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16
Feb
2013
Mandarin - Dialects - Accents E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by Leyla Lopos
Everywhere I go, I feel like an outsider -- I don't know that place, and I don't speak their language. Yeah, language , it's a big reason to make me feel that I don't belong to that place.

People in different regions of China speak different languages. We have mandarin as the standard spoken language of China, it's the official language, we use it on TV, radio, formal occasions ... and to communicate with people from different areas , but in daily lives, mandarin is not that widely used : in each area, we have our own local dialect. Like I live in Hangzhou, when talking with my family and other Hangzhou people, I usually speak Hangzhou dialect, and everyone does the same thing. Before entering the university , most people around me were native Hangzhounese, so most of the time, I spoke dialect rather than mandarin. At school, we used mandarin in the classroom, but outside classroom like during the break of the classes, we all spoke Hangzhou dialect.

The schools made some rules like "Please speak mandarin.", but they didn't work in most cases -- we felt weird talking with Hangzhou people in mandarin. Now I'm in college, my classmates are from different parts of China, so it's natural to use mandarin , or we can't understand each other, but there're four students from Hangzhou in my class, and I still speak Hangzhou dialect with them. I like Hangzhou dialect , it's my real mother tongue, I started learning mandarin from my kindergarten. I think most Chinese people all like their local dialects. When staying in Hangzhou, I feel comfortable with what I hear, most people speak either Hangzhou dialect or mandarin -- two languages that I'm familiar with. But when going to different places, what I hear would be their local dialects and mandarin.

I don't know why, but apart from Hangzhou dialect, I don't like any dialects, they all sound weird and not that nice. Partly because I'm not used to hearing other dialects, partly because I don't like the feeling of being an outsider. Take Shanghai dialect for instance, Shanghai is quite close to Hangzhou ( only 1.5 hours by train ) , I understand most Shanghai dialect, but I totally hate it, it seems Shanghai people love their dialect too much, they keep speaking Shanghai dialect to you even though they know you're not from Shanghai, like showing off their identities to outsiders, kinda proud.

Everywhere I go, I feel like an outsider, but Beijing is an exception. Though Beijing people speak Beijing dialect, it's pretty much the same like mandarin , as mandarin is based on the principal dialect spoken in and around Beijing. There's no such thing as language barrier, it's just nice that I understand them and they understand me, which is a good feeling, I don't feel anything like being rejected. Plus, there're all kinds of people living in Beijing -- people from different areas of China and people from different countries of the world, I feel I'm one of them, and nobody seems to treat me differently.

Speaking of mandarin, people from different areas of China speak with different accents. The way we speak mandarin is influenced by our local dialects. It's my first time to head for the north of China, the northern accents are quite different from the southern accents, people from north tend to curl their tongue a lot when speaking, and they put "er " at the end of some words ( people from south never do that). We usually can tell if someone is from north or south by the accent.

Another interesting thing is there was once a guy from Taiwan in my travel group. His accent is totally different from Beijing accent or mandarin, we called it guo yu. Taiwan accent is kinda popular all over China, I like this accent too. Many TV or radio hosts here are trying to imitate this accent, but most of them sound awful and fake. I think people ( esp. young people ) like Taiwan accent because of the influences of Taiwan pop culture, like pop music, movies, TV shows ... which are quite popular here. Personally, I'm more familiar with Taiwan pop culture than northern china's, and Taiwan is one of the places I really want to visit.

Our valuable Editor Leyla Lopos has been with us since Sunday, 17 April 2011.

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