Is Mandarin or Cantonese the original Chinese

Shanghai dialect: do you speak Mandarin in Shanghai?

You probably already know that Chinese isn't a uniform language, right?

Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka and Shanghai hua / Shanghai dialect are just a few of the languages ​​spoken in China!

If you speak some Chinese, you probably know the simplest Chinese greeting: “Ni hao” (we pronounced “knee how” in English) means “hello.” This is where the difficulty begins: It's only in the Standard Chinese, i.e. Mandarin, and some North Chinese dialects like that.

If you meet a Chinese who has the Shanghai dialect or Cantonese speaks, things look very different. Many Chinese characters are pronounced differently in the southern Chinese dialects and languages, but are spelled the same. These differences sound like this, for example:

These are just three examples of how the same Chinese character is pronounced differently in different dialects. The Chinese dialects, of which there are hundreds within China and abroad, are often referred to as 方言 (fāngyán), meaning “local languages”.

Interesting - In this version of the song “Let it go” from the movie Frozen, people sing in 26 different Chinese dialects!

And what exactly is the Shanghai dialect?

What about the languages ​​spoken in Shanghai?

If you live or have lived in Shanghai for a longer period of time, you have probably already come into contact with the Shanghai dialect, also known as Shanghaiish.

DID YOU KNOW - Shanghai or 上海 话 (Shànghǎihuà) is part of the language family of Wu dialects spoken in southeast China. The dialect is usually not understood by Chinese who only speak Mandarin!

The Wu dialect is spoken in southern Jiangsu, including cities like Suzhou and Wuxi.

Shanghai dialect: Do you find the distribution area of ​​the Wu dialect, which also includes Shanghaiisch?

So do the people of Shanghai speak Mandarin or the Shanghai dialect?

Usually both (luckily ...)!

Our teacher Alex Wang teaches both Mandarin and Shanghaihua

It can be said in general that Mandarin is spoken in Shanghai as well as in all major Chinese cities. The standard Chinese is that “Lingua franca” (lingua franca) in modern Chinese society. Dialects, however, play an important role in the individual regions.

Many Chinese speak their own Chinese dialect at home and in their immediate surroundings. As is the case in Germany (think of the many dialects), older Chinese in particular often speak their dialect almost exclusively. When Chinese are traveling, working in a company operating across China, or speaking in a formal context, Mandarin is the preferred language.

If you move around older parts of Shanghai you will meet some Chinese who only speak the Shanghai dialect!

Young Chinese in Shanghai usually speak very good Mandarin, but may have an accent.This is because the school almost exclusively teaches Mandarin.

Whether a Shanghai family speaks the Shanghai dialect at home depends on a number of factors, for example whether the parents and grandparents are from Shanghai. Many Shanghai residents have moved here and therefore speak either Mandarin or their own dialects.

Do I have to learn the Shanghai dialect if I live in Shanghai?

No way!

Students of our LTL in Shanghai

The population of Shanghai is currently exploding; today only about 20% of the population are “real Shanghai”, the rest of the population are national and international immigrants.

Since Mandarin is very widespread, you will find your way around Shanghai without any problems.

The younger generations in particular have been learning Mandarin since kindergarten and many parents prefer to speak Mandarin with their children in order to make it easier for them to start school and work.

DID YOU KNOW - Since many fear the Shanghai dialect could become extinct in the next few decades, the Shanghai city government is actively trying to promote the dialect.

Also, Shanghai is a very international city with a lot of foreigners living in it. Therefore, English is also relatively widespread, at least among younger Shanghainese.

If you live in Shanghai for a longer period of time, however, it is also a good idea to learn at least a little Shanghai. You are guaranteed to impress the locals with it!

If you use Chinese for work and daily communication with Chinese from different provinces, Mandarin is of course the first choice. So you have the opportunity to talk to over 1.4 billion people!

How does the Shanghai dialect sound?

In this video you will learn basic Shanghai vocabulary.

In addition, Mandarin and the Shanghai dialect are not completely different from each other. The relationship between the two languages ​​is perhaps the same as between Spanish and Italian: the languages ​​are different, but have similar origins and sentence structures.


The city of Shanghai is a mix of many different languages ​​and cultures. You will hear the traditional Shanghai dialect especially when the locals are talking. In the meantime, Mandarin is much more widespread in Shanghai than the original Shanghai dialect. This is mainly due to the large number of residents who have moved to the city.

However, both languages ​​also influence each other and, as is often the case, transitions are fluent.

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