Learn About Chinese Dialects

by: Kevin Young

No other language is spoken as widely around the globe than Chinese. Conservatively speaking, one of every five people worldwide speaks Chinese. Beyond the fact that there are more people speaking Chinese than any other language; it is one of six official languages of the United Nations. Chinese is both used in formal meetings as well as for documentation. With China emerging as a major economic superpower in the last part of the century, Chinese language has begun to make its foray into the developed countries of the West. Claiming an international audience, Chinese is fast becoming one of most popular languages of exchange even on the web.

Chinese language stereotype

One stereotype that the West held about China was that the official language of China is Cantonese. There was a legitimate ground for such misunderstanding. Those earliest Chinese who migrated to other countries were primarily from the Southern coastal provinces like Guangdong (formally known to the West as Canton) where Cantonese was the widely spoken dialect.

After the Great Wars, Asia caught the world’s attention for their economic achievements. Of the Four Asian Tigers, three were Chinese based communities- Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, the other one being the South Korea. Chinese martial arts and culture gained centre stage popularity in the West through Hong Kong and Hollywood based movies like those starring renowned martial artist and cultural icon Bruce Lee.

Mainland China did not expose itself to world until the 1980’s. After a decade-long political turmoil that led to the introduction of reformative policies for a more Western and market-orientated economic system by former statesman Deng Xiaoping in 1979 that China and its culture gradually gained currency among international communities. Mandarin language study and Chinese culture education plays an important role in enabling people to have a correct understanding.

Dialects

“Putonghua”, more commonly Mandarin Chinese is the largest spoken form of Chinese in the Sinitic language family. Cantonese, Wu, Min are other varieties that are widely spoken. Your understanding of this c classification will be helpful in choosing a suitable study abroad Chinese language course. Let’s take a look at the predominant dialects.

Mandarin – was initially referred to as “GuanHua”(官话), or “official standard language” in Chinese. It is the most widely used spoken language, covering the most of northern and southwestern China. 70% of the Chinese people speak Mandarin. Developed from the northern Mandarin, the standard Mandarin or Putonghua used today literally translates into Commonly Used Language. Mandarin Chinese courses are the most popular language programs.

Wu- A type of Chinese that is spoken in provinces of eastern China, like Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Shanghai. Marked by its soft, gentle and mild tones the Shanghainese, or Shanghai language is a prominent dialect of this variety.

Min – Another major Chinese variety that is widely spoken by overseas Chinese, especially in the Southeast Asian nations of Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. In China, this language is spoken more in the Southeastern provinces of Fujian and Taiwan. Linguistically speaking, Min is different from other Chinese dialects that have their origin in central China.

Cantonese – Was the best known Chinese dialect in the world for a long time. It was also mistakenly deemed as the official language of China.

Today it is the commonest spoken language for non residential Chinese around the world. In Hong Kong and Macau, two former western colonies it the spoken tongue of the majority. In the wake of the Communist era when China was shutting its door to the world, Hong Kong and Macau became the main windows for the outside world to understand China.

Xiang – Primarily used in Hunan, a central province in China it is a dialect that has been significantly influenced by Mandarin Chinese and losing its uniqueness. The former Chinese chairman Mao Zedong was from Hunan and had a very strong Xiang accent.

Hakka – It is mainly spoken by Hakka people in different regions of Southern China. Together with Cantonese and Min, Hakka is another common Chinese variety among migrant Chinese communities.

As a potential student interested in studying abroad in China, you will come across dialects like; Gan in Jiangxi, Huihua in Anhui, Jin in Shanxi and Pinghua in parts of Guangxi.

It is true that there are more Chinese dialects than we think, because with every main Chinese type there are many other sub-dialects. It will be wise to choose a good place to start your Chinese learning if the thought of study abroad in China has ever come to you mind.

It is true that across China you can find Mandarin schools and universities that provide Chinese language programs, but it does not mean you can just choose randomly from any of them. Language learning environment plays a critical role in the proper acquisition of any particular language and it is no different for Chinese language learning either. Your language prowess will only increase with practicing classroom teaching in real life situations.

Minds Abroad(http://www.mindsabroad.com/) in Kunming is the perfect place for you to study Mandarin Chinese abroad. Study Mandarin in China with Minds Abroad that offers you quality Chinese language lessons and a good language environment for Chinese immersion. In Southwest China, Kunming falls in the Mandarin speaking belt. The Kunming local lingo, though not completely identical with Putonghua is close enough for you to practice what you have learned in the classroom. Kunming also has the soundest weather around the year. Enjoying a temperate climate around the year Kunming does not have scorching summers or freezing winters like the rest of the Chinese mainland. This is where Kunming scores over all the other Mandarin dialect speaking regions. Kunming is often called the “City of Eternal Spring”. Kunming is also home to 26 diverse ethnic groups of China. You can not only enjoy your study but you can also enrich your experience by exploring different cultures through weekend trips to 5 neighboring countries that we offer.

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