Acquiring a Taiwanese accent

Hi everyone,

Just curious to see what you guys have done to really work on your accents. I try mimicking the best I can the Chinese that Taiwanese speak, but for the most part I still can tell when I listen to recordings that it’s still got a coat of foreigner flavor to it.

I think a part of the obvious mistake is there are many tones that I will mess up on or not care too much to get right (not the common words but for some of the very specialized words). Going through all my vocabulary and correcting every single tone would take ages, but I might just do that one of these days to perfect that accent. Other than that, not sure how else I can work on sounding as local as possible.

Just takes time. Preferably get to speak constantly with Taiwanese mando speakers, either in person or on skype.

I also thought learning the basics of Taiwanese might also help a bit with sounding like a local. Not sure if that qualifies.

Fun story: I spent my first two months in Taiwan in Tainan and Chiayi, so when I moved up north everyone told me I had Taiwan Guoyu (not a very good thing). At the time, I never 卷舌 (put the “h” in sounds like “sh,” “ch,” etc.) I mixed “l” and “r,” and the vowel sounds in “an” and “ang” merged into the same sound.

I was very conversational in Chinese before coming here, so I spent a lot of time speaking it with friends and strangers. Of course, there was still a heavy helping of American accent on top of the Taiwan Guoyu. Now that I’ve been up north for almost five years, both of those accents are mostly gone. When I talk on the phone people either don’t notice or assume I’m from Hong Kong (of all places), which I’m willing to accept.

So just watch a lot of TV from Taiwan, and listen to songs, talk to people – increase your auditory input and it will come with time.

You fancy pants Taipei people! :raspberry:

I was once told back in the early 1990s (before I’d spent any considerable time in Taiwan) that I sounded like a drunken Hong Konger. I think now I’ve improved to sound sober at least, but probably still like a Hong Konger. :blush:

Seriously, I spent about two years really eliminating my Taiwanese accent after moving back to the States, to the point where people now ask how long I studied in the Mainland and are very surprised when I tell them I spent so long in Taiwan. I have nothing against the Taiwanese accent, but most of the people I have to work with professionally here are from China, so that accent works better.

I’m a chameleon. When I talk to mainlanders I 卷舌 and put on the 兒s and all that, but it all feels very affected to me.

I’ve also been accused of sounding like I’m from HK. This didn’t bother me until I found out that most HK people (apparently) speak the most atrocious Mandarin. I suppose it’s just a polite Taiwanese way of saying “your accent sucks” :slight_smile:

The ball’n’chain tells me I sound like a teenager.

As for “improving” your accent, surely this is something that just comes from speaking and listening a lot? I’ve never made any conscious effort to improve, but most people tell me it’s clear and (vaguely) Taiwanese, apart from the occasional incorrect tone. I find it slightly disconcerting listening to Taiwanese people speak English with a pronounced Californian accent; it bothers me (I don’t know why) that they’ve thought it necessary to practice such a superficial thing. I don’t think you’re going to be more “accepted” just because you sound like a local, and your time would be better spent working on vocabulary and diction.

Maybe it’s my Americentricism talking, but I’m always surprised when a Taiwanese person speaks English and it’s not a vaguely American pronunciation. But I guess that could be just me.

Anywho, HKers actually have quite good Mandarin, far better than their English from my experience. In my case, every time I’ve met a landlord or bought something sold online, people have been surprised because they expected a Chinese face (albeit one from Hong Kong) and get me instead. Being mistaken for a Hong Konger is quite good, I think, because it means you’re almost entirely natural but there’s still a je ne sais pas element of foreignerness which causes the TWese listener to think you’re not from here, but you’re getting close.

Yes I’m acquiring the Taiwanese englishie accent.

My mother language is Spanish but I spoke mostly English the last 12 years and the Taiwanese wife and I only speak English between us, so now that I haven’t caught any Chinese, have’t speak any Spanish and my English is been destroyed I think I’m going mute.

[quote=“TexMex”]Yes I’m acquiring the Taiwanese englishie accent.

My mother language is Spanish but I spoke mostly English the last 12 years and the Taiwanese wife and I only speak English between us, so now that I haven’t caught any Chinese, have’t speak any Spanish and my English is been destroyed I think I’m going mute.[/quote]

Yeah, it’s when you realise you don’t really speak ANY language that well anymore … :laughing:

My girlfriend tells me that the frequent black guest on “WTO姐妹會” has a hilariously thick Taiwanese accent. I couldn’t find a video of him, specifically, though.

鄭弘儀 (he guy on the left) from “新聞挖挖哇” has a habit of being dead weight on the program and of speaking Taiwanese unnecessarily.

Depends on what you mean by a “Taiwanese accent”. I have no desire to speak with a thick, hickish Taiwan Guoyu accent in which I mix up the f’s and h’s and can’t juanshe. I’d much rather speak like a young, well-educated Taipeiite.

So long as you don’t sound like a young, well educated, Taipei GIRL :slight_smile:

(unless one is a girl of course).

Don’t pick up Taipei-Girl-Talk-isms if you are male.

So long as you don’t sound like a young, well educated, Taipei GIRL :slight_smile:

(unless one is a girl of course).

Don’t pick up Taipei-Girl-Talk-isms if you are male.[/quote]

Glad someone pointed this out. Bignoses tend to associate with women more than men, and as a result, I’ve met no shortage of manly Westerners who sound like college girls when they speak Chinese. Man up and get some man friends.

I have an awful feeling that’s what my wife means when she says I speak like a teenager: a teenage girl. It’s a pity one has no way of objectively assessing one’s own accent.

Some good points above, though. There is actually no such thing as a “Taiwanese accent”, just as there is no such thing as the highly-sought-after (in Taiwan) American accent. There are several different regional ones, and variations thereof. As Chris said, better to just pay attention to speaking clearly.

Speaking Mandarin with a perfect local accent is actually a fairly lofty goal, but not one that is impossible to achieve, is just requires a lot of time and attention. Even if one thinks he or she is that good, it’s quite likely not quite to that level. We, as foreigners would not be the ones to judge how well this is achieved. How often do you meet someone that has a perfect accent in English that only started learning the language as an adult? Not often for me, but there are notable exceptions. A lot depends on the age one starts learning, hard work, and likely a dose of talent.

I’ve had the ultimate compliment when told that I sound just like a local, but then others have told me I sound like an ABC, so some smoke is being blown.

By the way, the Taiwanese accent in general is perceived as somewhat effeminate to some mainlanders. I was told, while in China, that Taiwanese male celebrities are perceived as speaking effeminately, not that they thought there was anything wrong with that.

my own experience of learning to speak English informs me that, for me at least, for your second language, once you live somewhere for a couple of years, you’ll pick up that region’s accent. I am not sure if that hold true for my first language. But I suspect it maybe true for some people as well, though it will take longer.

When I lived in Germany and had Irish and Scottish English teachers, I had a slight Irish-Scottish-German-Japanese-Taiwanese English (the Japanese is in there because the rest of my class were Japanese) accent… When I lived in Texas, I lost all of that, and ended up wit ha slight Texan accent. Then I moved to California and just had a Californian Asian accent. Now I am back in Taiwan, I’m slowly picking up my Taiwanese English accent.

I think what Paddy said about age is correct… if you start out young, and won’t afraid of using the new language, you tend to pick up accents quicker.

So when it is necessary and appropriate to speak Taiwanese? Isn’t it enough to have KMT forcing the rest of Taiwan to drop their native language? Is it necessary for others to join in?

So as a Taiwanese, what do you think about foreigners speaking Mandarin as locals? Someone said that it’s weird when others put time into learning a very region-specific English dialect, and I haven’t really had any experience myself with a foreigner learning a less standard dialect of Swedish (my own native language), so I’m curious about if this is what people generally think or not. I’m planning on learning to speak like a local when I get to Taiwan, but will people think it’s weird?

And also, a question to everyone, exactly what should I avoid to not sound too girly? I don’t mind speaking a little femininely, but I can imagine it being too much at a certain point.

So as a Taiwanese, what do you think about foreigners speaking Mandarin as locals? Someone said that it’s weird when others put time into learning a very region-specific English dialect, and I haven’t really had any experience myself with a foreigner learning a less standard dialect of Swedish (my own native language), so I’m curious about if this is what people generally think or not. I’m planning on learning to speak like a local when I get to Taiwan, but will people think it’s weird?

And also, a question to everyone, exactly what should I avoid to not sound too girly? I don’t mind speaking a little femininely, but I can imagine it being too much at a certain point.[/quote]

There’s nothing wrong with sounding girly if you don’t mind it. I care because I want to keep my Chinese register more-or-less consistent with the one I use in English, which is not super-manly, but not particularly girly, either. You may find people take you less seriously if you sound like a college-age girl, however.

I say it definitely makes sense to learn the regional dialect (I mean Taiwan-style Mandarin, not Taiwanese) so that you fit in. If you a Taiwanese English-learner has a Scottish accent and moves to Australia, it’ll be a bit weird, don’t you think? No major problems, but you still just stick out like a sore thumb. It’s the same reason I’d start saying “trolley” and “fizz drink” if I moved to the UK, just so I feel a little bit more in place.

Not to mention if you say things like 公交車 (instead of 公車) or 出租車 (instead of 計程車) or U盤 (instead of USB… which isn’t really right in the first place) or 市場 (instead of 行銷), people in Taiwan may not understand you immediately.