Fangyan Friday #1: Wuhanese

Learn to speak like a native of Hubei’s capital with TWOC’s new regular column

For over a decade, The World of Chinese has been offering modern Chinese-language instruction from street talk to social phenomena to character tales. With 129 officially recognized dialects (方言) in the land, though, we have barely scratched the surface of everything there is to learn.

On select Fridays, TWOC will be presenting a basic lesson on speaking like a native of a certain region of China.

The usually US-centric Urban Dictionary humorously defines the dialect of Wuhan as “something half way between the Chinese spoken in old Jacky Chan movies, and the kind of German that Hitler spoke making propaganda speeches.”

Granted, the dialect or fangyan (方言) of the capital of Hubei province may be easier for Beijing-standard Mandarin speakers in northern China, compared with southern fangyan such as Cantonese or the notorious Wenzhou dialect.

Wuhanese (武汉话) belongs to a fangyan branch called Southwestern Mandarin, considered a buffer zone between Beijing Mandarin and the southern Min (Hokkien) and Yue (Cantonese) fangyan. There is both some mutual intelligibility with standard putonghua, which has an almost-identical sentence structure, and shared features with the Xiang (Hunan) and Gan (Jiangxi) dialect groups of the same branch. On the other hand, Beijing Mandarin speakers have no shot at recognizing some of unique Wuhanese particles and vocabulary.

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author Eduardo Baptista

Eduardo Baptista is a former editorial intern at The World of Chinese. He is a fan of rap, basketball, and the TV rom-coms “Yanxi Palace” and “First Half of My Life.” Eduardo studied history at the University of Cambridge.

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