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Cantonese Voice Overs : Interview with Liow Shi Suen

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

July 18, 2007

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What's the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin?

As a talent represented by an agency, Liow Shi Suen has a different story to tell than many we've heard this week.

Learn about how Liow Shi Suen acquires Cantonese voice over work and the role her agent plays securing it.

In our previous article, we talked about the prevalent role of Mandarin Chinese in business and the booming Chinese economy.

To take a look at the other side of the coin, I've invited Liow Shi Suen, a Cantonese voice talent, to share her thoughts and feelings regarding her native dialect Cantonese, a derivative of Canton.

Stephanie: What role on the world stage does the language you speak play in the world of voice over? Is your language in demand in places other than where you are from?

Liow Shi Suen: I am master of one language and one dialect. English having become the lingua franca of the universe, the call for Cantonese in the global market is small. There is however “quite a large” population of Cantonese speakers, ranging from Guangzhou (formerly Canton) through Malaysia, Singapore and in Chinatowns throughout the world. The Chinese would prefer to speak their own dialect wherever they are.

Some say Cantonese is a ‘money dialect’ , because in Asia or I should say in any part of the world, as long as there are Chinese, most of them love to watch Hong Kong TV programmes. Therefore Cantonese, a lively dialect, still comes out with many new terms for the entertainment and business worlds, which even influences the Mandarin vocabulary, not to mention the dialect also affects people’s daily life. Mandarin, however, plays a main role as there are at least 1.3 billion of people feel comfortable in listening to it.

Stephanie: What makes the Cantonese unique?

Liow Shi Suen: As with all language ours is particular to our native land, our upbringing and ancestry. For a Cantonese speaker, there is no way to get our thoughts across better than in the language of our race.

Stephanie: What is the North American market like for your language or dialect? Have you found much success with North American clients? What kind of jobs are you most hired for by North American companies?

Liow Shi Suen: I operate in the S.E.Asian market, as such have little to do with North America. Should I be asked to do a recoding for a client there, I will go to my agent Speakeasy Singapore, who will make all the necessary arrangements for the recording.

Stephanie: When you invoice a client who is not from your native land, what currency do you quote in?

Liow Shi Suen: Usually the currency of their country, depending on the exchange rate and the strength of their unit.

Stephanie: Do you enjoy greater success marketing your voice online or offline to clients? What are the major differences where your efforts are concerned?

Liow Shi Suen: Marketing my voice is in the hands of my agent, who market me both online and offline. Online seems to bring more enquiries than actual work. The agency gets better success from direct contact.

Stephanie: How would you describe your experience finding work online?

Liow Shi Suen: Irregular would best describe it, Cantonese as mentioned not being in great demand here.

Stephanie: Do you have the ability to speak more than one language? If so, is this a great advantage for you?

Liow Shi Suen: I speak Mandarin and Cantonese, which obviously doubles my chances.

Stephanie: Do you have a North American agent? If so, how much work do you receive through their efforts?

Liow Shi Suen: I have no agent in North America. Should one contact me here, I would be happy to deal with them.

Stephanie: What is the difference between a native speaker of your language and someone who is a descendant of a native speaker living abroad?

Liow Shi Suen: Their accent would be the primary difference. Being a native speaker living in my homeland I am in constant contact with the language, use it on a daily basis and remain fluent. Someone living abroad cannot help but absorb some of the tonal characteristics of the land in which they reside.

Stephanie: Well noted. Sometimes when people move or pass their mother tongue onto their children after they have emigrated, it may not be exactly the same or in tune with what is going on where they originally came from dialect wise. How important is it that a native speaker is hired for a job as opposed to someone who grew up in a bilingual home in North America speaking a mixture English and your native language?

Liow Shi Suen: One would think it should be very important, but if someone’s voice is selected, one hopes it will pass through the appropriate vetting prior to being selected. If a native is living in a bilingual home it by no means indicates inability to speak the language correctly. Constant use of the language is very important. Likewise, a North American for instance, speaking Cantonese would most of the time be identified as not being Cantonese. This being due to physiognomy as well as tonality.

Stephanie: How do you market yourself to North Americans? What do you have to give them as a native speaker of your language that no one else can?

Liow Shi Suen: As mentioned I have no actual marketing in North America. And as a native speaker, I give native delivery .i.e. no reason for client concern.

To learn more about Liow Shi Suen, visit her website:

Liow Shi Suen Cantonese Voice Talent

Related Topics: Accent, child, hired, TV


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