The Sounds of Northern Accented Mandarin Chinese

In Pronunciation by Angel Huang1 Comment

In everyday English, “Mandarin” refers to Standard Mandarin.

(The official language of Mainland China and Taiwan)

But Mandarin is also a group of related dialects, spoken mostly in northern China.  

Mandarin Dialects — a.k.a. “The Northern dialects” 北方话; běifānghuà

Now, as you may know…

Standard Mandarin is based on the Beijing Mandarin Dialect.

And this leads some learners to expect that the average Beijinger — or native speaker of a related dialect — speaks Standard Mandarin without an accent! 

So, does reality meet expectation..? (Press play)

BONUS: DOWNLOAD A SUMMARY (MP3 + PDF) BELOW THIS VIDEO

Features of "Northern Accented" Chinese (from the video)

Extensive use of Erhua (儿化)

Erhua is the addition of an "-r" sound at the end of a syllable. (e.g. hua > huar)

This occurs in Standard Mandarin, but it's much more extensively used in casual northern-accented Mandarin.

Examples:

Without Erhua

With Erhua

dòng huà piān   

动画片 

Cartoon

dòng huà piānr   

动画片   

Cartoon

dǒng shì de   

懂事的   

Sensible

dǒng shìr de   

懂事的   

Sensible

zán zhè méi dì tiě.

咱这没地铁。

We don't have subway here.

zán zhèr méi dì tiě.

咱这没地铁。

We don't have subway here.

chī wán fàn, qù shàng bān.

吃完饭,去上班

Finish eating and go to work.

chī wán fàn, qù shàng bānr.

吃完饭,去上班

Finish eating and go to work.

In fast speech... /zh/, /ch/, /sh/  and /z/, /c/, /s/ can change to /r/

Examples:

Standard Mandarin Chinese

Fast Northern Chinese Accent 

shí duō suì.  

四十多岁。

40+ years old.

tā sì shí duō suì.

她四多岁。

She's 40+ years old.

rí duō suì.  

四十多岁。

40+ years old.

tā sì rí duō suì.

她四多岁。

She's 40+ years old.

zhī dào.

道。

(I) don't know.

wǒ bù zhī dào tā shì nǎr rén

我不道她是哪儿人。

I don't know where she comes from.

rī dào.

道。

(I) don't know.

wǒ bù rī dào tā shì nǎr rén

我不道她是哪儿人。

I don't know where she comes from.

duō shǎo qián?

钱?

How much?

zhèr duō shǎo qián?

这儿多钱?

How much is this?

duō rǎo qián?

钱?

How much?

zhèr duō rǎo qián?

这儿多钱?

How much is this?

shàng jiù dào.

就到。

(I) will be there any minute.

wǒ mǎ shàng jiù dào.

我马就到。

I will be there any minute.

ràng jiù dào.

就到。

(I) will be there any minute.

wǒ mǎ ràng jiù dào.

我马就到。

I will be there any minute.

wǒ gào sù nǐ.

我告你。

I'm telling you.

wǒ gào sù nǐ, zhèr diàn yǐngr lǎo hǎo kàn le.

我告你,这儿电影儿老好看了。

I'm telling you that this movie is amazing.

wǒ gào rù nǐ.

我告你。

I'm telling you.

wǒ gào rù nǐ, zhèr diàn yǐngr lǎo hǎo kàn le.

我告你,这儿电影儿老好看了。

I'm telling you that this movie is amazing.

BONUS: DOWNLOAD A SUMMARY (MP3 + PDF) BELOW THIS VIDEO

In fast speech… /j/, /q/, /x/ can change to /y/

Examples:

Standard Mandarin Chinese

Fast Northern Chinese Accent 

xī hóng shì chǎo jī dàn.

西红柿炒蛋。

A dish of tomato fried eggs.

lǎo bǎn, lái yī fènr xī hóng shì chǎo jī dàn.

老板,来一份儿西红柿炒蛋。

Boss, get me a dish of tomato fried eggs.

xī hóng shì chǎo yī dàn.

西红柿炒蛋。

A dish of tomato fried eggs.

lǎo bǎn, lái yī fènr xī hóng shì chǎo yī dàn.

老板,来一份儿西红柿炒蛋。

Boss, get me a dish of tomato fried eggs.

gǎn jǐn qù.

去。

Hurry up! / Go quickly!

gǎn yǐn qù.

去。

Hurry up! / Go quickly!

/w/ pronounced similar to an English /v/

Examples:

Standard Mandarin Chinese

Northern Chinese Accent 

wèn

To ask

vèn

To ask

wén

To smell

vén

To smell

nǐ xǐ huān mǎi dōng xī ma? wèi shén me?

你喜欢买东西吗?什么?

Do you like shopping? Why?

nǐ xǐ huān mǎi dōng xī ma? vèi shén me?

你喜欢买东西吗?什么?

Do you like shopping? Why?

wēi xìn.

信。

Send messages on Wechat.

vēi xìn.

信。

Send messages on Wechat.

tōng cháng hé péng yǒu chū qù wánr.

通常和朋友出去儿。

I usually go out and have fun with my friends.

tōng cháng hé péng yǒu chū qù vánr.

通常和朋友出去儿。

I usually go out and have fun with my friends.

BONUS: DOWNLOAD A SUMMARY (MP3 + PDF) BELOW THIS VIDEO

/o/ pronounced similar to /e/

Examples:

Standard Mandarin Chinese

Northern Chinese Accent 

bó shì

doctor / Ph.D.

bé shì

doctor / Ph.D.

nǐ men zhōu mò dǎ suàn zuò shén me?

你们周打算做什么?

What are you going to do this weekend?

nǐ men zhōu mè dǎ suàn zuò shén me?

你们周打算做什么?

What are you going to do this weekend?

Strong nasal pronunciation of /ing/ (and other syllables that end with "ng")

Example:

yìng

Hard / firm

Extensive use of the "Neutral tone"

The second syllable in many two-syllable words changes to a "neutral tone" (e.g. wǎn shàng > wǎn shang).

Examples:

Without Neutral Tone

With Neutral Tone

wǎn shàng

evening

nǐ zuó tiān wǎn shàng zuò le shén me

你昨天晚做了什么?

What did you do last night?

wǎn shang

evening

nǐ zuó tiān wǎn shang zuò le shén me

你昨天晚做了什

What did you do last night?

BONUS: DOWNLOAD A SUMMARY (MP3 + PDF) BELOW THIS VIDEO

Tones change for emphasis

Examples:

Standard Mandarin Chinese

Northern Chinese Accent

hái

still

hái shuō huà! ān jìng

说话!安

(You're) still talking. Be quiet!

hài

still

hài shuō huà! ān jíng

说话!安

(You're) still talking. Be quiet!

b

Don't

b shuō le!

说了!

Don't talk! / Stop talking!

b gēn wǒ tán liàn ài, zán men jié hūn ba!

别跟我谈恋爱,咱们结婚吧!

Don't just date me, let's get married!

b

Don't

b shuō le!

别说了!

Don't talk! / Stop talking!

b gēn wǒ tán liàn ài, zán men jié hūn ba!

别跟我谈恋爱,咱们结婚吧!

Don't just date me, let's get married!

dé dào

to get

dé dào xìng fú.

到幸福。

To get happiness.

dě dào

to get

dě dào xìng fú.

到幸福。

To get happiness.

hǎo xiē

A lot

hǎo xiē gè dú yīn dōu bù yī yàng.

些个读音都不一样。

A lot of words are pronounced differently.

háo xiē

A lot

háo xiē gè dú yīn dōu bù yī yàng.

些个读音都不一样。

A lot of words are pronounced differently.

gěi wǒ chū qù

给我出去

Get out!

gěi wǒ chù qu

给我出去

Get out!

or

gěi wǒ chǔ qu

给我出去

Get out!

xí fur

妇儿

Wife

wǒ xí fur shì běi jīng rén.

妇儿是北京人。

My wife is Beijingnese.

xǐ fur

妇儿

Wife

wǒ xǐ fur shì běi jīng rén.

妇儿是北京人。

My wife is Beijingnese.

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