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Fun Chinese dialect ear test – see if you understand what they are talking about

Posted by Grace Feng on December 9, 2012

Fun Chinese dialect ear test -  Could you figure out what they are talking about?If you’re learning mandarin, have you ever given it a thought to whether you have regional accent when you speak mandarin?

You might wonder “Is this a proper question to ask a learner? How could a learner be able to tell?” Well, as a matter of fact, that is exactly what I intend to do today: To let you, my dear mandarin learner friends, to figure out by yourself whether the mandarin you speak carries the accent of any Chinese regional dialect.

I’m not talking about the accent you carry from your mother tongue, if any. At this time of the century, we probably don’t have big enough samples to generalize accent of spoken mandarin from people of foreign countries or territories. On the contrary, Chinese accent of spoken English is easy to be identified since we already have big enough samples to analyze. :-)

Speaking of accent, I did notice that some non-native mandarin speakers do carry certain accent that resembles certain dialects of China. I think this kind of accent might be developed by the speaker unconsciously from one of the following sources:

  1. the speaker’s Chinese teacher or tutor;
  2. the local language environment where the speaker is dwelling if in China;
  3. speaking habbit of the speaker;

I’m not going to make any judgement on one’s accent. As a matter of fact, almost every Chinese has accent on mandarin. No one lives in “Standard Mandarin” province since there’s no such place in China. Every single province or city in China has a couple, if not many, dialects of its own. That includes Beijing as well. Beijing Hua is also a dialect, though it is close to standard mandarin. For most Chinese natives that do speak mandarin, the only difference between their mandarin is with a lighter accent, or with a heavier accent. Therefore, to pick up a bit accent while you’re learning the language is no big deal in my opinion. To let your spoken mandarin be easily understood by most Chinese should be your ultimate goal.

Given that, to get a feel of the varieties of Chinese dialects is definitely not a bad thing. As a matter of fact, it should be useful and fun to have some exposure to them. Here I collect some short voice samples from online videos that talk in dialects. Each of the sample is labeled under the province where it originated. I need to make it clear that it doesn’t mean that any of these dialects represents the majority of the province’s population. I just collect them here for mandarin learners to have a fun ear test. Go ahead listen to them for a few times. See with the help of the sentence transcript, will you be able to understand them eventually. I also recorded a version in mandarin for each voice sample so you can compare the tone difference between them.

The list will grow once I have time to collect more.

 

上海话 Shanghai dialect

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普通话 Mandarin:

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nǐ kànkan zhè shì shá?

你看看这是啥?

Could you check what exactly it is?

 

河南话 Henan dialect

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普通话 Mandarin:

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nǐ zhège xiǎohái, bùxiǎng dāli nǐ!

你这个小孩, 不想搭理你!

You’re such a kid, I don’t want to talk to you!

 

天津话 Tianjing dialect

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普通话 Mandarin:

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rénjiā lǎobǎn jiāogěi de rènwu, jiùshì, yīdìng dé wánchéng.

人家老板交给的任务, 就是, 一定得完成.

It is an assignment from my boss. I must complete it.

 

四川话 Sichuan dialect

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普通话 Mandarin:

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o, zài Běijīng yàoshuō pǔtōnghuà rénjiā cái tīngdedǒng de ma!

哦, 在北京要说普通话人家才听得懂的嘛!

Oh, in order to make yourself understool in Beijing you have to speak mandarin.

 

山东话 Shandong dialect

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普通话 Mandarin:

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hàochī bùhǎo chī, guāng shuō hái bùxíng ā, nà dé cháng yīxià!

好吃不好吃, 光说还不行啊, 那得尝一下!

Whether it’s tasty or not, how could we know by talking? Go taste it!

 

云南话 Yunnan dialect

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普通话 Mandarin:

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kuàidiǎnr! jīntiān yuē hǎo de, qù nǐmen xuéxiào xiān kànkan nǐmen xiàozhǎng qù.

快点儿! 今天约好的, 去你们学校先看看你们校长去.

Hurry up! We’ve booked the appointment today. We need to meet your principle in your school.

 

湖南话 Yunnan dialect

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普通话 Mandarin:

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shàngbān yào gǎo shìyè, xiàbān hái yào máng jiāwù; zǎoshang bùnéng qǐ dé wǎn shì wǎnshanghái bùnéng shuì dé zǎo.

上班要搞事业, 下班还要忙家务;早上不能起得晚是晚上还不能睡得早.

When we’re at work, we need to work hard to grow our career.  After work we need to deal with loads of housework. We can’t get up late in the morning, we can’t go to bed early in the evening either.

 

河北话 Hebei dialect

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普通话 Mandarin:

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tā yǒu shá jí shì nàme zháojí ā?

他有啥急事那么着急啊?

Why is he in such a hurry?

 

You can look up the name of each province in the map below so you know which area the province is located in.

Fun Chinese dialect ear test - see if you can understand what they are talking about

 

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8 Responses to “Fun Chinese dialect ear test – see if you understand what they are talking about”

  1. nothing

    白瑞:

    12-10-2012 4:34 pm

    呵呵,很有趣!和标准的普通话相比有些方言差别好大牙。特别是那个上海话的例句,它真的能算一个方言吗?还是一个不同的语言?还好你提供的一个标准的录音Grace.:)

    Oh, 在你以上的不同的方言例句标题有一个错误:就是在写Mandarin的时候,就省略一个’d’字!

    Reply

    • nothing

      Grace Feng:

      12-10-2012 6:33 pm

      包括上海话在内, 很多方言相对普通话来说就象另一种语言。虽然写出来是基本一样, 但听是真的听不懂。:-) 这就是普通话产生的原因了吧。这样中国各地方人之间就可以互相交流了。外国人学中文也容易一些吧。:-)

      The typo is corrected, thanks a lot, 白睿!

      Reply

  2. nothing

    白睿:

    12-11-2012 4:58 pm

    我发现,在那边跟些留学生交流除了本地的北京人之外,其他的学生,无论是从中国中部,还是从中国南部,他们都会说标真的普通话。北京人呢?他们讲究北京人说最标准的普通话,但是我觉得他们说的话完全不能算标准的,可能是因为他们喜欢用‘儿话音’就好像一个挺模糊的语言。和北京人交流,特别是男人,总是一个挑战!

    Reply

    • nothing

      Grace Feng:

      12-12-2012 5:52 am

      北京的儿话音如果不习惯听起来确实会比较困难.而且北京话很多音被吞掉,说得又快就更会增加难度.呵呵,看来你对中文的接触还是挺多的.:-)

      Reply

  3. nothing

    kaviche:

    12-13-2012 6:23 pm

    its my favorite post until now !!! [even though speaking about quality of teaching delivered all your posts are top-notch ! your website is a real treasure, I will never thank you enough that you allow us to nourish from all this hive of knowledge freely]

    I find continous appeal and curiosity in learning about the different dialects and stereotypes associated with a region inside a country..I remember when I was learning spanish how it was interesting to learn about the way each province spoke some letters different and had cultural stereotypes. for example in Barcelona[ and cataluña in general] locals are said to be skinflint/miser. people in Andalusia are thought to be slow-motion , basques are known for being stern and rigid.

    I would love to know if there are just stereotypes [offenseless of course] about people from Henan, Mongolia,Yunnan etc…

    Reply

    • nothing

      Grace Feng:

      12-14-2012 5:13 am

      Kavinche, I’m glad you think this post is really helpful. Thanks for your nice comment about this site too.

      Speaking of Chinese regional culture stereotypes, it is not that easy to summarize with a few words for each subset of populations. Yes, there is widely perceived stereotypes that go around among natives, such as “Shanghainese only care about money.” “Beijingers are really pretentious.” etc. etc. However, I personally don’t think those labels are really meaningful. Based on my experience, people from the same area could behave quite differently. Stereotypes didn’t work for me in most cases. It might be more meaningful to know the culture and economy development history of a certain area other than the stereotypes. How people behave is mostly decided by what type of soil they stand on IMHO.

      That being said, here is a link to wiki that discussed stereotypes in a fair tone between the north and the south of China (near the bottom):

      http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What's_the_difference_from_north_China_and_south_China

      If you’re wondering … I came from the south of China mainland. I myself is a mix of the north(Mom) and the south(Dad). I grew up juggling between three different dialects in my own family. That’s one of the reasons I don’t think stereotypes work very well (for the mix at least). :-)

      Reply

  4. nothing

    kaviche:

    12-21-2012 12:03 am

    No one lives in “Standard Mandarin” province since there’s no such place in China. Every single province or city in China has a couple, if not many, dialects of its own.

    – then does that mean that there are places where local languages[ i find the word dialect derogatory/pejorative] are more widespread than putonghua ?

    – are there places where people do not speak mandarin at all [ or NOT fluently] inside of mainland Zhongguo ? or would it be just the old seniors in remote villages and not people of all ages and from all backgrounds ?

    one last question, which stems out more of curiosity than anything else.. is the putonghua audio versions made by you ?

    Reply

    • nothing

      Grace Feng:

      12-21-2012 4:01 am

      kaviche,

      – then does that mean that there are places where local languages[ i find the word dialect derogatory/pejorative] are more widespread than putonghua ?
      As a matter of fact, traditionally in China, local people speak to each other in their own languages, that’s the natural way of communication. Putonghua is only used when local people need to talk to non-local people that don’t understand the local language. Putonghua was like a secondary language to any Chinese when it was first introduced. (However, many local languages are very similar to putonghua. It’s not that hard to understand and speak putonghua with minimum effort for that part of population. For people that speak the ones that are very different from putonghua, it usually requires much more learning and practice effort for them to be fluent in putonghua.)

      Nowadays in China, in most elementary to high schools, speaking putonghua has become mandatory for all students. Teachers even recommend students to speak putonghua outside of school and ask parents to cooperate. As a result, you’ll see more and more younger generations to use putonghua as their primary language instead of their local language. My niece is a live example. She understands the local language but never speak it because her Mom and friends only speak putonghua to her. Her Mom still speaks local language with other family members though. :-)

      The rule of thumb is: If an area has more people coming from outside, then putonghua is spoken more. And vice versa.

      – are there places where people do not speak mandarin at all [ or NOT fluently] inside of mainland Zhongguo ? or would it be just the old seniors in remote villages and not people of all ages and from all backgrounds ?

      As far as I know, mandarin can be understood everywhere in China by the majority of the population. But yes, for some old seniors, or people in very remote area, or people that barely had any school education, they might not be able to speak mandarin, or even understand it well.

      -is the putonghua audio versions made by you ?
      Yes, that’s my voice.

      Grace

      Reply

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