Friday, 1 November 2013

Chinese with Yankee Accents

You can blame Friends for the popularity of the American accent in China
Before the handover, parents wanted their children to have English accents and sent their children to Britain to study or to good schools in Hong Kong that were staffed with teachers from the UK.

It was that upper crust accent that immediately demonstrated one was educated, cultured and sophisticated.

However nowadays it seems the English accent is passe and now parents, particularly those from the mainland, want their kids to talk like Americans.

Language schools that teach on the weekends are now in hot demand, particularly if they focus more children speaking with American accents.

"I intend to send my sons to America for further study so I chose an American accent for them," said Victor Chan, whose two boys, Jackie aged 10 and Samuel, seven. "I think having an American accent is better for their employment (prospects) in Western countries," the 50-year-old said.

A head hunter admitted that a candidate having an American accent had a higher chance of getting a job than someone who spoke English with a local accent. But we all knew that.

Dr Rodney Jones, acting head of English at City University believes that the American accent is becoming more prevalent here mainly because of exposure to TV shows (Friends) and Hollywood movies.

"In the past in Hong Kong there was a sense that speaking in a British accent made you sound more educated," he says.

"Now I think that's changing and perhaps people think speaking in an American accent may have more "cultural capital". That is, it may make you sound more contemporary, or modern, or may fit with the international business world better."

Perhaps this change in preference of accents is a sign of the times. Or it's the influence of wealthy mainlanders who use American English in China and so they feel they should have American accents to match. And the choice to use American English? Perhaps to spite the British for colonizing Hong Kong?

In any event this new development on the educational front is an interesting one. Does this mean we'll soon have Chinese kids talking like African Americans, rapping and dancing hip hop?


  1. Have noticed that The Standard and HK Magazine uses American English (ratther than British English) spelling as well as terms. Found that rather strange, considering that Hong Kong was a former British colony and all. But it seems they fit in with this new trend!

    1. Are the SCMP and Time Out the last holdouts?

  2. I went to visit a private secondary school and there was a consensus among the students I talked to that even though they liked American pronunciation British was better. I got the sense that they thought American was more common sounding. So I don't think HK is as completely won over. Although we former colonies should stick together, no? :D