Taiwanese continuing speaking to you in English even if they know you speak good Mandarin/Taiwanese

These are great tips for “Taiwan guoyu” (i.e. Mandarin spoken with a thick accent of someone who mainly speaks Taiwanese). When I watched clips myself, the f being pronounced as an h was the only thing I could really come up with myself. There used to be a lot of Taiwanese comedy shows (probably still are) that do the Taiwan guoyu shtick. But I just couldn’t ever break down the accent into parts like this.

As for the accent component of treating foreigners differently, I think the “other” classification applies to pretty much anyone, even ABCs. It’s not so much the look itself, as it is the belief about the person’s native language which is often drawn from stereotypes. Being white automatically translates to a belief that you’re foreign, even if you’re a mixed kid who has never stepped foot outside of Taiwan. Having a slight accent or different cadence or slight errors in word choice or grammar will have the same result.

Anyway, it’s pretty much impossible for most foreigners to develop native accents, so it’s not worth worrying over. I think I read in a parenting book that a baby’s ear for native language is developed in the first year of life. You could probably stretch that to about 5, from people I’ve met with native accents who moved early enough. After that, the clay hardens and you can kind of push it this way or that but those underlying sounds you’re able to make are not going to change as much as it can for a toddler. Young people who have learned more languages may be a bit better at picking out new sounds and imitating them. However, Americans are mostly monolingual, so most Americans at least coming to Taiwan in their 20s are almost all at a disadvantage. You’d almost have to get professional speech therapy or something to really make any changes to one’s accent in your late 20s or 30s and beyond.

The funny thing is that Mandarin learned in Taiwan really is a very southern style. I’ve met a lot of mainlanders in the US with accents from all over the board (and a pain to understand). So even if you consider your Mandarin to be heavily accented with an American accent, mainlanders may still be able to pick up on the fact that you learned it in Taiwan.

:slight_smile: Maybe I will write some paper. However, first I should understand better the phenomenon - how it occurs and to whom - and that is why I should speak with some more experienced people.

Headhoncho you seem to be overly sensitive. This thread is about people who continue to speak to you in English even after they know you speak Mandarin. It’s not about people who don’t know and they start speaking to you in English. I don’t even know why that’s a big deal. The majority of foreigners in Taiwan, or at least western foreigners, don’t speak Mandarin. Even so, I only rarely get someone who starts speaking in English at Mcdonalds or 7-11. Once in a blue moon. Usually I can tell if they will, because as I’m walking up to the counter they start looking really nervous. Then they’ll say a few things in English, I’ll reply in Mandarin, and they’ll be instantly relieved, because they know that they can communicate with me. It’s more an issue of communication, I would say.

The Taiwan Guoyu tips are only because someone asked how to imitate a Taiwan Guoyu accent. I didn’t say that you have to speak Taiwan Guoyu to get them to speak to you in Mandarin. The only time I ever do is when I’m joking around.

I agree 100% about the TV shows, though. They piss me off too.

I thought of a couple others. chi fan would be cu huan. But I don’t know what the rule is for that. I’ve only ever noticed the “ir” sound in chi changing. I can’t remember if they do it for other “ir” sounds like “shi” or “zhi”. Maybe they do. So maybe zhi dao changes to zu dao. Also, the w sound in wo is very slight. It’s close to just being an o.

Xie xie changes to seh seh.

Teddoman my accent in English has changed enormously from living in Taiwan. My original accent was hardly comprehensible to the locals who are used to American English, I also had to slow down and simplify my speech. Simple things like pronouncing vowels through my nose more were crucial, seriously it’s the key to Americanising my accent slightly and being understood. When I go back to my home country people can definitely pick up I have not lived there in a long time. I’ve seen this happen with many people who have lived in Asia a long time, even older people.

And I suspect there’s an element of face involved.

To some people, it might represent a loss of face to concede that a foreigner speak’s one’s language better than one speaks the foreigner language (English).

I’m sure my accent has changed out of all recognition, and has all but completely lost its former RP plumminess. I hardly ever get to speak to fellow Brits. I’m quite sure I haven’t exchanged a single word with anyone from the old country for at least 18 months, and I haven’t been back to the UK in more than a decade. I sometimes wonder how quickly I’d regain the old accent if I did go back, or if I’d ever regain it at all.

The way I see it is if I insist on speaking mandarin to someone who insists on speaking english to me, he’s probably thinking the very same thing: “why is this foreigner speaking to me in chinese even though they know I speak good English”. Does it really matter what language you use? I can see where the annoyance factor may come in, but if it is coming from a well intentioned place, big deal. If it is coming from a person who considers you as their own personal amusement, that’s a different scenario.

[quote=“headhonchoII”]
And why should I need to speak excellent Taiwan Guoyu, not that I or every Taiwanese want to speak with a Tainan CSB accent either.[/quote]

Taiwan Guoyu is different to a Tainan accent; Taiwan guoyu is a Hokkien accent. I can’t really pinpoint the differences between a tainan accent and a taipei one for you, sorry :S I’m always surprised that people can tell, because I have no idea. I can only tell when people are from Taidong.

I think it’s more of changing what your brain recognises as ‘correct’. I think accents tend to stick because we think it sounds weird when we pronounce things a different way, but with foreign languages the different way is normally more correct. Accents in a foreign language can be consciously changed, though you may have a few sounds which you can only make a close approximation of (v is my sticking point.)

I just remembered that one of the guards in my buildings always says ‘hello’ instead of ‘ni hao’ when I walk in an out. It used toa nnoy me but now I just say ‘hello’ when I see him there, because I know he likes it. He used to try and always talk to me in English too whenever he had something to tell me but I never understood him, then eventually every time I saw him he’d start off with ‘OH YOUR MANDARIN IS SO GOOD’ and then eventually I realised that he couldn’t tell me apart from the other foreigners living there O.o;

I think he knows who I am now though, because he tells me things in Mandarin now.

[quote=“chupachups”]Hello.

I am European psychologist currently based at Taipei. I am doing research about social exclusion through language at Taiwan – that kind when people speak to you in English if you doesn’t look as Taiwanese for them even if they know you can speak Mandarin or Taiwanese. I don’t mean that kind of behavior, when people speak to you in English when they don’t know you (and they possibly turn into Mandarin/Taiwanese when they recognize you can speak them). I mean that behavior, when people continue to speak to you in English even if they know they could not and you are trying to continue in Mandarin/Taiwanese (and simultaneously they speak in Mandarin/Taiwanese to others but not to you).

I want to learn more about this behavior from people, who live at Taiwan longer than me and make some interviews with them.

If you live at Taiwan several years, you are visually distinguishable from Taiwan majority population, your Mandarin or Taiwanese speaking ability is enough to make a normal conversation (so you may have experience of that kind), you feel, that you have large experience with the behavior as described above, and you want to share your experience with me (maybe one hour interview in English, Mandarin or Korean), please contact me at:

chupachups567 (at) yahoo (dot) com

Thank you![/quote]

White people be doin that shit all the time.

Chinese guy is like: “Hello sir, how may I help you?” and Whitey is all like: “Woah yeow ee guh han-bow…”

Fyi, I’m splitting off the Taiwan Guoyu discussion tips to How To Have a "Taiwan Guoyu" Accent to Your Taiwan Mandarin since it’s an interesting topic in its own right

[quote=“Deuce Dropper”]White people be doin that shit all the time.

Chinese guy is like: “Hello sir, how may I help you?” and Whitey is all like: “Woah yeow ee guh han-bow…”[/quote]
Sure, but you’re in Taiwan, it’s not wierd for the whitey to respond in the local language.

Local language being spoken locally by default. Isn’t that more normal? The wierd part here is the Chinese guy initiating in English.

[quote=“Teddoman”][quote=“Deuce Dropper”]White people be doin that shit all the time.

Chinese guy is like: “Hello sir, how may I help you?” and Whitey is all like: “Woah yeow ee guh han-bow…”[/quote]
Sure, but you’re in Taiwan, it’s not wierd for the whitey to respond in the local language.

Local language being spoken locally by default. Isn’t that more normal? The wierd part here is the Chinese guy initiating in English.[/quote]

English is the default international language, what is strange or rude or odd or whatever about a local speaking English (the default international language) to someone who is visibly foreign? Whitey is too easily bent out of shape these days, just looking for a reason to be offended.

Maybe at a UN meeting. At a roadside tanzi, I think Mandarin or Taiwanese is the default.

And no one is complaining it’s offensive per se, the OP was talking about a Taiwanese person continuing to speak in English (and probably bad English at that) AFTER the foreigner demonstrates a competency in Mandarin.

It’s probably a micro aggression of some sort (in reference to that other thread), who knows. It’s definitely just a bit wierd on some level.

it definitly is micro aggression. We should try to find a better term for it though.

Well, well-adjusted people would call it an “occasional minor irritation” if they even chose to dignify it with a name. But then again, they don’t regard such things as crimes against entire races of people.

LOL, I couldn’t agree more.

+1 :thumbsup:

LOL, I couldn’t agree more.[/quote]
If only they sold anti-itch creams for this…

Well, I guess somebody has to keep our European psychologists like the OP in business.

To paraphrase the great former New York Knick Latrell Sprewell, “I gotta feed my family!” (after he turned his nose up at a 21 million dollar contract)

Maybe at a UN meeting. At a roadside tanzi, I think Mandarin or Taiwanese is the default.

And no one is complaining it’s offensive per se, the OP was talking about a Taiwanese person continuing to speak in English (and probably bad English at that) AFTER the foreigner demonstrates a competency in Mandarin.

It’s probably a micro aggression of some sort (in reference to that other thread), who knows. It’s definitely just a bit wierd on some level.[/quote]

I think it’s definitely weird too. You get used to it, but it’s still weird.

Embrace the weird.

I have been trying (microaggressively) to speak (very bad) Chinese to Chinese people while I’ve been back in Canada. Luckily I haven’t yet accidentally victimized a confused southeast asian or non-fluent CBC.

I would say 1/3 of the Chinese people thus encountered have delighted at my efforts, 2/3 are vaguely uncomfortable, 1/2 reply in Chinese, and 1/2 reply in English.

I find the experience valuable. I get to see what of my bad pronunciation they understand. A few of them will echo back what I’ve said, at which point I try to repeat their repetition to improve pronunciation. Then I can try to understand their actual response.

Frankly, I don’t care if they think I’m crazy. I don’t have many opportunities to practice my Chinese.

These Taiwanese don’t have many opportunities to practice their English in a real-life encounter, outside of the safe confines of a classroom. Just tell them their English is good, and maybe teach them a new word in exchange for some Taiwanese slang. Or be a grump. (Not saying that you are, Rabidpie.) Life goes on.