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Monday, October 20, 2008

Y'all, I Speak MandyRin

A couple of y'all sent me e-mails two weeks ago asking where Tonggu House sits within this large country we call the USA. I know I've thrown off many of you with my use of the word y'all... because we live in Maryland: a Yankee state. (A fact of which I'm totally proud, by the way. And let's just not mention the martial law that occurred in order to make that Yankee status happen.)

It's shocking, I know, but I don't actually speak with a Southern accent. At least, not anymore. I used to have quite a drawl going. I lost it years ago, however, since I've lived in Maryland for nigh onto ten years and Northern Virginia for five years before that.

Still...

During my first Mandarin class last year, my teacher BeijingBoy did a double-take when I stumbled along pronouncing my vocabulary words. He winced, then grinned and said, "You don't have a Southern accent, but you grew up in the South, didn't you?"

TONGGU MOMMA
: (amazed) How did you know? I mean, my daddy was military, so we lived all over. But yeah, I spent most of my childhood in the South. And I attended college in Virginia and North Carolina.

BEIJING BOY: (totally gloating) I knew it!

TONGGU MOMMA: How could you tell? You don't still hear a Southern accent, do you? Everyone tells me I sound like I'm from the D.C. area.

BEIJING BOY: You do... but you keep breaking apart Mandarin words, adding extra syllables. It's always the Southerners who do that.

Aacckkk!

It's been a year since my first class. BeijingBoy tells me it remains a problem. If he shakes his head at me and grunts "neh" one more time, then follows up with a resigned "better," I think I might just cry. Not really. I'll probably laugh. But I'm still frustrated, y'all. It doesn't matter though. I refuse to give up.

And if you are really curious about my identity, might I suggest hanging out in the D.C. area, listening for a woman who speaks with a Mid-Atlantic accent, but adds a little extra something when speaking Mandarin.

Fa-an zhey-ng, wo shi-er ya-an fay-ng di-i ge ee-er. Which means, "anyways, I am Southern at heart." Or something close to that.

Said in excessively poor Mandarin, with a touch of Southern.

28 comments:

Kim said...

That's too funny that you speak "Southern" after all these years and I grew up in the South and can't even fake an accent anymore...I've totally lost it. I go home and listen to my family talk and it sounds so foreign to me now. I know what you mean by saying something how it is spelled though. I pronounced Roseau, MN...ROSE-O is how its supposed to be pronounced...I said it(RO-See-OW) My inlaws thought it was hilarious.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Very funny!
I know how accents can come and go. I'm a Carolina girl, but right after college I lived in Washington DC for two years and I suppose my southern accent waned a bit. About a year after I moved back to Raleigh, I spoke on the phone with a work colleague, and she said "Listen to you--your accent is so charming!" I guess it does come back!

Monica said...

Okay, I have to admit that your monikers for everyone crack me up...especially "Beijing Boy"!

But, then you just crack me up, period!

And, I have no doubt that you cracked Beijing Boy up...CONSTANTLY!

...I think I will suggest to Grant that we head for the DC area for our next vacation and stand on the corner until we hear that mid-Atlantic accent sprinkled with Southern Style MandyRin! You should be easy to spot!!!

Briana's Mom said...

Oh no, I lived in GA. I have a slight southern accent. I am doomed in Mandarin, aren't I? :)

happygeek said...

The title killed me.
When I worked for the Canadian Government I had to answer the phone in both French and English. I could always tell when a Francophone was calling because they would have to pause to stop laughing before responding to greeting.
Southerners may mangle Mandarin by breaking apart syllables, Albertans kill French by using no inflection whatsoever. (And apparently it's important. Who knew?)

K and/or K said...

"Y'all " is contagious! I used to spend part of my summers in Atlanta and I would get hooked on it. When I was teaching I would say it wihtout even thinking sometimes and the MN kids would look at me like I was from another world.

McEwens said...

LOL!!! Hey I bet you say HOME.... with a LONG O sound? That was the hardest part of the accent to ditch!

Good luck on all your classes!

jennifer said...

I am guessing I would be his nightmare. Big southern accent going over here.

Stefanie said...

Now I'm dying to hear you talk. I didn't think I had much of a southern accent ('cept when I'm actually IN the south) but that must be why my husband's Rosetta stone Mandarin program just about LAUGHS at me, my accent is SO. LAME.
So, how 'bout a video Mandarin lesson for all your bloggy friends? :)

Lynn said...

Ha that's funny! I grew up in Indiana and still get asked if I am from the south! go figure! The farthest south I have lived is Wilmington, NC. We used to live in Northern VA near DC. Not too far from the Maryland line now in PA.

LaLa said...

Well, no hope for me living in TN. I say y'all with reckless abandon and am waiting for Annslee to say it too : )

Georgia Peach said...

Hee hee...that's funny.

Janet said...

Once a Southerner.....at least, that's what I hear.....

Aunt LoLo said...

My teacher always told me that my Chinese would be MUCH better if I would only Open My Mouth Wider!

Oh, and Seui-yihn neih haih laahm fong yahn, Ngoh-deih dou hou jungyih neih! (Even though you're a Southerner, we still really like you!) ;-)

delucchi family said...

When I read your blog I can almost hear you speaking, hee hee.
Love Jules
xxx

Heather of the EO said...

I love it that you say y'all by the way.

and I love that story. You'll get it. Just keep pluggin' away at your Maan.daaar.eeen. :)

Shawnstribe said...

priceless!!!!!
TM you just go for it girl!!!!!
xxx
s

Sharie said...

It's so funny that the southern accent still pops out. I used to laugh at my niece because she spent her first three years in North Carolina (Camp Lejeune) and then lived here in the midwest a short time before moving out to the Baltimore/DC area. She learned to talk in so many different places she had quite the accent. Now she's 24 has lived out in Maryland 20+ years and says AUnt insteat of ant and Soda instead of pop...What's up with that?

mommy24treasures said...

I live in the S but try very hard to not say ya'll. and cain't. ;)
I know people can always tell immediately anyway but I still try.:)

Michelle said...

Hey, at least you're trying! A for effort - even if it has a few extra syllables tied on there. I think Mandarin is a very, VERY difficult language. I took private Russian lessons and think Russian is much easier than Chinese. I got stumped at Mia's first three-year old class last week. All I can said is "Li" for pear. ;-)

The Byrd's Nest said...

I am definately from the South and talk like it too! This is making me having to learn Spanish sound alot easier though! ;)

Rochelle said...

Ok, so I about died laughing after reading this because I came over here to whine about Dallas losing, and knowing that you must have had a good day because of it... :) And then I read how you say "y'all" and I thought about it... why yes you do. And then I smiled. Hehehe.

Jamie said...

Funny how geography can leave its thumbprint on your life like that. I grew up "all over" too, and even though I have no discernible accent, every once in a while someone will pick up on a sliver of something left over from a state I lived in long ago.

Your instructor must have a well-trained ear to notice that southerners tend to dissect Mandarin. :) And no, I'm not snickering...

Kohana said...

We were at a party recently (where about 70% of the attendees were Asian nationals or Asian Australians) when a woman from Hong Kong asked where we were from. When I said Nashville, she said "oh, you've really got that Southern Twang!" I just had to laugh because my parents are Yankees and I never did get the Southern accent. Of course I speak more slowly and softly than they do in the North, but there isn't any twang happening! But she insisted, "I can hear it!" I just smiled. Whatever.

OziMum said...

LOL! When we were in China, earlier this year, we were "She-shi" to everyone, and it wasn't til we got down to Guangdong, and met a business assoc. there, she said "what are you saying?!!" I said "Thank you" she just said "oh." and looked a bit confused!!! I have no idea what the northern chinese folks thought of our "Aussie Chinese"?!!

Debz said...

LOL That's too funny! From reading your posts I would totally have thought you had a strong Southern drawl.
My sister was here the other day and her and her son were speaking "Proper English" or "British" to each other with their "Island slang" twist, I started to talk "Aussie" right along with em! LOL!

When I moved from Eastern Canada to Northern Ontairo for a bit the people I worked with thought I was from the South US. I didn't think I had an Eastern accent at all!

I think you should do a little video and let us hear ya for ourselves!!!! I will if you will!

sisterheping said...

Good thing you wrote down the translation for your Mandarin. I don't think I can even tell what it was supposed to - wait, lemme guess.

"Fan Zhe yang, wo shi yan feng di ge..."

Never mind. Maybe I just don't know what the words actually are! LOL

Quirky Mom said...

This is my first time reading your blog, and I realize we have a lot in common... Navy daddy, college in Virginia, and people claim I have a Maryland accent (though I've never lived there). Too funny that you add syllables to Mandarin!!