By now, we’ve all heard of the hoo-ha involving Joanne Peh’s Mainland Chinese-sounding accent on Dream Coder. But what about actors who actually have Mainland Chinese accents? We ask four Ch 8 actors from China if their accents have ever posed a problem for them here.
“For me, it’s still okay. I can switch accents. (Starts speaking in an exaggerated Singlish accent) If you want me to speak like that, then I speak like that lor. (Reverts back to speaking in proper Mandarin) If you want me to speak in very proper Mandarin, I can also do that. Although my Mandarin has worsened since coming to Singapore, I studied in China for 12 years, so I have a solid foundation. And I’ve lived in Singapore for 15 years now. So that’s why I’m able to switch effortlessly [between accents]. In the beginning, many people thought that I had a slight Chinese accent. But my accent isn’t that strong ’cos I’m from the southern part of China. Generally, our accent isn’t as exaggerated. People from northern China have different accents and roll their tongues a lot when they speak. I’ve never had local viewers say that my accent is too strong. Many people only realised later on that I’m from China. The way I speak is very lazy. Haiyah, whatever lah, like that lor. But, as an actor, that shouldn’t be the way. So I’ve been trying to enunciate more clearly and speak properly.”
“If local viewers think my accent is too strong, I’d go and adjust it ’cos I’m catering to a Singaporean audience. I cannot let them feel that I’m incompatible [with the rest of the cast]. But so far, I haven’t received any feedback on [my Chinese accent] be it in my hosting or acting. A lot of people think I’m from Taiwan. Also, as a Shanghainese, my accent isn’t as strong as that of someone from Beijing. We don’t roll our tongues as much when we speak. I’ve been getting a lot of roles where I play a guy from China. As long as the audience loves it, I’m not against [playing a China man]. But, if you don’t want me to speak in a Chinese accent, I can also speak in a more localised accent. How? By mixing around more with locals (laughs).”
“I’ve lived here for 16 years, and no one has ever told me that I have a China accent (laughs). In fact, they say that I sound local or Taiwanese. I feel that the character’s background should determine his or her accent and behavior. Once, I played a lawyer, so I tried to speak like an educated person. And when I played an Ah Beng, I had to speak like one. So, it really all boils down to the character you play lah.”
“When I first joined the industry, I was asked to adjust my accent. A director said that local viewers might be more accepting of me if I were to speak with a Singaporean slang. But I didn’t deliberately go and change my accent. Instead, I focused more on [my acting techniques]. Just memorising my lines alone was homework enough. So, adjusting my accent wasn’t my first priority. But it seems that the local audience has slowly and graciously accepted my manner of speech. And maybe, with time, I now speak in a manner that is closer to Singaporean Chinese. After all, I’ve been here a long time.”