The English word accent, as in the flavor of one's speech, is typically translated as 口音 or 腔调. What is the difference between these two Chinese expressions?

  • I suggest if you don't want to learn the very detailed and subtle difference between them, just using 口音 for "the flavor of one's speech". 腔调 has several meanings and is "often" (according to my experience as a native speaker) used in derogatory sense nowadays.
    – Stan
    Jan 17, 2015 at 19:32
  • 腔调 is often shortened to 腔, in particular when combined with a particular nationality,etc,for examples look up iciba's entry for 腔,examples 2,4,6,8: 他操着一口带有德国腔的英语问我在法国玩得是否愉快。 他嗓音低沉,说话略带拖腔。 这伦敦腔是为了给人以深刻印象而故意装出来的。 这些小孩都操着一副假冒的美国腔. 祖父说话带有很重的苏格兰土腔. 10 has 装腔做态 grandiloquent
    – user6065
    Jan 17, 2015 at 22:25
  • 3
    口音 district accent.腔调:speaking style.
    – sfy
    Jan 18, 2015 at 4:17
  • Jacob's comment is really your answer
    – Huangism
    Jan 19, 2015 at 21:04
  • it may be worth keeping in mind that according to "现代汉语词典" as well as iciba,etc。,the 口音 under discussion is pronounced kǒuyin,to be distinguished from 口音 kǒuyīn [语] oral speech sounds (linguistics)
    – user6065
    Jan 20, 2015 at 2:53

2 Answers 2


If you have London accent, it means, you have London 口音. it is nature.----- If you talk like a manager, it means, you have manager 腔调, i.e. you want to command others, you have no accent, but you have 腔调.

  • What you are talking about is just the difference between the accent you have according to your place of birth and RP, which is used to 'fit in with a group'. What you refer to as ‘London accent' is now known as 'Estuary Pronunciation', a new name for RP. Almost every Chinese has their own language from their home town, then they have 普通话。(Except some don't have 普通话)I am a bit familiar with 泰州话, which is not at all like 普通话。But these are not accents, they are dialects. However, the line between accent and dialect is not clear. When does one become the other?
    – Pedroski
    Jan 18, 2015 at 3:48
  • @Pedroski My understanding is accent is only about pronunciation, while dialect involves differences in grammar and/or vocabulary.
    – NS.X.
    Jan 18, 2015 at 7:58
  • Estuary English is not Received Pronunciation, neither traditional RP nor modern RP. Neither is it Cockney, nor MLE.
    – Michaelyus
    Jan 19, 2015 at 13:33
  • Indeed, while there is some debate on what is really Estuary versus Cockney, no one regards either one as RP. Jan 19, 2015 at 16:40

I think 口音 refers more to your natural accent. 腔调 is more like RP, more of a concious effort.

  • not necessarily: see above quoted iciba sample sentences involving 腔:德国腔的英语 Germanic English (used by German native),带拖腔 drawl,这伦敦腔,Cockney accent,苏格兰土腔 Scottish brogue, in these accent apparently acquired by upbringing
    – user6065
    Jan 18, 2015 at 0:56
  • Reechen, you know best about Chinese, but I know iciba often has really appalling English. If their Chinese is even half as bad as their English, then it is not a reliable source. Also, a lot of people in London would not like to be told they speak Cockney, you need another translation there. How about '口可内‘? Do you wish to say, '口音‘ and '腔调' are completely interchangeable? If not, why are they not interchangeable? That is the question here.
    – Pedroski
    Jan 18, 2015 at 2:30
  • according to nciku (Line dictionary Chinese-English)cockney accent in Chinese is 伦敦东区腔调,伦敦东区方言 according to Dict。cn it is 伦敦腔
    – user6065
    Jan 18, 2015 at 5:04

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