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What are Chinese dialects?

What are Chinese dialects?

Chinese is like a big umbrella of languages with a number of various dialects beneath. They are usually classified into 7 large groups. They are Mandarin (Putonghua), Min, Hakka, Yue (Cantonese), Wu, Gan, and Xiang. Each of them also contains many smaller dialects.

It’s like English. Within English, there is American English, Australian English, British English. And there are also different accents within the same country from region to region. However, one major difference is that these Chinese dialects are not mutually intelligible. However, they *usually* share the same writing system of Chinese characters. It means that people living in different regions of China have different accents. And the language dialects are also different.

  • Mandarin (Putonghua), the official language of China, based on the Beijing dialect, is a northern dialect.
  • Min is a southern dialect and it originated from Fujian Province.
  • Hakka of Hakka people, is common in Guangdong, Jiangxi, Guizhou, and Taiwan.
  • Yue, which they call themselves as Cantonese, is common in Guangdong, Guangxi, Hong Kong, and Macau.
  • Wu dialects are prevalent around the Yangtze delta and Shanghai. For example, Shanghainese is one of them.
  • Gan is commonly spoken in and near a western province of China-Jiangxi.
  • Xiang, also a southern dialect, is mainly spoken in Hunan.

Each dialect is part of the Chinese language family. However, Mandarin Chinese is the main dialect. This is the standard language spreading throughout Great China. All students learn this even if they use a dialect in their region or home. That means, if you learn Mandarin, you will be able to talk with almost all of the Chinese speaking population. If you choose to learn a dialect, then that will typically only be useful in that local region.

Interested in Learning Mandarin?

If you enjoy learning Mandarin, we offer one free 1-on-1 class with a real Chinese tutor. See how easy it can be to learn when you have your own personal coach to walk you through the process! And if you do want to learn one of the dialects, just tell us and we’ll try to find you an appropriate tutor :-p

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