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Serveral chinese characters sound extremely similarly to me, not only because of their vowel's tone, but, often, also because of their starting consonants. For example, I find it's very difficult to notice the difference among 彡, 山, 摻, 芟, 惉, 沾, 傹, 治安, etc. I found several tables where characters are sorted by number of strokes (chinese dictionaries), piyin (chinese dictionaries for foreigners), by frequency (resources for beginnerds), by category (books for beginners), etc. What I cannot find is a table where words are sorted by sound similarity (piyin is a kind of), so that beginners can be warned about similarity traps.

What shall I look for?

Note that I'm not asking for resources, but for tips on what kind of resources a beginner should look for.

Attempt to improve my question, after Aurus Huang's answer. It's noticeable that, for example, Spanish have difficulties in distinguishing the sound (vowels) of "jeep", "cheap", "ship". In the same way, usually English speakers cannot distinguish Italian's double consonants (think of English's "regatta", from Italian's "regata", or "benvenuTTo" instead of "benvenuto"), or Russian's "ы", "й", "и". This kind of errors arize mostly because some sounds do not exist in their mother language.

So, back to the question, I'm looking for something that says: "Warning: be careful, the following Chinese words have quite similar sound: don't make confusion!". This may be quite specific according to the learner's mother language.

Thanks!

  • Not sure if this is what you're looking for : 近音檢字法 – Alex Sep 21 '15 at 17:36
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    Characters aren't really relevant to this. You should learn pinyin (or another transcription system). Then practice distinguishing cononants that are difficult for you. Based on the examples you gave, I don't think you'll find the kind of resource you want. After all, Chinese people don't have difficulty distinguishing zh/ch/ch/j/q/x. Also for learners, what's difficult for you is different than someone with a different native language. E.g., zh and sh have always sounded completely different to me. – Stumpy Joe Pete Sep 22 '15 at 1:35
  • @StumpyJoePete : Agree with you, different difficulties arise among different people. But maybe some set of common "traps" are identified for groups of people with the same mother language... – Starnuto di topo Sep 28 '15 at 7:11
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    Well, based on what you have said, I'd focus on the aspirated/unaspirated distinction. For instance b vs p, d vs t, zh vs ch, j vs q, etc. This seems to be a common problem for Europeans whose native lang. only distinguishes voicing. Also, sounds that are difficult for many foreigners in my exp. include the zh/ch/sh vs j/q/x, r, u vs ü, (z/c/s)i vs (z/c/s)e, and tones in general. – Stumpy Joe Pete Sep 28 '15 at 15:43
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Have you had problems noticing the difference between "sheer" and "cheer", or "jeep" and "cheap"? If not, then your problem is solved. For European people, it is strongly recommended that they read articles with Pinyin (literally "Spelled Pronunciation").
Why characters are not relevant to their pronunciations? Chinese has so LONG a history that pronunciations have been changed for dozens (if not hundreds) of times. Even a Chinese can't figure out why 工(gong, "work") represents the pronunciation of 江(jiang, "river"). Logically it should be, but it is not! Then Pinyin was invented to represent the pronunciation of characters. We only need to accept the fact and remember it. Leave the questions to linguists.
One more thing: You can find quite a lot of texts with Pinyin in children's books. Chinese textbooks of Grade 1 or 2 in primary schools also help. (Confucius said, you should not feel ashamed to learn from people inferior to you. ;-))

  • This is not the point. Have you ever noticed the difficulties of Spanish in distinguishing the sound (vowels) of "jeep", "cheap", "ship"? Or of English in distinguishing Italian's double consonants (think of English's "regatta", from Italian's "regata", or how English pronounce "benvenuTTo" instead of "benvenuto"), or Russian's "ы", "й", "и"? So, back to my question, I'm looking for something that says: "Warning: be careful, the following words have quite similar sound: don't make confusion!" – Starnuto di topo Sep 28 '15 at 7:07
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    I've never heard of that thing; I feel that Chinese vowels and consonants are easy to distinguish, compared to Italian or Russian. The real challenge lies on tonal systems. If there must be a thing you want, it should be in your Chinese textbook written in your mother language. – Aurus Huang Sep 28 '15 at 7:37
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For sound similarity, have a look at these short stories:

施氏食狮史

(Story of Stone Grotto Poet: Eating Lions)

石室诗士施氏,嗜狮,誓食十狮。施氏时时适市视狮。

十时,适十狮市。是时,适施氏适是市。施氏视十狮,恃矢势,使是十狮逝世。氏拾是十狮尸,适石室。

石室湿,施氏使侍拭石室。石室拭,施氏始试食十狮尸。食时,始识十狮实十石狮尸。试释是事。


施(shī)氏(shì)食(shí)狮(shī)史(shǐ)

  石(shí)室(shì)诗(shī)士(shì)施(shī)氏(shì),嗜(shì)狮(shī),誓(shì)食(shí)十(shí)狮(shī)。

  氏(shì)时(shí)时(shí)适(shì)市(shì)视(shì)狮(shī)。

  十(shí)时(shí),适(shì)十(shí)狮(shī)适(shì)市(shì)。

  是(shì)时(shí),适(shì)施(shī)氏(shì)适(shì)市(shì)。

  氏(shì)视(shì)是(shì)十(shí)狮(shī),恃(shì)矢(shǐ)势(shì),使(shǐ)是(shì)十(shí)狮(shī)逝(shì)世(shì)。

  氏(shì)拾(shí)是(shì)十(shí)狮(shī)尸(shī),适(shì)石(shí)室(shì)。

  石(shí)室(shì)湿(shī),氏(shì)使(shǐ)侍(shì)拭(shì)石(shí)室(shì)。

  石(shí)室(shì)拭(shì),氏(shì)始(shǐ)试(shì)食(shí)是(shì)十(shí)狮(shī)。

  食(shí)时(shí),始(shǐ)识(shí)是(shì)十(shí)狮(shī)尸(shī),实(shí)十(shí)石(shí)狮(shī)。

  试(shì)释(shì)是(shì)事(shì)。


季姬击鸡记

季姬寂,集鸡,鸡即棘鸡。
棘鸡饥叽,季姬及箕稷济鸡。
鸡既济,跻姬笈,季姬忌,急咭鸡,鸡急,继圾几,季姬急,即籍箕击鸡,箕疾击几伎,伎即齑,鸡叽集几基,季姬急极屐击鸡,鸡既殛,季姬激,即记《季姬击鸡记》。


饥鸡集矶记

唧唧鸡,鸡唧唧。几鸡挤挤集矶脊。
机极疾,鸡饥极,鸡冀己技击及鲫。
机既济蓟畿,鸡计疾机激几鲫。
机疾极,鲫极悸,急急挤集矶级际。
继即鲫迹极寂寂,继即几鸡既饥,即唧唧。


Also, have a look at this:
A 600-word story composed with words with similar sounds.
http://www.djyw.org/user1/90/archives/2010/40298.html

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

  • Tonal system is quite hard for Europeans, but this is off-topic for this question. – Aurus Huang Sep 28 '15 at 7:33

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