Translation:The cat is on the chair.

January 21, 2018

This discussion is locked.


I'm not hearing the "ng" sound for 上 (shang) in the audio. To me it sounds like "sha" or closer to 下 (xia).

The way it is pronounced here, how can you tell the difference between the two when spoken?


Yes you are right, I have the same comment too, since the audio really did sound much like 下 (even in the slow voice) rather than 上and so I answered 下. Our answer 下 should have been correct.


Since I first asked this question 5 months ago, I just started to hear a small difference after doing the 下面 and 上面 exercises that come up later in the course.

下 makes a longer and more distinct "a" sound at the end like "aaah". Whereas the ending "a" sound in 上 is much shorter because of the nasal "ng" that follows. Also, when watching shows filmed in China, I hear an airy "h" sound being stressed for 上 (shang) in human speech.

Even with 上面 and 下面 it is still hard to tell the difference so I guess it's something that will just take practice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbhFcFNGl8o https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMwvy1OfTLU


I still can't hear the difference and I don't understand why a language would make two opposite things sound so similar. I mean, in sailing there used to be "larboard" and "starboard" but if you yelled that into the wind you might be misheard and crash! Hence, "port" and "starboard." To Chinese speakers ever get confused as to where the cat is???


You learn to hear the difference between sh and x. I promise there really is one. (I mean, I guess you could also learn to hear whether the "a" is nasalized or not, but for me that's harder than sh versus x.)

If you experimentally pronounce sh and s, you'll hear that s is higher pitched. sh is lower, especially the Chinese-style sh, where the tip of your tongue curls backwards (as if to say r) so that its underside is facing your teeth. That makes a bigger hollow between your tongue and your lips, which helps boost the low frequencies. (This is also why you round your lips if you want to shush someone extra strongly.)

x is in between, but to me it sounds closer to s than to (Chinese-style) sh. It's easier to recognize if you can pronounce it, which you do by making a medium-small hollow in your mouth that will boost the medium-high frequencies.

If you are one of the people who pronounces s with your tongue pointing to your bottom teeth, you're halfway there. You are already making air flow through a tiny slot between the blade of your tongue and the hard ridge behind your top teeth. The slot is so narrow that the airflow breaks into turbulence, which is the source of the sound.

To get to x, you just need to move the slot a tiny bit, from the hard ridge to the steep slope just behind it. Say s really loud, so that you can feel the position of the slot from the turbulent air shooting out of it. Then flex your tongue so that the spot just behind the slot rises toward the roof of your mouth, while everything from the slot forward to the tip drops.

For those of us who pronounce s with the tips of our tongues pointing to our top teeth, there are two ways to approach x. You can figure out how to pronounce the other s (you'll have to push your tongue forward as well as turning the tip down) and go from there, or you can start with the "noise slot" behind the target and slip it forward.

To do this, whisper the word "key" as slowly as you can. Not a stage whisper that comes from a nice open throat, but a menacing, hissing whisper that you can feel rushing down your tongue. Practice making it longer and louder. You'll find this requires you to keep your tongue closer and closer to the roof of your mouth and move the "eeee" further and further forward. Once you reach maximum hiss, stop saying the k, and what's left is Chinese x.

If you push this sound too far forward, it will actually turn into the tongue-down s, but that's OK, just back it off a tiny bit. And if you accidentally hit the roof of your mouth with your tongue, so that the airflow stops entirely, that's a happy accident; break contact, but remember how it feels and sounds (a little like baby talk, to be honest), because that's exactly the gesture you need for pinyin q and j.

Now you can play around saying "sh x s x sh x s" (with the tongue-curling Chinese sh) and hear the pitch go up and down. Also, the set x/q/j is exactly parallel to sh/ch/zh and s/c/z, so once you have x dialed in, you will pick up q and j (and their respective differences from ch and zh) really quickly.


You're right, and I think the shorter way to explain is just to say that with s - x - sh the placement of the tongue moves on a continuum from further forward to further back. Some Chinese speakers pronounce x very forward, so it sounds like s in their dialect.

Describing them in terms of their "pitch" is confusing because the pitch will vary between speakers. We can only hear pitch difference in a comparison of one person going through the sounds side by side, not by a sentence in isolation. What we can hear is a difference in timbre. The sh is not a lower pitch but rather, in metaphorical terms (timbre is so hard to describe), "darker." The real key comes with the vowel, since its with the vowel that we get most of timbre. The x is adjacent to i vowel. Therefore, xi will happen, shi will not (or rather, in shi the i will be a different vowel sound). If we hear "i" and unsure whether we're hearing x or sh, we learn to infer that x is the right sound.

There may be a problem here in that so many Chinese speakers do pronounce x more like s, whereas, I think, the Beijing-based Mandarin courses are not teaching that. This pronunciation is clearly sh for someone who pronounces x closer to s, but for those learning the Beijing dialect their ears want a much more retroflex sh to hear it as such.

Like, for one person, it goes [forward] s - - x - - sh [back] , while for another it is [forward] s - x - sh -- [back]. x and sh are distinguished for both, but in the case of the second speaker, both sounds are more forward (although still separated from each other).

I'm not convinced however (with respect for your knowledge) that the main issue here is that all these users cannot hear the difference between x and sh. One one hand what you say sounds likely, but on the other hand I put some stock in the many user (some of who also have significant experience) who say the audio is wrong.

I wonder if the i in zi, preceding shang, is having an influence of making the sh in shang pronounce with the tongue more forward (a "laziness" issue). What I'm personally hearing is too much "i" in shang, coupled with so little "ng".

In sum, I love your explanation and think it's correct in general. But I remain thinking that the pronunciation in this audio is too subtle in its distinction. It may be a totally normal pronunciation in fast speech (and which learners will have to cope with), but it's not a great example to help with the ideal distinction being taught.

I'd love more info from qualified sources on the difference between dialects. I only have the anecdotal/haphazard observation that Beijing speakers seems to put everything more "backwards" (tongue) as compared to, say, Shanghai speakers. Hoping to learn more.


I could have heard the correct sound if it was the male speaker, but i havent heard the female speaker say 上 and 下 as much. I listened very closely over and over and still got it wrong.


In this exercise, 25th May 2020, it is the male speaker. The sounds appear to me to be identical.


You and other commentators are absolutely right; I just listened carefully to the female voice several times, both in normal speech and slow, but could not make out any difference although I know there is!


two weeks later the same again ... it´s really annoying!


I agree. I hesitated between the two and then decided there was no "ng" sound. Both have the same tone. Maybe over time it'll come as Cinnamon Te 1 suggests.


That's not the worst of it. 子 on it's own sounds like zee, which is highly incorrect! Already reported. Really not a fan of the new voices in general.


I've heard that actually the "g" in the final nasalizes the vowel sound. It's supposed to be something like a French "an".


May 2020 still the same


"The cat is on top of the chair." should also be accepted.


I agree and so do all translate sites (google, reverso etc...)


And "The cat is atop the chair" may too be considered valid. But it's much work for developpers and it's easy to grasp the habit of using "on" in any case.


Note the slight difference of the first character.


This is the difference between traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese. "貓在椅子上。" is traditional Chinese while "猫在椅子上。" is the simplified one.


The difference shows how simplified Chinese fails to show how the composition of the character delivers the meaning of the character. In traditional Chinese, 豸 means an animal with a long vertebrate. 犭is also about vertebrates, but specifically referring to those in the canine family. So if you take the simplified Chinese seriously, the cat must be a canine!


Yes, but it also shows the efficiency of the simplified writing system as it reduces the number of radicals needed to understand the language by making most vertebrates into dogs, thereby asserting the long-known fact that the Chinese language was actually created by ancient canines. True story.


It is the cat!!!!!


'A cat is on a chair' is a correct answer, should be accepted. There is no context given that would make the sentcence refer to a specific cat on a specific chair.


Agreed -- report it!


The audio is just plain wrong on that one. I fiddled around with listening to the complete sentence and the "shang" and "xia" tiles repeatedly. All of them had the same female voice and the (supposedly) "shang" in the sentence did not sound like the "shang" in the tile. I thought perhaps the "ng" might be left of as an example of actual "ng" dropping that does occur in everyday speech, and listened for a difference in the quality of the "x" and "sh" sounds at the beginning of the syllables... I must say, I think it's just a case of the Duolingo people making an error. Please fix this.


learn to slur your words in a manner that police can understand.... that's all that matters


The audio clearly says "下" Xià, not "上" Shàng.


Cat is on the chair cmon


I agree - the male voice pronunciation of shang is too similar to xia


Do prepositions always come at the end? Amd is This preposition a verb and that's why it's at the end?


在 is the preposition, right where you expect it to be. 上 is (used here as) a positional noun: 椅子上 is "the top of the chair"


Make up your mind system, is it 下 or 上 ?


Does anyone else have the darndest time hearing the difference between Xia and Xiang?


The speaker sounds XIA, and not SHANG. This is not the first time to write this.


thanks for your rewrite





and I don't have a good idea of how to translate "very hard to work into a conversation"... :)


I often skip punctuation and still get it right. . .this is clearly xia.


Useless comment: Very realistic. 狗在椅子下 but 猫在椅子上. The cat above and the dog below.


Yes, the sounds are confused.


I have succumbed - writing the wrong answer to get the answer right. Reported May 2020


please fix the audio


I don't think Duolingo reads this. You have to flag it


Still no changes to the tone of shang despite being June 10 2020


That damn cat is on the chair again, not accepted


I hear xia also not shang


boy, when it's said fast 上 can sure sound like 下...


the speaker sounds shang and xia almost identicaly...very hard to differentiate!

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