Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

Can Westerners become fluent in Chinese?


david1978
 Share

Recommended Posts

I see what you're saying and agree with it. Everyone's situation is different, and everyone learns a language in a different context and for different reasons.

I'm all for adapting your 标准 accent to be more local. I would argue that being able to do the standard is a good thing to have anyway. You can always fall back to it, and it's acceptable in most cases and most places.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

Agreed, but if you can hit that target, then you should also be able to hit the textbook standard too, if the need calls for it, right?

I can't imagine any possible situation in which I would need to speak like either the mainland or Taiwan textbook standard, especially if my accent reaches the target I described above. If I sound like a well-educated native speaker from Taipei (for instance, like either of the two videos I pointed to earlier), what situation could possibly arise that would require me to change my accent?

I mean, most well-educated native speakers can easily switch between the accent they use at home and an accent they use in formal situations. Most of my uni friends from England would speak differently at a job interview, for example.

I guess I've heard of people doing this, but have no experience with it myself. I speak with a fairly neutral American accent, with a slight hint of southernness, and have never felt the need to change it in any situation. Register, yes. Accent, no.

I guess that I like aiming for a native accent because

Like realmayo said, define "native." I've been talking about "native" this whole time, but this makes it sound like we may have different definitions of what "native" means.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You might need to differentiate between textbooks for foreign learners and textbooks for native Chinese school children.

As far as I know, textbooks for Chinese school children hardly mentions 儿话 and certainly do not focus on it, since it's considered part of (northern) oral speech, and textbooks for native speakers focus on teaching written Chinese.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't actually like the "native" discussions because the terms are undefineable and usually treated emotionally -- just like fluency discussions. Also, everybody's concrete goals are different so everyone should follow whatever path takes them there.

But what I mean when I say that I'm aiming for a native accent is that somebody who doesn't know me would not suspect that I'm not a native speaker based on a short, common exchange. This obviously does not work with Chinese (I don't look the part), but is a decent target for European languages.

I guess I've heard of people doing this, but have no experience with it myself. I speak with a fairly neutral American accent, with a slight hint of southernness, and have never felt the need to change it in any situation. Register, yes. Accent, no.

I am a native speaker of Croatian, and I actually have to switch from simple stress to a pitch accent in official situations ;) Standard Croatian is based on a literary standard and an eastern pronunciation not commonly spoken in my region, which is heavily influenced by northern speech.

In general, I feel that if you're going to emulate and learn the accent of a place, you should have some connection to the place. Otherwise it's better to sound neutral, IMHO. If you're living in Taipei for many years, it makes sense. I don't, so I feel much more comfortable going for the most neutral and accepted PRC accent out there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Putonghua is promoted among the young in the mainland by requiring people in the official media and school teachers to pass the Putonghua exam. This is the exam Heifeng mentioned here. I don't think Taiwan has anything similar, and so there are much more variety of accents in Taiwan, including in the media.

Primary and secondary school teachers have to score at least a level 2 on the exam (1 being the highest). Hosts on TV and radio are required to achieve a level 1 on the test.

School children aren't directly taught oral Chinese, per se, in school -- just as American school kids aren't directly taught "oral English" in the US. But because those in the media and most of their teachers do speak Putonghua, that's what kids emulate.

As for accents from the well educated in the north vs the south, the main difference in 儿化. Oral putonghua is not part of the curriculum. Students aren't tested on it. And so kids who grow up in the south tend not to use 儿化, even though 儿化 might be taught to foreigners learning Chinese.

Southerners who attend college in Beijing (and perhaps also other northern cities) do tend to pick up the 儿化 after a few years.

http://baike.baidu.c...ew/489361.htm#2

普通话水平测试(PSC:PUTONGHUA SHUIPING CESHI)是对应试人运用普通话的规范程度的口语考试。

根据各行业的规定,有关从业人员的普通话水平达标要求如下:  

中小学及幼儿园、校外教育单位的教师,报考教师资格证人员、师范类毕业生、公共服务行业的特定岗位人员普通话水平不低于二级,其中语文教师不低于二级甲等,其他科目教师不得低于二级乙等, 高等学校的教师、国家公务员普通话水平不低于三级甲等,其中现代汉语教师不低于二级甲等,普通话语音教师不低于一级。

国家级和省级广播电台、电视台的播音员、节目主持人,普通话水平应达到一级甲等,其他广播电台、电视台的播音员、节目主持人的普通话达标要求按国家广播电影电视总局的规定执行。

话剧、电影、电视剧、广播剧等表演、配音演员,播音、主持专业和影视表演专业的教师、学生,普通话水平不低于一级。

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Where's the host from? 東北 or 河北 would be my guess

河北石家庄.

For those interested, it is clearly not a 北京 accent (not saying anyone said it was, just wanting to point that out as a point of reference).

Edit: for reference, it's also clearly not a 东北 accent.

Edit edit: See here for a Beijing accent, and here for 东北.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had an interesting experience a couple weekends ago that may (or may not be) relevant to the discussion.

I was at a large church meeting and there were two distinguished/high American leaders who attended. One lives in Hong Kong but has spent several years in Taiwan and so he speaks the Taiwan way. The other leader was from Beijing and has lived there for 17 years and this was his first visit to Taiwan.

Fluency wise I would say the Beijing guy was far ahead of the HK guy. I was quite impressed with the Beijing guy and his nearly "perfect" Putonghua. However, while everyone had no problem or comment with the HK guy the Beijing guy got a LOT of comments.

The local church leader made a public statement that this American from the mainland's Chinese was better than everyone else's. Others laughed and commented and made fun of all the ers (nar, nabiar, etc.). I was actually quite shocked because in the church you would never talk that way about a high leader but the people did because of his "perfect" language. To them it was just weird - understandable - but weird.

Mark

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The local church leader made a public statement that this American from the mainland's Chinese was better than everyone else's. Others laughed and commented and made fun of all the ers (nar, nabiar, etc.). I was actually quite shocked because in the church you would never talk that way about a high leader but the people did because of his "perfect" language. To them it was just weird - understandable - but weird.

Mandarin accents in Taiwan are all over place, even in the popular media. Some media personalities have very "standard" Mandarin accents -- maybe because they grew up around northerner migrants to Taiwan (such as those from military families). Others have more local-ish accents. It used to be that standard Mandarin had a prestige position under authoritarian rule, but now it might be the reverse. There is a phenomenon that people become a bit defensive about accents and start making fun of / criticizing people who speak "standard" Mandarin that both OneEye and Chief above allude to. It might be further influenced by the politics of Taiwan independence where people feel that speaking standard Mandarin implies allegiance to Beijing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm sure if the situation had been reversed (foreign guy who spoke excellent Chinese learnt while living in Taiwan visits group in Beijing), the exact same thing would have happened. Mainlanders make fun of Taiwanese accents too - especially for guys who speak with one, because it sounds quite feminine (especially to northern mainland ears).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...