Top 4 Accents in Vancouver, Canada - Mandarin


Mandarin - the national language of the People's Republic of China, Singapore, and Taiwan - is up next. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are a Mandarin English accented speaker. They are not arranged in order of impact. Some tips will be the same as the Cantonese English speaker guide here, so make sure to take a peek at those too!

1. No consonant clusters

Mandarin does not have consonant clusters (a group of consonants which have no intervening vowel e.g. spring, please) at the beginning or end of a word (just like Cantonese). As a result, Mandarin English speakers may drop a consonant (e.g. 'pease' for 'please') or add an extra vowel (e.g. 'pelease' for 'please') when dealing with consonant clusters.

2. Strong rhoticity

Mandarin has a hard 'r' sound with rounding lips. Instead of a bright, clear sound quality, the sound is in the back of the throat and lower pitched. This is not the biggest issue, but for the higher level English speakers who want to learn a native Canadian English accent, it may be worth learning how to tone down the rhoticity. Relax the lips back to a neutral position and have the sound produced closer to the front of the mouth.

3. No h- sound

There is no /h/ sound in Beijing Mandarin. The /h/ sound instead is more harsh like you are gargling water. Think "hock a loogie" sound or "Bach". Non-Beijing Mandarin on the other hand includes the typical 'h' sound. If you do this substitution and want to make a proper'h' sound, practice breathing out a little before turning on your voice gently.

Words: happy, hotel, hero, helicopter, hello, hang

Sentence: Hello, hop onto my helicopter.

4. Th-Sounds

Mandarin does not have a 'th' sound. It is replaced with /s,f/ for voiceless th- and /z/ for voiced. If you have trouble making this sound, start from your /s/ or /z/ sound and slowly move your tongue forward until it touches your top teeth.

5. Word final consonants

The sounds /n/ and /ng/ are the only consonants that can occur in word-final position in Mandarin Chinese. As a result, word final consonant sounds are not natural to complete. Focus on enunciating word final consonant sounds.

Word: can't, test, tasted, plays, dropped, kicks

Sentence: Two kids kicked the balls into the hoops.

6. Different sound repertoire

Here are a few more sounds that Mandarin does not have. Mandarin does have some close approximations to the correct sounds but it is good to know for example that these are particular sounds to focus your attention on. I have identified the sound and included a few examples for you to practice.

/v/ - veal, venom, vet, leave, vivid, Vancouver,

/z/ - zap, zip, misery, laser, buzz,

/ʃ/ (the 'sh' sound in should) - ship, sheet, shoot, wish, wishes

/ʒ/ (the 'zh' sound in measure) - genre, measure, vision, treasure, fissure, luxurious

/ʧ/ (the 'tch' sound in match) - check, cheese, etch, itchy, match

/ʤ/ (the 'dz' sound in judge) - jury, judge, jeans, Ajax, injured, engine, revenge

7. Vowel differences

There are differences in the vowel sound used between Mandarin and English. Mandarin English speakers may not hear or appreciate the difference which means they may choose the wrong vowel, which then changes the meaning of the word.

1) Long vs. Short 'i' sound

Long 'i' sound - bye, cry, lie, pie, why, tribe, hire,

Short 'i' sound - sit, lick, hid, pill, grill, bit, illustrate

2) Short 'u' vs. long 'u' sound

Short 'u' sound - pull, wool, bull, fullest, foot

Long 'u' sound - pool, rude, boom, food, news, uber, goose

Because of the differences between the languages mentioned above, some common sound substitutions made by Mandarin English speakers are included below. Some exercises give the same exercise because Mandarin English speakers may substitute a specific sound with multiple sounds.

1) /s/ for -th in initial, medial, or final position

Initial: thanks, think, thought, three

Medial: toothbrush, birthday, breathy, healthy

Final: breath, north, booth

Sentence: Keith's baby has three healthy teeth to brush with his toothbrush

2) /f/ for -th in final position

Final: fourth, path, mouth, with

Sentence: Take the fourth path to exit the forest

3) /d/ for -th initial or medial position

Initial: that, therefore, this

Medial: feather, worthy, rather

Sentence: My mother bathed together with my brother and I when we were children.

4) /z/ for th- in initial or medial position

Initial: that, therefore, this

Medial: feather, worthy, rather

Sentence: My mother bathed together with my brother and I when we were children.

5) /f/ for /v/ in initial or medial position

Initial: vase, van, video, visit, vivacious

Medial: beaver, ivy, clover, seven

6) /w/ for /v/ in initial or medial position

Initial: vase, van, video, visit, vivacious

Medial: beaver, ivy, clover, seven

References

Mandarin Phomeic Inventory [PDF]. (n.d). American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Retrieved May 21, 2017, from http://www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/practice/multicultural/MandarinPhonemicInventory.pdf

phonohd9. (2014, March 3,). Comparison of English and Mandarin (Segmentals). Retrieved May 21, 2017, from http://ec-concord.ied.edu.hk/phonetics_and_phonology/wordpress/?page_id=328

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