistake, he shouts out a very short “buh!”, which is a typical way any Chinese child would pronounce 不 (bù) in that kind of a situation.

The next exchange between Shi Junguang (SJG), Mrs Guan (MG), and the students (SS), is interesting from a sociolinguistic point of view:

Quick translation:

SJG: (pointing to a page in the book) You can also ask them any of these.  They might have forgotten some of them; it’s been a long time,  Some of….

MG: (completely ignoring SJG, addressing someone else) Then take a picture of us!

SJG: (not sure how to deal with this)…after a while…one year…

MG: (getting louder) Of ME!  WITH THESE TWO KIDS!

SJG: …after one year…

Other person: We could video it.

SJG: These two have a lot of…


SJG: …afterwards…


Student 1: “Head”?

MG: “Head”.

Student 1: hoto.

Student 2: hoto.

MG: “Head”?

Student 1: (softly, as if in disbelief) hoto.

SJG: They said it; hoto.  Say it louder.


MG: How do you say “head”?

Student 1: hoto.

Student 2: hoto.

Aside from the asker’s center-of-attention-grabbing interruptions (who is supposed to be shown off here, anyway?), and the pure surreality of the “conversation” in general, note their pronunciation of hoto, which is very obviously influenced by Chinese.  It sounds exactly like pinyin huōtuo.  The Manchu sound should be more of a pure [o] or [ɔ], and not the Chinese [uo].

The next couple of words trip the students up:

Mrs Guan asks the words for nose (鼻子, bízi) and tongue (舌头, shétou), and after the students look around and scratch their heads, Shi Junguang says they forgot, and then gives the words.  Nose is oforo, which he pronounces as owulo (using normal Manchu romanization), and tongue is ilenggu, which according to Materials of Spoken Manchu, is usually spoken in Sanjiazi as yulong (using normal Manchu romanization), but he pronounces it the same as Chinese pinyin yulun, just like it is written in the book Mrs Guan is reading from.

Next she interrupts to ask “teacher” (老师, lǎoshī), and “study” (学习, xuéxí); and then “hello teacher” (老师好, lǎoshīhǎo) and “hello guest” (客人好, kèrénhǎo).

Teacher is sefu, which is taken from Chinese 师傅 (shīfu, master).  In the book Mrs Guan is reading from, it is given as sewo, but the student seems to say something like owo.  Study is tacimbi, (the students forgot it at first, but Shi Junguang corrects them) but in the book it is tacime.  This is very odd.  Verbs in the book are given in their -me form, which while similar to the English infinitive, is not the way that verbs are normally listed in Manchu dictionaries.  They are normally listed with a -mbi ending, which corresponds basically with simple present.  The -me form is used for verbs that are not the main verb in the sentence, so they cannot be used alone.

“Hello teacher” is sefu sain (sewo sain), and “hello guest” is antaha sain.  This construction, X sain, seems to be a translation of Chinese X 好, as in 你好, which was popularized in China in the 1980s.  The staff here at Echoes of Manchu has not yet been able to find any verifiable Qing dynasty examples of Manchu X sain as a greeting, but there may be some Chinese examples of X 好.  Sima is currently preparing a post on that topic.

Next, Mrs Guan asks the word for everybody (大家, dàjiā), and following a long pause, I ask the word for student.

For “everybody”, the students say saza, which is what is written in the book, but I can’t find anything resembling that in any dictionaries.  The closest thing I can find is in Materials of Spoken Manchu, which gives “crowd” in a phonetic spelling as sasəxəčjə (I’d have to take a wild guess at how to romanize that).  Also, Enenggi gives an adverb sasa, which means “together”.

“Student” is given as xaiwe (it’s given in Materials of Spoken Manchu that way also).  In traditional Manchu it’s xabi.  Perhaps it was changed on account of its sounding very much like a common Chinese putdown, shǎbī (silly twat), which I’m sure all of the students are familiar with.  In fact, I wonder if there might really be a relationship between those two words, because according to Gertraude Roth Li (p351, #5), self-deprecation was used in Manchu to show humility.

Next, Shi Junguang takes the bull by the horns and shows us the grand finale: letting the students translate some sentences!

SJG: 上节课我们学到哪了? (How far did we get in the last class?)

SS: fujinmu kicen musei ya de … … tacime inaha.

(Traditional Manchu: ???? kicen musei yabade tacime isinaha.)

???? [previous]
kicen [lesson]
musei [we]
yabade [to what place]
tacime [study]
isinaha. [arrived]

SJG: 学到第三课了. ((We) got to the third lesson.)

SS: ilan kicen gisureme inaha.

(Traditional Manchu: ilan kicen gisureme isinaha.)

ilan [three]
kicen [lesson]
gisureme [discuss]
isinaha. [arrived]

SJG: 我读一句儿. (I’ll read a sentence).

SS: bi emu gisun hvlame.

(Traditional Manchu: bi emu gisun hulambi.)

bi [I]
emu [one]
gisun [sentence]
hvlambi. [read aloud]

SJG: 大家跟我读一句儿. (Everybody read a sentence with me.)

SS: saza mimbe dageme emu gisun hvla.

(Traditional Manchu: ???? mimbe dahame emu gisun hvla.)

???? [everybody]
mimbe [with me]
dahame [follow]
emu [one]
gisun [sentence]
hvla [read aloud]

They obviously spend some time developing fluency, huh?

7 thoughts on “Sanjiazi 07: Showing off students”

  1. Mrs. Guan is glorious. I assume you’re planning a full profile of her pedagogical prowess and interlocutory skills.

    Speaking of pedagogy, though, what’s presented here doesn’t seem all that different from what I’ve observed with ESL in my daughter’s first grade classroom in Beijing. Lots of memorization of individual words and some phrases; very little in the way of productive communication.

  2. I think you’re right about the pedagogy issue. I hope to make another trip up there sometime, and this time engage Zhao Jinchun, who I believe wrote the textbooks, and Zhao Aping, who teaches Manchu at Heilongjiang University.

    I want to present some more successful pedagogical ideas to them. If I can teach Chinese kids how to master English, they can certainly teach kids how to really master Manchu. They are certainly putting forth enough effort. They just need a few tweaks in their methodology.

    I also think that it would help tremendously if Shi Junguang were connected to Manchu scholars around the world.

  3. Thanks for the post!

    It is good to know that the words in their textbooks are written as actually pronounced.

    大家”saza” is actually the Manchu word “sasa” (=together 一起), it is often used with “emgi”. If the sound “s” is located between two vowels or “n”, “ng” etc., it is usually (not always!) pronounced as “z”, and “si” frequently becomes “ji”.
    e.g. gisun -> gizun , dosimbi -> dojimbi……

    “bi emu gisun hvlambi” is pronounced as “bi emu gizun hvlame” in the last sound file.

    Therefore, 大家跟我读一句儿 translated in Manchu would be:
    “sasa mimbe dahame emu gisun hvla”, but sounds like:
    “saza mimbe dageme emu gizun hvla”.

  4. You can read something about vowel alterations in spoken Manchu here:
    I think the most common alteration, that occurs in written Manchu as well, is the one between /g/ and /h/, e.g. aga – aha, asigan – asihan, sagambi – sahambi, dasargan – dasarhan. As I’ve noticed, it occurs mostly before back vowels (a, o, v).

  5. can you post n about how to arrive in this town. I live in Harbin and I´m doing research about manzu.

  6. Also there seems to be a lot of alternation between /h/ and /k/, so baniha can become banika.

    Your example with dahame/dageme is interesting. See these posts on language log for something similar in Uighur.

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