Phonemica: Americans Mapping and Preserving Chinese Dialects


Phonemica homepage.

On Sohu:

2 Americans Collect Dialects of Ordinary People to Build a Chinese Dialect Map

On the the dialect map that is Phonemica, green [icons] represents Mandarin, yellow represents Hakka dialects, blue represents Min dialects, orange represents Wu dialects, auburn represents Xiang dialects, rose represents Gan dialects, violet represents Cantonese, and brown represents Jin dialects. Click these icons and corresponding audio of these dialects will be played.

Phonemica dialect key.

21-year old Miss Jiang is studying in Shanghai, has been in Shanghai three years now, and still does not understand Shanghainese. [When asked] to speak her hometown Changsha dialect, she cannot speak it fluently either, only able to speak Mandarin Chinese with a Changsha accent, “There’s nothing I can do, I’ve been speaking Mandarin ever since primary school.”

China possesses a myriad of dialects; nevertheless, with the government compulsively imposing Mandarin in school and public institutions, the room for a dialects’s survival seems to be getting smaller and smaller. For example, in Shanghai, many of the younger generations are unable to accurately converse in the traditional Shanghainese dialect that older generations speak, and this issue is widespread in other dialect-speaking regions [in China].

However, two people who aim to solve the problem and [actually] “do something” are two Americans. In 2009, Kellen Parker and Steve Hansen launched a website to preserve and record “disappearing dialects” called Phonemica.

Kellen Parker and Steven Hansen, founders of Phonemica.

Kellen Parker [pictured above, left] is a graduate student in the linguistics department of National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan. [his concentration] is Historical Development of Chinese dialects. Before arriving in Taiwan, he lived in the Yangtze River region in China, where he began familiarizing himself with the Chinese language and its many dialects; Steve Hansen [pictured above, right] is the co-founder of the Chinese linguistics blog Sinoglot. He achieved proficiency in multiple languages, including Chinese, Spanish, Korean, and Latvian. He has lived in Beijing for a couple of years, and by relying on his social connections, he set up numerous interviews for “Phonemica”. He thinks Beijingers in general lack an awareness of other Chinese dialects. “Beijingers are like New Yorkers, ” he joked, “they think they are the center of the world.” Hence, they are unfamiliar with other dialects. Hansen says frankly, they always think of Mandarin spoken with a regional accent as a “dialect”.

The most distinguishing feature of Phonemica is the “linguistics map”, which provides the audio of a dialect from a certain region represented on the map. By clicking the icons on the map, [people] can listen to the audio and obtain access to relevant information, including the speaker/storyteller’s name, age, hometown, and the region of the dialect spoken. Most audio tracks are recorded in forms of stories by local people, and the length [of the audio] is roughly around five minutes long. The website was officially launched in April 2013, and currently the website has 85 audio tracks available with topics ranging from young people talking about their favorite Chinese stars to grandfathers recalling working in rural lands during the Cultural Revolution.

Phonemica homepage.

61-year-old Mr. Xie from Pingtung, Taiwan told a story in the Sixian [Fourth County] Hakka dialect. Parker says the number of people who use the Hakka dialect as their native tongue exceed 30 million, but today much fewer people speak the Sixian Hakka dialect, and most of them dwell in northwestern Taiwan. 50-year-old Song Hongcheng, from Hubei Fang County, told a story in the Fang County dialect. Fang County dialect is a branch of Central Plains Mandarin, with 300 thousand people speaking the dialect today. The website is completely open to the public and, at present, it is also in the process of collecting audio tracks of dialects from volunteers. In the past week, the website received several tracks from Baoji-Shanxi, Xinhua-Hunan, and Gaoping-Shanxi.

The first concept of a “dialect map” can be found at George Mason University’s Speech Accent Archive in Virginia. The archive features recordings of hundreds of English speakers’ accents ranging from Brooklyn dwellers to German descendants in Pennsylvania reading the same paragraph. Parker and Hansen think recording family history through the “Story Corps” method is also very meaningful. “Story Corps” is an archive that contains 45,000 stories passed down by word-of-mouth amongst the American people.

Today, most of Phonemica’s operations still heavily rely on the support of social networks, as it uses social networks to recruit volunteers. Volunteers categorize and edit the stories collected online. Hansen estimates future interviewees of Phonemica might include immigrant communities (overseas Chinese) who have never lived in China. In fact, “the map on the front page of the website possesses an undefined Chinese border, already demonstrating Phonemica’s interest in exploring how people speak Chinese outside of China.” Up until now, most audio tracks collected are from coastal regions, [but] Hansen adds that in the future, even Chinese speakers from Singapore and Mongolia will be able to tell their stories.

READ  Chengguan Attacked & Disfigured by Street Peddler in Guangzhou

China too has many websites and forums that are dialect-related, but most websites are limited to textual material, and a systematic audio information collection is rare, with most being used for professional research. Phonemica mostly collects stories spoken in different dialects from ordinary people. “Fundamentally speaking, we want to record Chinese people’s [vernacular] dialects that they use at home through the stories told by the interviewees,” Parker says. He adds, “while recording dialects, we are also making/recording Asia’s oral history.” Next to every story’s audio track, Phonemica attaches relevant ethnographic background, such as photographs, hometown, academic degree, etc. which makes it [Phonemica] more approachable and more interesting than its professional academic research website counterparts.

Phonemica linguistics dialect map.

Comments on Sohu:


Why is the Chinese people’s linguistics map mapped by foreigners? Just like how China’s Kungfu Panda was made by foreigners.


This is of great significance, but [I] feel a bit awkward. Logically, this duty belongs to our linguistics experts and relevant departments, but two foreigners have stolen the thunder. Should we commend the two foreigners, or should we scold our relevant departments?


Actually, China has had experts and scholars propose saving dialects long ago. Government ministries also introduced regulations to preserve dialects. It’s just that regrettably people do not see their efforts. In many of our countrymen’s eyes, everything foreign is good.


While others are improving their own cultural awareness, there are still so many Chinese people here showing our countrymen’s low characters, can we please not be like this? You can see the speck of sawdust in another’s eye but cannot see the plank in your own eye? When you criticize others, reflect on yourself first!


Chinese people don’t do it themselves, and must rely on foreigners.

Dialect is also a form a culture, something [we Chinese] should never abandon.


What these two American men did is worth learning from by relevant China’s relevant departments! China’s various regional dialects should be collected and organized by Chinese people themselves, and should not and shouldn’t need to be stolen or collected by foreigners. Especially not stolen by Americans who suppress China, as the Chinese people do not welcome you! Do not provide information to them! Chinese dialects do not need to be managed by Americans!




Hahaha [you think] it is easy for Americans to collect Chinese dialects? They put so much effort into [researching] China, what else can you say? Why don’t you go to the U.S. and collect all the American dialects!


These are obviously spies.


Warning: Note that this could be an operation officially supported by American authorities, to understand Chinese dialects, laying a foundation and doing research for future warfare, [as] previously our national dialects played a key role in wars.


One look at these two pictures and you know they are up to no good.


Should we have two Chinese go put together a map of American dialects?


This method of linguistic research is worth learning from! It does not matter who thought of this good idea. As long as it can be used in preserving dialects, [it] should not be delayed anymore.


This is to establish a database of China’s regional dialects for America’s intelligence agencies. [I] suggest [China’s] national security department investigate this case. [If you] have seen the American movie Windtalkers you would know what is at stake.

搜狐新闻客户端网友: (responding to above)

2b, you’ve only seen this one movie your entire life, right, [you are] depending on this movie. If others really wanted to steal intelligence from you, would they still let a loser like you know about it? You are taking yourself way too seriously. You even mention Windtalkers, how embarrassing.


Be on the guard for what? The Chinese government does not protect [preserve these dialects], and these people are kindly recording them down for you. Just look at our native tongues and how they are being spoken by fewer and fewer people, isn’t that sad?


With our Heavenly Kingdom having so many dialects, where there could be a different accent just on the other side of a mountain, by the time you finish collecting all these, 50 years will have passed.


This involves national security. It must not be allowed. It should be carried out by our own linguistic specialists, state funded and state controlled.


Yeah yeah yeah, people who volunteered in Africa were doing so to steal genome maps, and the teaching of impoverished kids was for cultural imperialism. Even setting up a telescope was to peek at aliens having sex. In your eyes, there are no good people in the world.


I only want to say: China cultivates many experts and professors, so many scholastic research institutes, yet none of them have any damn use! China is really damn sad! No wonder Korea claimed Confucius is theirs! They have a point.


From a linguistic perspective, they did a good job protecting linguistics diversity. They applied ethnographic research methods.


Did America’s wiretapping encounter linguistic difficulties?


Dialects should have been discarded in the trashcan of history long ago.

Written by Pan

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.

  • Terrik

    Spies? Really? As someone who actually holds a linguistics degree, I can say Linguistics have been doing this for a long, long time.

    Aw, who am I kidding? Of course they’re spies.


    • Rick in China

      I presume you mean “Linguists have…” ? :)

      It’s amusing that they think it’s a national security issue, though.. like some minority dialect in the remote regions of China have any interest to the NSA or foreign governments. It seems like it’s just a fun project to fill a gap of cultural significance that hasn’t been done already, maybe something they’d use as part of a thesis or educational project. It ultimately benefits China/Chinese culture anyways, so it’s kind of sad to see so many people get offended by foreigners doing something positive.

      • mr.wiener

        True. Some of the dipstick jingoist comments above made me roll my eyes.

        But I think some good will come of this, it will spur Chinese into realizing the value of their languages and dialects and recognizing the hitherto unrewarded efforts of their own linguists, so a little shame can be a good thing sometimes yeh?

        Sort of on the same topic I heard a story about leaping tiger gorge once [Yunan province]. Apparently some Americans were going to go there and try to kayak through there and applied for permission. The Chinese Govt wasn’t going to let some foreigners be the first to do it so they sent a team down to do it. They lost 5 guys one after the other to that fearsome maelstrom , but the 6th got through [he must have had balls of steel]. The Yanks got there a month later , checked it out and said “This river is too dangerous , they had to have been crazy to try it”. National pride huh?

        • Jay K.

          got links to this site/story i am interested in its info

          • mr.wiener

            Will try to find it, but it was a story i heard from a local as I was hiking through. Scary, scary piece of water through there.

          • hess

            I thought all rivers are killing machines in China? At least thats what my friends keep telling me, even though I suspect it might have something to do with them not being able to swim, hmm…

          • mr.wiener

            No. The water at Tiger Leaping Gorge is extreme.
            Imagine a ferocious piece of white water where the current takes you directly under a boiling mushroom current 12 feet high, drags you along the river bed at 30 km per hour for 50 meters and spits you out 100 meters downstream in small pieces. At this stage it is still a tributary for the larger Pearl River downstream and going through narrow valleys 500 meters deep.
            On the up side the bottom 10×10 feet of everyone’s corn fields in the gorge are wacky tobacky plants[hemp]

          • catfishing would probably be pretty good at that 100 meter spot you mentioned.

          • mr.wiener
      • Terrik

        Quiet you, I hadn’t had my morning coffee yet :p

      • firebert5

        The wumao-ers are out in force.

      • markus peg

        Hey Rick, i just wanted to let you know, i typed in “disqus chinese” into Bing to see if i can get disqus (this message board service) in the Mandarin and the second link was your profile

        take a look for yourself, your famous.

        • Rick in China

          Thanks for the heads up, wtf…how did that happen!

          take a look markus, you’re up on there too! wow man..amazingsauce.

    • mr.wiener

      You’re a cunning linguist :)

      • markus peg

        “You might be a cunning linguist but I’m a master debater”


      • Repatriated


    • Guest

      Quiet you, I haven’t had my morning coffee :p

      • mr.wiener

        Quiet you, haven’t I morning my coffee had :p

        • Terrik

          I think I’ll just have some tea. Lemon tea. Hot.


  • videmus

    Mainland comments about other countries are always surreal. I can’t tell if it’s genuine or sarcasm, or reverse sarcasm, or reverse-reverse sarcasm.

    • mr.wiener

      Some where sarcasm…but some, you had to wonder if they were for real or not.


      It is reverse-reverse-reverse-reverse-reverse-reverse sarcasm. duh!

    • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

      Eventually you get so much reverse, that it ceases to be sarcasm…without the commenter realizing it.

    • Don’t believe the hype

      I hope its sarcasm, otherwise they’re all lost

  • lacompacida

    In the mean time, TV stations in Guangdong have to broadcast in Mandarin and not the local dialect, Cantonese… This is how dialects are being supported and protected by current government.

    • Pong Lenis

      This is not true. When I am in China in a cap they often have local radio stations in other languages, i.e. Cantonese in Guangzhou or Shanghainese in Shanghai. There are certainly some stations that do local language.

      • tonkotsu

        it’s partially true.

        many regions have their own
        local dialect radio stations and news channels, but the government does
        not support them. The government is still trying to kill dialects,
        especially cantonese.

        • Pong Lenis

          Cantonese has over 100mio speaker and is probably the 2nd most spoken Chinese language. It’s far away from getting killed.

          • Qian Long

            Actually Mandarin (Dialect group, not putonghua) is #1, Wu is #2, and Yue (Cantonese) is #3

          • markus peg

            Are you talking about within China or the whole world?

    • mattman_183

      From what I remember, they wanted it to be true, but enough people down there got upset and they kept it in Cantonese.

  • Canadian_Skies

    From above — “Why is the Chinese people’s linguistics map mapped by foreigners? Just like how China’s Kungfu Panda was made by foreigners.”

    #1 Linguistics map mapped by Linquistic graduates of China universities. Linguistic maps aren’t non-existent in China anyway.

    #2 China’s Kungfu Panda? Not at all. Kung Fu (originated in India), and the movie’s ‘setting’ was in China. Panda’s are native to China. So, the here’s $0.00000000000 you’re owed.

    #3 Splicing two false statements to support the other is the saddest thing I’ve ever seen, and was likely copied to Chinasmack for comedy purposes.

    • Pong Lenis

      >Why is the Chinese people’s linguistics map mapped by foreigners?

      Because they do it out of interest. Chinese people will only do things for money. And then try to make the most money with the least output. No matter how much time they spend, the outcome will be totally useless.

      • Repatriated

        Exactly. I once had a friend make a comment comparing different “cultures” of Star Trek. The Chinese were of course Ferengi. LOL. Think Quark trying to do everything he could to screw even his own family out of money.

        • mr.wiener

          Perhaps, but according to the cold law logic in which Star Trek was conceived the Chinese were the Romulans. I’d bet a stack of gold pressed latinum on it.

          • Elijah

            Romulans were Russians. Vast spy network, cloaking technology, same bloodlines as the Vulcans (Eastern vs. Western Europe), are extremely secretive and needed a Neutral zone to act as a military buffer. They also hate the Klingons (Germans).

            I rather like Quark as a character, he’s one of the more honest and “hu-man” characters. However, the Ferengi were originally supposed to be the Japanese cause at the time Next Generation was being filmed, the Japanese economy was exploding and they were buying up everything they could.

            Now however, they are absolutely the mainlanders in desperate need of a Rom as Grand Nagus.


            EDIT: How do I embed a youtube video here?

          • Emilio Kléber

            It’s common knowledge that the Klingons were supposed to be the Russians.

          • mr.wiener

            Fool!! Dujvam ‘orlaHbe’chu’ HoDmaj!!![Your mother has a smooth forehead]The Klingons are[were] Russian!
            But I agree, the nationalities have changed with the politics of the time. We should not stay wedded to the cold war original.

        • bprichard

          Nah, the general consensus has always been that Ferengi were space Jews.

          “Acquire, Brak, acquire!”

          • mr.wiener

            At the time the Ferengi popped up in the 80’s next gen I would say so. But the whole Kardassian versuse the Bajoran was modelled on the Israeli v Palestinian conflict.

          • bprichard

            True enough, and they retconned the Ferengi to not be completely awful for DS9. Also, no fancy laser whips. So you win some, you lose some.

            But neither the Bajorans nor Cardassians really worked as a one-to-one match for any real world group, I think. Probably the writers were trying to avoid that trap by that point.

            Cardassians are your standard militaristic imperialists (with some interesting counter-currents), while the Bajorans are just kind of namby-pamby religious folks who were forced to learn some military skills to fight the Cardassians.

            In the end, they were both more nuanced than any race in TNG. Granted they both got significantly more airtime than most races in TNG. (Although I think TNG did a great job of giving the Vulcans and especially the Klingons more texture (and even the Romulans a bit).)

            I’ve just revealed that I know way too much about Star Trek. I’m going to stop while I’m just a little behind.

          • mr.wiener

            I feel your pain.

    • wahnwhaaa

      The linguistics map was created by two foreigners. That is a fact, no matter how you want to twist it. They are and will always be foreigners to the eyes of Chinese. They didn’t grow up in China and they weren’t raised Chinese.

      Pandas and kungfu are two things that China is known for and that India is not. They are national treasures, and (for better or worse) trademarks of China, whether you believe it or not. “Kung-fu originated in India”? Oh do some actual research for a change rather than relying on anecdotal heresay. I bet you think that some mystical Bodhidharma figure actually came and taught some Chinese monks how to fight!

      • Can’t remember my username

        “The linguistics map was created by two foreigners. That is a fact, no matter how you want to twist it. They are and will always be foreigners to the eyes of Chinese. They didn’t grow up in China and they weren’t raised Chinese.”

        Does that mean China is a racist country? Shock and horror, who would’ve ever thought that?

        • wahnwhaaa

          If you want to twist it that way, then sure. China has less of a global mix than the USA, but is China any more racist than most other countries? No, probably not.

          Canadian_Skies attempted to imply that because the both Americans have lived in China and [one of them] underwent graduate studies in linguistics at a Taiwanese university, that they are somehow less “foreign”. Ridiculous. When a Chinese student comes to do graduate work in the US, do they magically become less “Chinese”? This user went beyond the call of duty to ironically state inaccuracies and completely miss the point.

      • maja

        so…. what is Chinese Kung-fu?

        • wahnwhaaa

          I cannot tell if you’re trolling or not, but there is no one Chinese kung-fu. It’s an umbrella term that refers to hundreds and hundreds of different martial arts, some more related than others. They tend to be some mixture of the fighting skills of fallen dynasties’ soldiers, bandits, and secret societies, mixed with the cultural practices of folk religions, daoism, buddhism, cultural mixes from india, thailand, and the silk road merchants, and evolution from constant fighting and warfare between different countries and within china itself. Buddhist and Daoist temples became famous for martial arts because criminals and soldiers would flee and take refuge in the temples, where exchange would take place. Very recently (in the past ~200 years), these fighting abilities collected into “styles” practiced by a geographic group of martial artists.

          If you find that myth-shattering reality interesting, how about the ridiculous myth that kung-fu and guns were in different time periods and not completely entwined?

  • Joey

    Haha, dialects. Dialects are languages without an army. Like saying English is just a dialect of Greek because they share the same language family.

    • mr.wiener

      Language is a virus.

      • Terrik

        Let us spread the language of imperialism, one word at a time.

        • mr.wiener

          I’m churning my way through Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The untold story of English by John H. McWhorter. A fantastic read.

    • Can’t remember my username

      “Dialects are languages without an army.”

      It should be called it a ‘language’ map of Chnia. Dialect map my arse.

  • Fairly ridiculous comments. But what do you expect from Sohu? :)

  • 剑胆琴心

    all people should speak mandarin…wish one day,it comes.
    especially guangdong people,who knows what the hell they talk about.seems their tongue never can get straight….always like talk mouthful…

    • mr.wiener

      I thought you are Shanghainese? Should they outlaw the Shanghainese dialect too and make you all speak Beijing hua[rrrr]?

      • that northern “aaar” is zai gnaaaarli

      • markus peg

        I read recently that parents have started to speak Manadrin to their children because thats what they learn in school, so measures have been put in place to promote the learning of Shanghainese for Shanghai people. Also Beijing hua isnt standard Mandarin even tho its from the capital and acceptable on TV. which is strange that they allow that and not other dialects on TV (correct me if im wrong)

        • maja_ldm

          maybe that’s because standard mandarin pronounciation is based on the beijing dialect, if you put the “rrrrrr” gimmick apart, the fluency of speech between older mandarin proficient beijingers and other chinese people is stunning. you can and will notice it if they don’t try to slow it down for your ease of comprehension. if you think how verbose standard mandarin can be, speaking faster would definetly be useful.

          • markus peg

            yeh its almost the same, but i think if they are allowed to use that dialect on TV why not allow other dialects for local channels. In the area im in its hit or miss if they choose to speak to me in Mandarin or the local dialect, only in Beijing did they slow down, its funny in Beijing people assume i cannot speak Chinese and where i am now everyone assumes i understand the local dialect fluently.

          • maja

            the alternative would be making standard mandarin a more synthetic language, but this would require a different approach and an higher interdependence with the artistic use of the language, thus limiting the reliance on the language academies…

            it’s possible:,this guy is a veteran rapper producing in standard mandarin, recently he started a project of self-sustenance based on contribution in exchange of empty bottles to fill up with whatever the buyers wish to put inside before sending them back. he ran out of bottles…

          • maja

            *this guy :P

      • radbab

        yarrr! Beijing dialect is great. Makes the pirate in me happy[arrrr] :)

        • mr.wiener

          I always think of a “Zommerzet”[Sommerset] Accent myself. it was actually the origin of the steriotypical pirate accent:

          “Eeee ba gom! ahh got a bran’ new combine haaarvester so ah do”

    • Terrik

      Probably because you don’t understand it. Language is invariably tied to culture and Cantonese are very proud of their language and culture. I understand the need for a common language, but China often seems to promote a common language at the expense, and often repression (see: Guangdong) of local dialects. Dialects add a certain flavor to a culture and I wouldn’t want to see them gone.

      • markus peg

        A good example, in the UK they have BBC in English and welsh for those who want to hold onto their heritage, in China they can play all shows ect in mandarin BUT also have Cantonese.. the only Cantonese on TV seem to be imports from Hong Kong. (correct me if im wrong)

        • Rings true so far. Sounds like the woman has a bit of language bigotry going on.

    • all people should speak min nan yu (闽南语)…wish one day, it comes.
      especially beijing people, who knows what the hell they talk about. seems their tongue never can get straight….always like talk mouthful of water…

    • Germandude

      I bet your native language skills are as good as your English, correct?

  • Tadd

    Look at that guy’s beard!!! Wtf is that? Mold? Dirt and cobwebs?

    • Tadd

      “Why is the Chinese people’s linguistics map mapped by foreigners? Just like how China’s Kungfu Panda was made by foreigners”

      Don’t worry, Dreamworks will be setting-up shop in China to make Kungfu Panda 3 (well, 50% of it apparently)

  • bipolarbear

    Here in Taiwan I often meet people who can understand, but not speak, Taiwanese. Some of them say that they were raised by grandparents in Taiwanese environment, but later on they drifted apart from it. So sad, Taiwanese sounds quite good.

    • mr.wiener

      I don’t think Taiwanese is in any danger of dying out, especially in the south. A wonderful language for swearing in , but very expressive and poetic too

      • I only learned how to say “fat pig” in Taiwanese the whole time I was there

        • bipolarbear

          Hah, i learned a bit more than that (it’s literal “a bit”, not showing off), but I still don’t know the “fat pig” one.

          • I don’t know what the proper romanization of the word would be, but it’s pronounced like “bwee dee”

        • lonetrey / Dan

          No worries, I’ve been going there forever, and I’ve only picked up two phrases.

          “Te qua dien shi” = He’s watching TV, that fat pig.

          “Ne gong sa wei ah?” = I don’t understand your Mandarin, please try again Mr. American.

      • bipolarbear

        You’re right of course, and I’m not saying it is dying out. I live in the northern part, the one that get’s empty during 寒假, and a lot of people go to the south to visit their families during that season.

  • chinajoseph

    They should also make efforts to preserve Mandarin before English takes over.

  • Tallyrand

    I am happy this was begun by Americans and not by the fucking Japanese.

  • Gordon Gogodancer

    These Chinese comments are just pathetic…

    • SimpsonsGoldenAge

      I know, so many pathetic people in China to be honest, really starting to make me rethink living here.

      • Gordon Gogodancer

        I know how you feel…actually i’ve been having the same feeling for a while. I used to live in Shanghai and when i moved to Chengdu i really felt like i just arrived in big city full of farmers (not saying that Shanghai is ideal)…however you can still find great people if you stay positive. For example i did something yesterday that i wouldn’t have thought of doing not too long ago…i went to see a Chinese football game (the Chengdu blades against a Hubei team) both teams were crap appart from the few whites and blacks in there who must go completely nuts playing with the other guys, but still , after you wipe off the millimiter of dust from the seats which look like it accumulated over a year (but probably only 2 weeks if you know Chengdu) you just watch the hardcore fans singing and going crasy and it was good fun.

        • Dave

          Interesting. Chengdu seemed like a modern Chinese city to me, compared to Zhuhai.

          Laid back, sure, but modern.

          Where I live, they still sell clothes on the street. And food in fly-ridden, non refrigerated open air markets.

          • Gordon Gogodancer

            Are you talking about 珠海 or 竹海? Anyway the reputation is that Chengdu is laid back, 休闲 as the Chinese love to say…i disagree, in my opinion it’s the same as many other Chinese cities, it’s a big mess with cars driving nuts. Even more since Chengdu has been mentioned in the latest 5 year plan of the gvt as one of the major cities for development. Now buildings are popping up like crasy. Thankfully they finished the New 2nd ring road just in time for the Fortune Forum so the pollution when down a bit

          • Don’t believe the hype

            I had to comment on this since I just got back from living in Chengdu and then afterwards in the same city of 竹海 for two years. I thought that in comparison to eastern cities Chengdu had was more relaxed but in retrospect I think that is only temporary- even now the peripheral areas are being overwhelmed with manufacturing/businesses. Chengdu and Chongqing are being overriden with development and the smog has followed quickly behind. The city near Bamboo Sea I lived in had already begun to look just as bad as Chengdu, which is really sad since the city wasn’t even one of the major population centers.

            Obviously China needs to develop so you can argue that it is necessary but most of the new buildings stand empty and create a dystopian feel. Welcome to China I guess.

          • don mario

            they do that in shanghai too?

    • Repatriated

      I loved this one: “Should we have two Chinese go put together a map of American dialects?”

      They can’t even wrap their minds around something as simple as “Get over it” in English.

  • markus peg
  • 外国人的祖国!

    Pft! Foreigners… Who needs them, anyway?!

    • Repatriated


    • Pong Lenis

      Well, without foreigners, whom would you blame?

  • Repatriated

    Dialects are kinda stupid. I mean, people hailing from the same country can’t even communicate with each other. Here in the USA, the only place I’ve been to and heard a dialect (in English) I couldn’t understand was N’orleans.

    It used to be a bit funny when a shop owner or taxi driver in Shanghai would always try to “qualify” my wife for a ripoff by speaking to her in Shanghai hua to determine if she was a local or not. Seriously, Shanghainese need to get over themselves. They picture themselves as so much better than other Chinese, but still I would see their grannies waist deep in a trash can digging for treasure.

    • mr.wiener

      We all all have dialects.

    • Do you think the Flemish in Belgium should be forced to speak French? Or should the Walloons be forced to speak Dutch?

      Should the German-speaking Swiss be forced to speak French? Or should the Francophone Swiss be forced to German?

      Thankfully Irish and Scottish Gaelic are on the verge of extinction.

      But now that the EU is a unified economy, we ought to exterminate all those pesky minority languages and make everyone speak German.

      • Repatriated

        Where in my post did I mention that someone should speak a completely different language? Dialects, accents, languages are not not the same thing.

        • They ARE languages. Wu, Yue, Min, Hakka, Gan, Xiang, and Guan are different languages––NOT merely just “dialects”. The only reason they’re called “dialects” is for nationalistic political reasons. Forcing speakers of all these languages to forgo their languages in favor of a homogenized Standard Mandarin would be NO different from forcing all Europeans to forgo their languages in favor of a homogenized Standard English.

          • maja_ldm

            if you can mantain the older languages… studying them and improving the newer ones… 还可以吧, but as evidenced in this article and the comments, the people in charge of this are working without much transparency, so much that a couple american dudes can make their job more known then the chinese national approved accademies.

          • wahnwhaaa

            There is no clear difference between a language and a dialect, but for an army and navy (proverbially speaking). There are no more marks, francs, or lira. In Europe, ethnicity has historically been tied to nationality; this is not the case in China, and there are few political havens for the speakers of different dialects.

          • wacky

            standard mandarin is the national language therefore it should be the priority of the government to promote and endorse the language over local dialect or any ethnic minority language. any of the local dialect or language can be learn independently. there is no actual benefit for the government to promote dialect more than standard mandarin, in the other hand people are going to have more benefit and can progress more in a wider society when they can speak standard mandarin. until today standard mandarin is not something everybody can speak

          • Loss of culture does not come without costs.

            This isn’t just about the government promoting Standard Mandarin, but about actively prohibiting other languages, such as forbidding schoolchildren from speaking their local languages at recess.

            Homogenization might have economic benefits but there’s a reason why Europeans still retain their cultural identities.

          • wacky

            there are some rules and regulation that have gone to far and need to be adjusted but it is not primarily the job of the government to preserve the local dialect and language, it is the job of the native speaker themselves, parent still talk in dialects at home with their children. european belong to different countries where the government can and should promote their own language, fujian province and guangdong province is still a part of china.
            if you think preserving cultural identity is the main issue here then why do the 3rd generation overseas chinese can’t speak chinese at all?? there are tons of different language and dialect spoken by immigrant community in the west and including europe without the support of the government

          • wacky

            even if you go to southeast asia today chinese communities there still speak in their distinct dialects that has been influenced by the native language, in malaysia the chinese schools are taught in mandarin not cantonese or hokkien. i’ve never heard that the government of thailand, indonesia and philippines ever give any attention to preserve the language of these communities yet some still survive till today despite the chinese population there being smaller and overwhelmed by local language, national language or even english language.
            the preservation lies in the hand of the speaker and communities not the government.

          • wahnwhaaa

            This might make more sense with the context that China’s failing has always been disunity. China wasn’t militarily weak or outgunned, it was just a fractured society. The governments’ primary goal is and has always been to unite China and raise the standard of living. Whether or not that was a fool’s errand is another discussion, but that’s where it’s coming from.

            Europeans retain their cultural identities because the “nation-state” was an idea that came from Europe. European ethnicities have been generally tied to their state. This is not the case in China. As for economic homogenization, it’s only benefited northern Europe. Southern Europe incl. Greece, Spain, and Italy, have been destroyed by it.

          • mr.wiener

            In that case dialects will do what they have always done: Operate as a secret language to conduct local business in and exclude outsiders. Just about all of these people are fluent in Mandarin anyway, they can use these languages as barriers to beijing. It’s why the Cantonese love theirr incomprehesible language so much. It annoys the hell out of Northeners.

          • wacky

            dialect and local language will always exclude outsider, it is impossible for everyone to learn every dialect, the preservation should be primarily in the interest of the speaker not the national government. national government should gives the priority to spread mandarin to promote national unity and combat regionalism.

        • Chinese language is 4000 years behind the times. Everyone in China should be forced to speak English, or at least be forced to discard characters and tones and use an alphabet and have a grammar system with tenses. Chinese language is for cavemen =o)

          • YourHusband

            says someone who’s too stupid to be able to even speak Chinese at a third grade level =o)

            Or, for that matter, English…

      • Ruaraidh

        A surprising number of people actually do seem thrilled by the precarious state of Gaelic. ‘It’s a useless language, it’s a throwback to the past!’ Funnily enough none of those people actually speak it themselves!

        What makes me laugh even more at these people in Edinburgh and London who think Gaelic is such a waste of time, it’s not even as if many of them can even speak another major European language. ‘Gaidhlig is such a waste of time, now I’ll just get back to watching shit TV.’

        As for the Chinese commentator who said ‘dialects’ should have been discarded years ago, how much would you bet that he/she is a monoglot Mandarin speaker?

      • Germandude

        I guess your last sentence was ironic!?

        • Sarcastic. :P

          • Germandude

            You fooled the master of irony and sarcasm. Well done.

  • ddd

    “Hansen says frankly, they always think of Mandarin spoken with a regional accent as a “dialect”.”

    This is s true. Bunch of dumbfucks

  • lonetrey / Dan

    Why do the Chinese comments that complain sound so whiny? A pair of foreigners are doing what they want to do… not like they’re hurting you (or anyone for that matter).

    If the situation were reversed, and two Chinese people started cataloging various dialects of English, I’m pretty sure no one in America would give a damn or at least they would joke about it. Probably be featured in a Jay Leno segment or something.

    • Germandude

      You, laowai, don’t understand Chinese culture!

    • Gordon Gogodancer

      I would think that the reason they are bitching is because they know that China should handle this kind of things and they can’t stand the idea that “foreigner” are getting the good role here “oh! always these damn foreigners, so privileged they are! gettout of TCHAI-NA!!!” Situations like these probably just makes them feels that China is still not developed but most importantly they just feel they are pathetic themselves.

  • 上官

    I am beginning to suspect that our ESL “teachers” are spies. Like that Snowden guy, they have little to no education. They operate on faked credentials. They are clueless in the classroom. Etc.
    I am most suspicious of those who voted for the likes of Obama and then came to China to “teach”. That makes no sense whatsoever. Why are they not in their home country enjoying what they voted for?

    • Claude

      Really? “Fake credentials” You contradict yourself. If they aren’t qualified to teach English how can they become spies?

      Fake credentials are rampant in mainland China.Recently, it was found out that 200 pilots were found out to have fake credentials in China. Taxi drivers or drivers period.. bribe instructors to get a driver/taxi licenses.Corporate China is awash with University graduates (Chinese) that haven’t graduated from University.

      Is anything real in China? Fake medication, fake alcohol, fake food. Fuck, there’s a scandal bi-weekly in relation to the before mentioned topics. How about a construction state and speculation that’s been pumping up your bubble economy for 20 years with poorly built or practically fake apartments? Fake because the officials have been bribed to look the other way in regard to the poor construction of the buildings.

      The people you are talking of are fuck-ups there to teach English. Big deal, you hardly need to be well qualified to teach English, a monkey can do it. Some work their way into corporate China where standards are low and they do perfectly well for themselves.

      Listen, my country has been taking your refugees and fuck-ups for over 100 years, China can take ours for a while. We’ve opened our nation and allowed Chinese people to assimilate. Sure, they experienced racism in the past but it’s come along way in that 20 years and in my opinion that immigration is the best thing that has happened to my country. The Chinese here are largely successful and living middle class lives.

      So, in conclusion. Allow these people an opportunity to prosper the way my country has for your people and your nation will be better for it. Like Chinese in my country, immigrants need to become entrepreneurial. so will the immigrates in China. They can’t teach English forever, eventually the bottom falls out of the market and wages become to low. Seen that before, trust me. At the end of the day, they’ll serve the economy like everyone else does.

      Pretty long post I know, glad you stuck with it.

      • Claude

        Wow! What was I thinking answering that post? I got to thinking the post was so stupid it must of been the owner of this site stirring the pot to gain more traffic to sell more ad space.

        Is that possible? I Foolishly used my email on a site once and I suddenly had massive amounts of spam. It appears they sold my email. I’m not saying the owner of this site is but some site owners can be scumbags.

  • Dave

    You know, for some reason, I didn’t expect the majority of comments to be shame or anger that FOREIGNERS are doing this.

    I really don’t know why. Brain fart, I guess. I forgot where I was.

  • Jahar

    I think I saw 2 positive comments up there.

  • Brakkabadoom

    What’s with calling the Chinese Languages “dialects”, you wouldn’t call Swedish, Dutch, German and English dialects to each other, and thats exactly the same disparity in another language group. Only the CCP censorship forces the term “dialect” as they are paranoid about region seperation, but calling Cantonese a “dialect” and Mandarin a language is madness.

    • Can’t remember my username

      Yes, I agree. Only a massive inferiority complex, fear of division and a compelling need to prove legitimacy would compel a government and education system to label mutually unintelligible languages as ‘dialects’.

      • iLL

        It is a form of control the Government uses. They fear division of there country. You figure the people who govern GD would be able to speak Cantonese…nope. Even the guy who is sent to HK to oversee Hong Kong and Macau doesnt speak Cantonese..its kinda stupid.

    • HaakonKL

      You do call Norwegian, Swedish and Danish languages, and they are understandable by one another.

      A language is a dialect backed up by an army, after all.

      And Jackie Chan doesn’t quite count… Yet.

  • harvz

    Yeah, fuck them for taking an interest in Chinese culture and doing something constructive. /sarcasm

    People can be so stupid.

  • Charles

    Language is a good way to divide the Chinese nation.

  • zozimos

    “Should we have two Chinese go put together a map of American dialects?”
    Please do :-) Start in Mississippi. Also send a dozen or so of your fine Hakka agricultural experts (i.e. farmers) to teach us how good farmland should be used.

  • Ida863在搜狐:

    Why is the Chinese people’s linguistics map mapped by foreigners? Just like how China’s Kungfu Panda was made by foreigners.

    Answer, China doesn’t have any competent linguists. And KungFu panda is not a Chinese movie. That’s why it doesn’t suck.

  • This is just too funny!


    Warning: Note that this could be an operation officially supported by American authorities, to understand Chinese dialects, laying a foundation and doing research for future warfare, [as] previously our national dialects played a key role in wars.

    I don’t think America needs to understand Chinese hillbilly talk to win a war. Pretty much anyone speaking Chinese and cowering or running away would be the enemy. LOL!

  • Californiaz

    Americans are humanity’s hope.

    • Germandude

      Yeah, right. I bet you are leading the pack…

    • mr.wiener

      If this is the case then it has not been a good month for humanity.

  • Claude

    I sat next to a retired pilot on the way to Niseko and he told what I already knew is that jets land themselves with a program called Autoland.

    Has this been discussed? I haven’t had the time to read all the post. I guess the young pilot needed to practice landings manually.

    • Claude

      OOPS! Wrong post. What am I doing?This was obviously meat for the plane crash in SF.

  • crosspatch

    I am surprised by the expression of suspicion in the comments by the people in China, but I suppose some Americans would express the same suspicion if Chinese academics were studying dialects in the US. I think this is simply out of curiosity and in documenting bits of culture that might disappear as electronic communications begins to eliminate regional dialects.

    The area where I was born in the US had a very distinct regional dialect that was unique to a small region that had been separated by water from the surrounding region until the 1950’s. Now when I go home, the children speak as if they are from California. Only the old people have the local accent and use the local words for things.

    On one hand I wish that someone would save that as a sort of thing that goes in a museum, so future generations can hear how people spoke in my time but on the other hand, if we try to save everything, there will be no place to put it all!

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