Learning Chinese Dialects

Topics related to learning Hakka Chinese.
Yuyan Xuejia

Learning Chinese Dialects

Post by Yuyan Xuejia » Tue Aug 26, 2003 6:25 am

I would like to find a person who can help/teach me to speak a Chinese dialect. I am particularly interested in learning dialects which have a wide number of speakers, such as Hakka, Minnan, Shanghai, Chaozhou etc. (I can speak fluent Cantonese and Mandarin already) It would be best if you use the standard form of the dialect (or a recognised form).

If you can help me, please send me an email.

I would be happy to help with your English(I am a fluent speaker), Cantonese or Mandarin in return for your favor.

Re: Learning Chinese Dialects

Post by pat » Sun Oct 19, 2003 6:46 pm


Is the Hakka dialect so different from Cantonese's and even more from Mandarin's ?
I am just a beginner learner of Mandarin for 2 weeks.
My parents seems to speak Hakka and I want to be sure of that.
They were born in Vietnam and my grand fathers were from the South of China but I don't know exactly from what area because unfortunately I did not know them. As I grow up in France I have to learn now the languages of my ancesters (Vietnamese and Chinese as well).

Sorry for my not perfect English !
And thanks you very much for your advices.

Dylan Sung

Re: Learning Chinese Dialects

Post by Dylan Sung » Thu Oct 30, 2003 9:46 am

To A-Sam,

In Hakka the most significant vocabulary distinguishing Hakka from neighbouring dialects is the pronouns

I = ngai /Nai11/
you = ngi /Ni11/
he/she/it = gi /ki11/

These should be in the same tone, though in my dialect, it is a low level tone signified by beginning and end points /11/.

In my dialect, possessive pronouns are in a slightly different tone, a mid level tone /33/

my = nga /Na33/
your = ngia /Nia33/
their = gia /kia33/

Other indicators of a Hakka dialect include the way you say "what"

what = mak gai /mak3 kai53/

/mak3/ is a mid level pitch in my dialect. In others, it is a low pitch /1/ or possibly /2/

/kai53/ in my dialect is a high falling pitch, signified by the high starting point /5/ and falling to about mid pitch range /3/

I notice that Hakka call schools hok tong /hok5 t'ON11/ where /hok5/ is in the high pitch intonation, and /t'ong11/ is in a low one.

My family is from Hong Kong, which we pronounce as hiong gong /hiON33 koN31/, with the first syllable if you pronounce it by itself is in a mid level intonation. The latter syllable is a mid falling tone /31/.

All these words and syllables illustrate the six tones in my dialect of Hakka. Traditionally, they are ordered as follows

tone 1 (yim pin /jim33 p'in11/) /33/
tone 2 (yong pin /jON11 p'in11/ ) /11/
tone 3 (shang sang /sON53 saN33/) /31/
tone 4 (hi sang /hi53 saN33/) /53/
tone 5 (yim ngip /jim33 Nip5/) /3/
tone 6 (yong ngip /jON11 Nip5/) /5/

so I can write ngai2, ngi2, gi2, nga1, ngia1, gia1, mak5 gai4, hok6 tong2, hiong1 gong3, in the romanisation I've cobbled together for Hong Kong Hakka. I'm not saying all Hakka dialects are similar to mine, especially in intonation, but if you look in my site, you'll find that the tone system varies across the Hakka populated areas of Southern China from systems which have as few as five tones to some which have as many as seven or eight or more.


Thomas Chin has a similar list of tones for Hakka somewhere on this site (chineselanguage.org) too.

I'm currently making a wordlist/dictionary of Hakka words and English meanings which I've temporarily located here


so far I've only got 2100 or so entries. Its finding the time to put in newer entries. Luckily, with the help of a bit of programming, I can almost instantly convert my list into separate HTML files for entries which begin with the same few letters.

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Re: Learning Chinese Dialects

Post by fakiha » Wed Oct 19, 2011 9:36 pm

I'm studying Spanish right now, (which is already a bit of a project) but I was curious so I looked up information on beginner's Chinese. I get a bit confused when someone says they are learning Chinese, but no dialect is specified.

If I was to say to you "I want to learn modern Chinese" would I basically be gearing up to study Mandarin? That name seems to pop up a lot but I don't know the different between Mandarin Chinese and other dialects. Can someone explain it for me?