When you start out learning Chinese, it can be hard to appreciate just how different a lot of the accents are. After a while though, especially if you’ve studied mostly in one place, the differences sound massive!
For me, I initially studied Chinese at HSK 1-3 in mainland China (Zhejiang province) and the UK. But I only really learned to speak Chinese in Taipei, where I could finally start having conversations with people in real life. That meant I adapted to the Taipei accent (usually considered the softer, cuter one!) early on and when I went back to Shanghai for a month last year I was SHOCKED at how much harder it was to understand people
I’ve also started to not particularly like the 儿 (-er) sound that features quite heavily in the Beijing accent, as it’s barely used AT ALL in Taipei. So to me, Taipei accents are by far the most endearing (and cutest!)
I always studied Chinese in Italy (because of Covid I couldn’t go either to Mainland or Taiwan to study ) so I learnt the super classic 普通话!
Once I moved to Taipei, though, I could hear a HUGE difference and at the beginning was difficult for me to understand, especially because the Taiwanese accent pronounces the “shi” sound as “si” so at the beginning it was a nightmare especially to understand the prices in restaurants and shops!
But after being here for a few months now, I’d say I’m getting used to it!
Ahh omg the price thing in Taipei is so relatable, the absolute fear that would go through my body every time I was trying to guess if something cost 4, 10, 14 or 40 but it at least finally made me pay more attention to tones
Such a great topic! Having lived in Beijing and did most of my Chinese language studies with teachers from Northern China, it is easier for me to understand the Beijing accent, and I did pick it up myself!
However, being in Taipei now I find it very difficult to understand people and they don’t understand me either! So I am being very careful not pronouncing the 儿 (-er) sound for example.
I am sure it will become easier with time, but right now the struggle is real!
I find I have to be careful with how much of Mainland China content I consume, especially from Northern China so it doesn’t influence my accent as I’m learning too much.
My in-laws want me to sound Taiwanese when I speak, and not sound Chinese . I think this is in part due to their Taiwanese pride, but also so that I will integrate into Taiwan better when we move there in a few years. Because of this, I have developed an ear for the Taiwanese accent and can find it a little more challenging to understand other accents when watching shows or even when eavesdropping while moving around major US cities with large Taiwanese/Chinese populations.
Yes, it really is a big can of worms! I learned at the start of my journey that I needed to be intentional with my learning materials and also found it to be quite challenging to find Taiwanese Mandarin material and content (at least in the United States). I have since found a few YouTubers and people on Instagram who specifically teach Taiwanese Mandarin and have also found workbooks/textbooks recommended by the Taiwanese government.
Now to find content for my five-year-old son! I want more books with traditional characters and love dual-language books since I’m not fully fluent yet, but would like to immerse my son in Mandarin more as well. That’s a whole other challenge I’m trying to figure out.
I belong to a few Facebook groups for families teaching their children Chinese - either as a heritage language, second language, or anything in-between. Quite a few are Taiwanese speakers and ask about and post resources. As a matter of fact, Max(?) was interviewed and it was posted in one of the groups recently. (I think it was Max, maybe another M name, but someone in THIS forum that has a blog)
I’m a massive fan of 东北 (North East) accent! People from 黑龙江 (Heilongjiang) speaks the most standard, and it’s amazing to hear that they can pronounce the zh ch sh z c s so clearly even when speaking fast!
辽宁 (Liaoning) accent sounds quite funny and almost bad-ass !
They also have a few phrases that are different to Mandarin, such as “Ga ha ne?”, 干啥呢？(What are you doing?) etc.