China’s 10 Most Difficult Dialects

To the average foreigner, most Chinese dialects probably sound strange to the ear. (Image:  pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
To the average foreigner, most Chinese dialects probably sound strange to the ear. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

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 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
Hong Kong is the 2nd most expensive city to live in. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Cantonese is the largest Chinese dialect, and is spoken in Guangdong, Guangxi, Hong Kong, and Macau. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

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

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 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.

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