Thursday, August 09, 2007

My Beijing Accent

When I first came, people would always comment on my "Beijing accent." At the time I was happy to have any accent that wasn't "horrible American accent I can't understand," but, I mean, 9 months have almost passed!

The first problem I had is living on the twelfth floor- always I would get on the elevator and someone would ask me what floor, and I'd say the 12th floor, and they'd be like, what? See with the Beijing accent it's kind of like "shir- are," but with the Taiwan accent it's more like "si-uh" with the vaguest hint of an r sound on each of them. It was so frustrating at first because I was like, I know my Chinese is bad but I know I can say numbers!

There are a few other big differences that are pretty easy to fix- like in most of China they say "zher" and "nar" for here and there, and in other parts of China and in Taiwan they mostly say "zheli" and "nali." No problem. Similarly the word for "this" which I'd learned kind of as Zhay, here is Zhe. No problem.

There are also lots of words that I learned with kind of an r sound at the end- like the word for fun, can be wanr or just wan. Here they leave it off mostly and in Chinese class I was used to reading things the Taiwan way. My new Chinese teacher was always correcting me to say it the "Beijing" way, and I said I know both ways, but I figure when in Taiwan do as the Taiwan people. She said she didn't want me to be ridiculed if I go to China and I was like, it's cool. I know the differences. She said lots of people in Taiwan talk like that too, and I said do you, and she said sometimes, and I said when, and she laughed and said "When I am interviewing for a job to be a Chinese teacher!" I guess because they want a standard accent.

When I first came I couldn't even understand people with a heavy Taiwan accent but now I mostly can. And I thought I'd caught onto the Taiwan accent, but then tonight I got onto the elevator and this guy asks me what floor, and I say the 12th floor, and he just stares blankly at the numbers like I'd spoken English or something. So I reached over and pushed the button, and he said, "Oh, the 12th floor! You learned Chinese in Beijing?" And I said, "No, I learned in America with Beijing people," all in Chinese of course, and he said, "Right!" Then said 12 with a crazily exaggerated Beijing accent. I laughed and wanted to say something about how I've worked for 6 months to eradicate my Beijing accent, but I was tongue-tied by the insufficiency of my Chinese....

It just reminds me of this guy who used to study at Kaplan, he was middle-eastern and had a Saudi passport but he'd learned English in Scotland so he had this crazy Scottish accent. It was so funny.


tab said...

(i know this post is really old) but hahh have the same problem, except I'm taking advanced chinese at my university and the teacher is from beijing, but i grew up with taiwanese chinese. even though i can understand what she's saying (she doesn't add the 'r' sound as frequently as some chinese people), she always seems to have trouble understanding everything i say... even the most basic things like "I'm getting free ice cream." and I know i'm not incorrect because taiwanese people understand me just fine.
i feel your frustration.

Christina said...

free ice cream? LOL!