China’s 10 Most Difficult Dialects

Did you know that even within China, there are regional dialects that are hard for Chinese people to understand? (Katinalynn / Flickr)
Did you know that even within China, there are regional dialects that are hard for Chinese people to understand? (Katinalynn / Flickr)

To the average foreigner, most Chinese dialects probably sound strange to the ear. But did you know that even within China, there are regional dialects that are hard for Chinese people to understand?

This top 10 list just went viral on Weibo, and is being hotly debated by netizens.

1. Wenzhounese

2. Cantonese

3. Minnanese – spoken in southern Fujian and Taiwan

4. Suzhou dialect

5. Shanghainese

6. Changsha dialect

7. Sichuanese

8. Shandongese

9. Tianjinese

10. Dongbeiren dialect

Wenzhounese was used by “windtalkers” in Chinese armies during the Sino-Japanese war to prevent Japanese intelligence from understanding communications, according to this QQ article.

Cantonese is the largest Chinese dialect, and is spoken in Guangdong, Guangxi, Hong Kong, and Macau. The World of Chinese reports that Cantonese has remained mostly unchanged for thousands of years, unlike northern dialects, which changed whenever China was invaded.

Many Chinese linguists commented that the list was too subjective, according to the Shanghaiist, because understanding dialects depends where you’re from. For instance, someone from Beijing might struggle to understand the Suzhou dialect, but would be able to get Shanghainese. Also, linguists tend to believe that Chinese is really a family of languages, rather than one language with multiple dialects.

This top 10 list just went viral on Weibo, and is being hotly debated by netizens. (Screenshot from QQ)

This top 10 list just went viral on Weibo, and is being hotly debated by netizens. (Screenshot from QQ)

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