Getting to know Li Keqiang the right way

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MAURO GIA SAMONTE

Part 2
So now here is sharing this item I stumbled upon in the net which I feel is very vital to knowing Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. I don’t suppose anybody would want his name mispronounced when addressed. In my case, I am certainly peeved when people, having a mindset of what my name is, call me “Mario” or “Mauricio.” If and when I do get that desired one-on-one with Premier Li, I should never put him in such a state as I invariably find myself in, wanting to bash people for calling me “Mario” or “Mauricio.”

In a blog called ThoughtCo., author Ollie Linge writes:

“Pronouncing names in Chinese

“Pronouncing names in Chinese can be very hard if you haven’t studied the language; sometimes it’s hard even if you have.

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“Many letters used to write the sounds in Mandarin (called Hanyu Pinyin) don’t match the sounds they describe in English, so simply trying to read a Chinese name and guess the pronunciation will lead to many mistakes.

“Ignoring or mispronouncing tones will just add to the confusion. These mistakes add up and often become so serious that a native speaker would fail to understand. Read more about how to pronounce Chinese names.

“The quick and dirty way of pronouncing Li Keqiang

“Chinese names usually consist of three syllables, with the first being the family name and the last two the personal name. There are exceptions to this rule, but it holds true in a vast majority of cases. Thus, there are three syllables we need to deal with.

“Listen to the pronunciation here while reading the explanation. Repeat yourself!

1. Li – Pronounce as “lee.”

2. Ke – Pronounce as “cu-” in “curve”.

3. Qiang – Pronounce as “chi-” in “chin” plus “ang-” in “angry.”

“If you want to have a go at the tones, they are low, falling and rising respectively.

“Note: This pronunciation is not correct pronunciation in Mandarin. It represents my best effort to write the pronunciation using English words. To really get it right, you need to learn some new sounds (see below).

“How to actually pronounce Li Keqiang

“If you study Mandarin, you should never ever rely on English approximations like those above. Those are meant for people who don’t intend to learn the language! You have to understand the orthography, i.e. how the letters relate to the sounds. There are many traps and pitfalls in Pinyin you have to be familiar with.

“Now, let’s look at the three syllables in more detail, including common learner errors:

1. Lǐ (third tone) – The “l” is a normal “l” as in English. Note that English has two variants of this sound, one light and one dark. Compare the “l” in “light” and “full.” The latter has a darker character and is pronounced farther back (it’s velarized). You want the light version here. The “i” in Mandarin is further forward and upward compared to “i” in English. Your tongue tip should be as far up and forward as possible while still pronouncing a vowel!

2. Ke (fourth tone) – The second syllable is not that hard to pronounce okay, but is hard to get completely right. The “k” should be aspirated. The “e” is similar to the “e” in the English word “the,” but farther back. To get it completely right, you should have about the same position as when you say the [o]in Pinyin “po,” but your lips shouldn’t be rounded. However, it will still be perfectly understandable if you don’t go that far.

3. Qiang (second tone) – The initial here is the only tricky part. “Q” is an aspirated affricate, which means that it is the same as Pinyin “x,” but with a short stop “t” in front and with aspiration. The tongue tip should be down, lightly touching the teeth ridge behind the lower teeth.

So there, the only Chinese words I need to learn in that possible one-on-one with the reigning Chinese leader: Li Keqiang. As for the rest of the interview, the Premier is reputed to be completely conversant in English. With such meticulous instructions above, it won’t be difficult to accomplish the learning.

The Premier will be around November 10 to 15 for the Asean Summit, plus an additional one day for the immediately following East Asia Summit. That’s a good seven days for perfecting the pronunciation of Li Keqiang. I’ll definitely make it for the basics.

Challenging prospects
For the complexities, that’s another thing, and the prospects are challenging.

Begin from China’s commitments to Philippine economic development. One observer, Bong Sarmiento, in an article published by the blog Asia Times, writes that China hasn’t delivered on its pledges given to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the president’s visit to that country in 2016. He is referring to the $24 billion aid package and investments China committed to undertake in the Philippines largely in infrastructure development.

According to the writer, “A Philippine Department of Finance report on the pledge said that China will provide US$9 billion in soft loans, including a US$3 billion credit line from the Bank of China, while economic deals including infrastructure investments would amount to about US$15 billion.” So there is $3 billion worth of Chinese assistance to the Philippines on top of the $24 billion earlier cited. That makes for a total of $27 billion worth of aid and investments which according to the writer China has been dilly-dallying on in their delivery to the Philippines. What the writer fails to state is that a great bulk of that aid and investment package had already been programmed by China even before Duterte came to power but that the Philippines lost six years in their implementation due to the belligerent attitude of Noynoy Aquino, with much urging from the United States, toward China over the South China Sea dispute. A statement from the Chinese embassy points to this as the reason why the Philippines has lagged behind Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia in availing of Chinese aid early on.

(To be continued)

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