While traveling in southern China for the Winter break, one of the many differences I noted was that the further south I traveled, the more the language sounded less like the 普通话（pǔtōnghuà, Modern Standard Mandarin) I was used to hearing in Beijing and, consequently, more difficult to comprehend. One of the areas that caught my attention was Southwestern China, where the megalopolis of Chongqing, the home of 重庆话 (chóngqìnghuà), resides. The Baidu Baike page referencing the subject explains that Chongqinghua most likely originated and was standardized following the Ming and Qing dynasties, in which migratory movements were organized to repopulate the area following years of conflict. As the populations of immigrants were mainly from Hunan and Hubei, the local dialect came under influence from these two languages, and became a standardized dialect unto its own during this time.
One of the key differences between Chongqinghua and Putonghua is the use of tones, which changes greatly in Chongqing. This is greatly influenced by the fact that the tongue, which moves more in Standard Mandarin, tends to remain flat, or Píng (平), while speaking Chongqinghua. Before moving on, here is a list of the tones of Putonghua:
1st Tone: mā
2nd Tone: má
3rd Tone: mǎ
4th Tone: mà
One of the first instances of this can be seen in how the words for “you” and “I”, nǐ (你) and wǒ (我) respectively, experience a tonal change from the third to the forth tone, giving both words a more blunt or quick sound, so they will be written as follows: “nì,” and “wò“.
Another aspect of Chongqinghua, much like other Southern dialects, is that the letter “h” is almost non-existent in most words. This is most common in the fact that words like chī (吃), zhī (知), and shì (是) become ci (tsi), zi (tzi), and si. Chongqinghua takes this further in that the letter “h” is sometimes replaced by the letter “f”. For instance, Hunan becomes “Funan”, Hebei becomes “Fubei” and so on.
Now, lets move on to grammatical components and common phrases of Chongqinghua. The first common phrase is:
mēi dèi má?
This is essentially the equivalent to Standard Mandarin’s 了吗? and 了没有?, both of which work to ask whether or not a person has done something already.
Nì cí fàn mēi dèi má?
Literally “Have you eaten food yet?”, this is the most common way to say hello in Chongqinghua, as it can be used throughout the day by the addition of zao fan (早饭, breakfast), wu fan (午饭, lunch) and wan fan (晚饭, dinner).
Nì qù guo Fúnán mēi dèi má?
Have you gone to Hunan yet?
Along with grammar such as 没得吗?, Chongqinghua also sees changes to some common words that can be of use to travelers in the area, which follow below:
Wò zài làdiàr kuǒyǐ zháodào yíliáng tsūzūtsēi?
Where can I find a taxi?
Of special note in this sentence is the fact that 哪儿 (nǎr), the common Beijinghua phrase for “where” becomes “làdiàr”, and 可以 (kěyǐ, can) becomes “kuǒyǐ”.
This word stands in for 吗 that is used to turn a sentence into an interrogative question, somewhat like 吧 (ba).
Nì huì suó Yīngyú bò?
Can you speak English?
sào dèi/bú sào dèi
This is also a phrase in Mandarin (晓得, xiǎode) meaning to know something, and it can be used alongside the more common 知道 (zhīdào) and 不知道 (bù zhīdào), except the pronunciation and tone is changed in Chongqinghua.
Wò bú sào dèi nì suó saádtzí
I do not know what you said
Nì xīhuān saádtzí fàn?
What kind of food do you like?
Nì zài zuò saádtzí?
What are you doing?
And of course, who can forget the most important of words for the weary traveler in China:
tsēisuò zài làdiàr?
Where is the toilet?
Below is a list of words used in this blog:
没得吗？– mēi dèi má, yet
出租车 — tsūzūtsēi, taxi
哪点儿 — làdiàr, where
啵 — bò, classifier for interrogative questions
晓得/不晓得 — sào dèi/bú sào dèi, know/don’t know
什么 — saádtzí, what
厕所 — tsēisuò, toilet
湖南 — Fúnán, Hunan Province
河北 — Féběi, Hebei Province
Now you’ve mastered Chongqing dialect, why not try Beijinghua or Dongbeihua?