Sunday, 6 February 2011

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Accent-For-Thought

Today, I sat next to a newcomer from China in church (I attend an international church with people from different nationalities) and we talked.

I asked, "so you must be from northern China". She asked, "How did you know?" I said proudly and smiling, "I could hear from your accent :-)", half-wishing to myself if only I could have such a rich cultural accent like hers.

To my great surprise, she looked a little discouraged and sad. She replied, "No matter how hard I try to change my accent, I couldn't change it." Realising that, I told her how sincerely I like northern Chinese accent, as it sounds so proper to me, like Queen English... or rather I mean Queen Mandarin.

I asked her why she would prefer to have southern Chinese accent. She said that the southern Chinese accent sounds more gentle, polite, courteous, musical and sweet sounding to her. Wow, that was one of the best compliments I have ever received! (my ancestors were from southern China)

Thinking to myself as I walked to the train station after church that it might not be that impossible after all for China to have a unified accent in the forseeable future, if all the northern Chinese are like the friend I made today, trying hard to speak like the southern Chinese, and all the southern Chinese are trying hard to speak like the northern Chinese, both complimenting the other.

Also I realised from this incident that it can be risky to try to pin-point where a person comes from, and it can be even riskier to pin-point it correctly! I won't do it again in the future.

I also realised that the grass always looks greener on the other side, even within China. I went away from church today feeling happier with my southern Chinese accent, and happy to find out that the northern Chinese would be happy to trade my accent for theirs.

Today, I left church with both of us having achieved something. We both have encouraged each other and made each other feel more proud of our own Chinese accent.

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