I was born to a Minnan/Hokkien family from the north of Malaysia, and we speak in a combination of Penang Hokkien and English at home. I learned Mandarin when I went to school in Singapore, and believe me it took years of practice to nail Malaysian-accented Mandarin (if such a thing singularly exists)
Perhaps you have seen those Youtube videos in which non-Malaysians dramatise their struggle to comprehend spoken Malaysian Mandarin. Or, perhaps if you’re visiting us, you will have had this same experience firsthand. This is first and foremost a phonetic analysis-cum-demonstration of some of the most prominent features of Malaysian Mandarin, ranging from entering tones and missing retroflex consonants, to glottal stops and the characteristic “flat” tonal profile. We will use examples from words that you are likely to encounter in daily parlance, and explore some of the reasons for these variations. Naturally, this will start to converge with the story of the “Chinese” in Malaysia, of our (diverse) southerly provenance and (diverse) linguistic heritage, and of our dualistic identity as ethnic 唐山 descendants but citizens of a multiracial postcolonial nation. In our discussion, we run into the enduring influence of Hokkien and Cantonese (amongst other languages), into the role of the education system, and in some ways into the Malaysian Chinese self-identity. My family is Hokkien/English bilingual and I learned all of my Mandarin overseas before I later returned. Therefore, this is also quite a personal story of how, in my 20s, I started to connect the dots about my own community, through a lingua franca that I acquired elsewhere.