Hello everyone! I'm fairly new at Mandarin. I'm just beginning to transition into an Elementary level, but still I find myself wandering through the newbie world. Anyway, in studying how to learn languages effectively, I've come across the advice the one should affect the best accent one can so that you sound as if you could be from that region. When I learned French, I spoke with a parisian accent and when I speak English I can affect a "french" accent quite well. However, when I speak Mandarin, I don't know what sort of accent I have or should have. I have learned some words that have an erhua sound and others that are softer and sound more like what one would hear on the streets of Taiwan. But, I still feel as though I have an obvious American accent when I speak Mandarin. It could be my immagination. What should I do to sound Chinese? I know that I will always have a hint of an accent that lets people know that I am not a native speaker. But, I don't want to sound completely American either. Suggestions?
Nabeshima120April 17, 2015, 06:41 AM
Peace. Being that you are at such a rudimentary level of studying mandarin I would suggest to not even concern yourself with accents. Even if you were at a high level I would probably suggest the same thing. What is important is that native speakers can understand what you are saying. That being said, training your ear to notice the different accents is much more important (in order to understand what they are saying) than trying to pawn off a "beijing" or "taiwanese" accent. Focus on your tones, that is also more important and will pay off in real conversations. The clearer your tones are the more likely you will be understood. I always hear people mention Taiwan and Beijing when they refer to different accents, but those aren't the only places that speak mandarin. Have you ever spoke with someone from Hunan province? Try your "erhua" with them. What about Henan? The list goes on... Strive to understand and be understood.
I personally speak New York儿话 Its a rare dialect I learned Queens. Understood by 很多中国人 from all provinces and republics. Every now and then I have to repeat myself. But it works. Tried and tested.
"softer and sound more like what one would hear on the streets of taiwan" <---- Gotta laugh at that one.
Thank you for that very reasonable advice. I do focus a lot on my tones, since without them it's nearly impossible to be understood. Plus, it puts an uneeded strain on the native speaker to try to understand you. So, I do strive to be understood and to understand. I've not spoken to anyone far beyond the borders of Beijing. I do listen to radio shows in Mandarin, but I'm not clear on the region from which they broadcast. In short, I'm very self concious about how I sound. I want very much for my tones to sound natural and correct. I know I shouldn't concern myself too much with what accent I have, because I do struggle with comprehension. Well, on to more lessons and vigorous practice. Thanks again.
No need for thanks,
Are you in Beijing?
I really think its best to approach mandarin (and any other language) with a very light concious. Your going to make mistakes, it happens. But the key is to learn to enjoy it and learn to have fun. It would all be great if we could lock ourself in our room/class and just come out speaking at a native level, but I really think that would take a extremely long time if its even possible.
I can't see how that would be enjoyable either. Using the language makes it easier to keep studying it. Its the interactions with people that make all the studying worthwhile, even when you just have the most basic conversations.
Maybe one day I can sound like a scholar straight outta 北京大学 until that day i'll just sound like a 外国人.
No. I'm not even near China. I'm a humble American in the States trying to learn this wonderful language . I speak with, on occasion when I'm awake, people who live near Beijing via skype. It's really difficult to meet with them regularly, because of the difference in time. Yeah, I wish I could just wake up and speak with native fluency, but that would take away the fun of learning.
zaphekiahApril 19, 2015, 01:39 PM
That sounds like an interesting exercise. One of the only things I "knew" about Chinese accents before I actually started studying the language was that Chinese speakers of English would always comically transpose their L's and R's. Of course it is not true, it is a mishearing on our part, but there is a difference between the Chinese R and the English R, as well as with a few other consonants. The Pinyin lessons here on Chinese Pod were helpful to me in picking out these things. Coming from a Western background when we think of accents we tend to think of vowels, but perhaps the place to start would be with the consonants.
NickZhaoApril 20, 2015, 08:44 PM
Very true. I agree with that there is a difference in the R sound in the two languages. Thank you for taking the time to reply. I can only hope to convey my respect for the language in how well I speak it. Perhaps next time I speak with someone I'll ask how I sound. One, I want to be understood without putting too much strain on the listener. Two, I want to sound natural.