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1. Beijing Dialect: The closest to standard Mandarin. It is characterized by the "er" sound which I still find a bit difficult to grasp (I'm of southern Chinese heritage). Has a bit of a masculine quality but still much smoother than the northeastern dialect.
2. Tianjin / Hebei dialect: You would expect it to be fairly close to the Beijing dialect / standard Mandarin considering geographical proximity, but it is actually quite different. I find more similarities to the Shanxi dialect than to standard Mandarin.
3. Northeast dialect: Can be entertaining but I find it too harsh on the ears. It has a very masculine tone even when spoken by females.
4. Henan dialect: Also pretty harsh on the ears. Characterized by "zhong", which stands for affirmative and confirmation.
5. Shanxi dialect: I can't describe it too well but it seems to me a cross between the Henan and the Hebei / Tianjin dialects.
6. Shaanxi dialect: Nothing too unique about it except that it shares some similarities with the Chongqing and Hubei dialects in the southern parts of the province.
7. Shandong dialect: Nothing too unique about it but it sounds straightforward and confident.
8. Chongqing dialect: Overall quite similar to Mandarin except with a different tone. The lower classes tend to use a lot of slang. My native dialect but I can't speak it too well.
9. Sichuan dialect: Quite similar to the Chongqing dialect but sounds softer. More variability in tones.
10. Yunnan / Guizhou: Similar to the Sichuan dialect. The Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou dialects are often grouped together due to their similarity.
11. Jiangxi: My best female friend is from Jiangxi but I've never heard her speak her native dialect. I imagine it would be a cross between the Hubei, the Zhejiang and the Anhui dialects.
12. Anhui: Combines both southern Chinese and northern Chinese influences due to Anhui's geographical position.
13. Hubei: Like the Anhui dialect it seems to combine both northern and southern influences. Does not sound that pleasant.
14. Hunan: Can be quite similar to the Sichuan dialect but with some influence from the Hubei dialect.
15. Zhejiang / Jiangsu / Shanghai: Extremely fast, sounds like they are always arguing. I am completely unable to comprehend. The Wenzhou dialect is notoriously difficult to understand.
16. Fujian: ALMOST LIKE ANOTHER LANGUAGE! You also get Hakka.
17. Guangdong / Hong Kong / Macau: Obviously Cantonese, which I'm able to understand 30-40% without subtitles. The Teochew / Chaozhou dialect seems distinct, but I've never heard it being spoken.
18. Guangxi: Shares similarities with Cantonese but also has southeast Asian influence due to Guangxi's borders with southeast Asian countries, especially Vietnam (though culturally and ethnically Vietnam can arguably be considered as East Asian).
19. Tibet / Inner Mongolia / Xinjiang / Qinghai: Regions with strong influence from ethnic minorities. Uyghurs and Chinese Mongolians speak Mandarin with their tongues rolled up, haha. Tibetans speak Mandarin with southern Chinese influence.
20. Hainan: I've never heard Hainanese being spoken but it seems to be a common 4th or 5th tongue for ethnic Chinese in southeast Asia, being preceded by Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien and Hakka.
This concludes my brief summary of regional accents in China. Which ones do you think sound the best? The worst?
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Last edited by Ghost on October 15th, 2016, 4:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
People in Guangdong can understand my Chinese, but when I went to Chongqing to see Baoning and Magnum, the people there couldn't understand anything I was saying...
I guess my accent is Guangdong ren style. Haha...
Are the dialects in decline at all among the young?
I have a hard time understanding Mandarin with very strong regional accents. In Beijing it's the people from the outskirts (close to Hebei), in Chongqing it's pretty much anyone who talks a bit too fast.
Speaking of this, I also think that among the younger Chinese, studying English is affecting how well they understand foreigners. My students and other younger Chinese people can usually understand me but old people usually can't. I think the current generation has absorbed enough knowledge of English grammar and sounds that this helps them better understand a foreigner attempting to speak Chinese.
Yes, this is definitely true! I guess being around foreigners helps some Chinese gain a better understanding of us trying to speak the language.