Beijing Sounds

In boomtown beijing, sioksiok on January 15, 2008 at 3:29 pm

No matter how good my Mandarin is, I know that the Beijing-er can always tell that I am an outsider (外地人)from my accent.

I spent the best part of 2007, living out of a suitcase in Beijing, working on a documentary about the Beijing Olympics.

For someone from a small country like Singapore, Beijing is a sprawling city and I find that I spent a lot of time in a cab, trying to get from one end of the city to another.

Three minutes into my cab ride, The same question always comes up, “小姐,你是哪里人?” Miss, where are you from?” The subtext is of course, “You do not sound like one of us.”

In the process of making the film, I have come to a better appreciation of the Beijing accent and the Beijing dialect. While I was working on the sound-mix of my documentary, my Beijing born-and-bred sound engineers will cackle at phrases in my film while the nuances are completely lost on me.

It is great fun therefore to read this blog post, explaining what does the Beijing “R” sound mean?

Beijing Sounds – 北京的声儿 (link via Danwei)

My Beijing friends tell me that figuring out whether to end a word or phrase with the “R” sound, or “儿“声,is an art unto itself. I am sure an entire encyclopedia can be written on the “dos” and “don’ts”.

The outsider often betrays their very foreigness by trying too hard, ending each and every phrase with the “R” sound. As a result, they make a laughing stock of themselves.

What comes intuitively to the native Beijing-er may take a life-time of puzzling out for an outsider or 外地人like me.

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  1. …………..Ah,Yes! This posting articulates a lot of thoughts which have passed through my own mind.I wish someone would write that encyclopedia…hopefully a bilingual one in both English and Beijinghua.
    As we worry about the feared extinction of the REAL Beijing Dialect and applaud the efforts of Beijing Sounds Blog,I continue to pine for the emergence of broader resources. There is mostly untapped support among Expats both in and out of China,present and former students of Chinese who have,like myself,had heavy exposure to the language of the often nostalgialically-remembered Lao Beijing! Let’s think about possibilities in this area. Thanks!

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