Mixing the dialects

Having seen this commercial quite a few times since CNBC plays it all the time, I realized one day actually paying attention to it that it makes one of the fatal mistakes that Hollywood and American television have been committing for years and have only recently started to do more corrections.

The whole mix of dialects. The African Amercian gentleman is speaking Mandarin. The chinese customer is speaking Cantonese. There are nine tones in Cantonese, and only four in Mandarin not to mention knowing one or the other doesn’t necessarily mean you understand it. The former is also a more guttural dialect that is prominent in Southern China in the Canton province. Mandarin on the other hand is the national language.

This little mistake isn’t such a huge deal, but it is something that they’ve done in many American Hong Kong films where they mix Taiwanese with Mandarin. While actors and actresses will probably speak what they are most comfortable with, it actually doesn’t make too much sense just as if you had someone speaking German Spanish talk to someone speaking French, even though they’re both Romanic languages.

Simple mistake, but it’s also interesting that people don’t make that distinction.

UPDATE: Updated to reflect some changes. In actuality, there are Taiwanese as secondary lines in American films, but currently the things that pop into my head are movies like Born to be King which is HK (thx Joz for joggling my head for me). Also, thx to Grace for pointing out Romanic languages. My bad. Made the correction.

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About Ben

Ben Hwang is involved in a number of online publications and also writes at his personal blog, LUX.ET.UMBRA. When he's not in the middle of starting companies and dreaming up new ventures, he is heavily involved in local community efforts. Currently resides in North Carolina.
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