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Some languages, such an English and German, make a distinction between the aspirated voiced consonants and on the one hand and the unaspirated voiced b and d on the other.

Standard Chinese by contrast, makes a distinction between the aspirated voiced and on the one hand and the unaspirated p and t on the other. Native speakers of English and German are not used to the unaspirated p and t at the beginning of a word and when speaking Chinese tend to replace them with the aspirated b and d, respectively, especially since Hanyu Pinyin represents these sounds as "b" and "d" in spelling.

How do you teach the correct pronunciation of words such as "bàba" (with unaspirated p) and "guāndiǎn" (with unaspirated t in the second syllable)?

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The following technique can be used to teach native speakers of English or German to pronounce the unaspirated p and t at the beginning of a word or syllable. In both English and German, the unaspirated p and t after the letter 's' at the beginning of a word. For example in English, the 'p' is unaspirated in the words "spark", "spear" and "sports", and the 't' is unaspirated in the words "star", "steer", "stand" and "stop".

This phenomenon can be exploited by letting learners pronounce these words, first slowly, then with a longer 's', then with a short pause between the 's' and the rest of the word, and finally without the 's'. This should result in word such as "park" pronounced with an unaspirated 'p', etcetera. The second step is then to replace these words with Chinese words that begin with the same consontant+vowel combination. When you notice that a Chinese word gets mispronounced, go back to an English word that starts with 's' + the same consontant+vowel combination and repeat the process.

The same technique can also be used with native speakers in German, starting with words such as "Stand", "stehen", "Stier, "Stopp", "Spinne", "Spanne", etcetera. In this case, the learner will need to make a break after the initial ʃ sound and finally omit it.

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