3 Fun Things About Learning Your Partner's Obscure Language or Dialect | Speaking of China

27 Responses

  1. Holly Hollins
    Holly Hollins April 18, 2016 at 8:43 am | | Reply

    I remember when you posted about a debate on learning John’s dialect. I’m so glad that you learned a lot of it! I feel it’s really important especially if you are wanting to communicate with his family. 🙂

    (still trying to learn Sichuanhua or Chongqinghua for my novel :3)

  2. Cat
    Cat April 18, 2016 at 9:27 am | | Reply

    I’m really impressed by this – my Chinese fiance’s family speak Shanghainese and while I’d love to understand everything that’s being said at the dinner table (or would I??) learning mandarin is enough of a challenge for me for now!

  3. baixiaotai
    baixiaotai April 18, 2016 at 9:34 am | | Reply

    The same here! Everytime I say something in local dialect, everybody is laughing so hard 😉 It makes my connection to local people much stronger and I love it 🙂

  4. Autumn
    Autumn April 18, 2016 at 11:16 am | | Reply

    I am, as always, impressed by anyone who can manage one language with tones, let alone two.

    All I really wanted to learn were the swear words. My husband refused to teach me those. So I swore at him in English.

    He was all, “And THAT is why.”

  5. PaolaC
    PaolaC April 18, 2016 at 2:50 pm | | Reply

    Great to hear, Jocelyn! I also remember your posts about getting bored at the family table and debating whether you should learn the dialect. Great to hear that you have taken the leap and are reaping the fruits already : )
    I just did not have the energy to learn Taiwanese when I lived in Taiwan and Sichuanese in Chengdu… Mandarin was all-consuming (in a beautiful joyous way).
    I felt a wave of celebratory enthusiasm reading your post today. So happy to be reading this!!

  6. Jessica P
    Jessica P April 18, 2016 at 8:01 pm | | Reply

    I can’t speak my husband’s dialect fluently, but I can understand about 80 percent, more if it’s my mother-in-law doing the talking (she’s the one I’ve heard speaking it the most).

    But I’ve found it’s good to be selective about what you “understand”. A good time to to play dumb is when they’re talking about when you’re going to have kids. Somehow my husband’s family would fall for that every time.

  7. James
    James April 18, 2016 at 10:24 pm | | Reply

    At family gatherings where I was present it wasn’t long before they’d hear me pleading “goong goki, goong goki,” for “speak Mandarin.” I picked up a few words of Minnan (a-bing-go for soldier, ge-gao for nuisance) and still have a tape teaching Minnan but now the opportunities have all passed on with the people. May still resurrect some Minnan for a novel, though.

    What IS your local dialect?

    1. David
      David April 19, 2016 at 9:59 am | | Reply

      Hi James! I presume your family should be from Taiwan. Although people from Fujian province, especially those cities near Kinmen county of Taiwan speak Minnan too, there tend to be a subtle difference for a few words. In your case, instead of “Goki” or “National Language”, most of us will say “Po-tong-weh” or “Pu Tong Hua” or “Standard Mandarin”. A few old folks who lived through a period under KMT governance would still use “Goki” though. So people from different Minnan-speaking regions can fairly quickly tell who is from where just by exchanging a few words. If you are planning to write a novel some day and happen to need to refresh your memory on Minnan , I might offer some helps.

  8. David
    David April 19, 2016 at 9:39 am | | Reply

    Hi Jocelyn!
    I dont remember how I get to your blog but I just want to tell you that your blog is really amazing. I always wanted to know China at close range from Westerners’ eye and am very luck to have found your blog. I will go through many of your old posts from now on and you might find me comment here and there.

  9. Nicki Chen
    Nicki Chen April 19, 2016 at 12:46 pm | | Reply

    I know what you mean about sitting around the table and not understanding what people are saying. It’s really boring. I did study some Mandarin, but since I never lived in a Chinese-speaking country, I didn’t have enough incentive to work hard at it. I never studied my husband’s native language, which was Hokkien. Even though his family spoke good English, they often fell into speaking Hokkien when they were together.

    Congratulations on your success at learning not only Mandarin but also your husband’s dialect.

  10. Timo
    Timo April 19, 2016 at 11:13 pm | | Reply

    Wonderful that you are able to get around his dialect. I have myself more than enough troubles with standard mandarin. However my wife and also her relatives say that I would easily Shaanxi dialect as I am so bad with tones 🙂

  11. Marta
    Marta April 20, 2016 at 10:22 am | | Reply

    Any tips on how to learn it? Did your husband help? I have basically given up on learning Suzhounese! 🙁

  12. Mary
    Mary April 21, 2016 at 1:50 am | | Reply

    Wow I really respect you Jocelyn! It’s super hard to learn a dialect, it’s not like they have classes for that! Has John been helping you a lot?

    R speaks Sichuan-hua with his family, but thankfully Sichuan-hua is extremely similar to Mandarin so I can usually catch 60% of what is being said. I much prefer it to Shanghainese, which I heard constantly in Shanghai but could never understand (and never wanted to! ugh).

    Anyway, you’re awesome Jocelyn!

  13. Jonathan
    Jonathan April 22, 2016 at 1:00 pm | | Reply

    It is AWESOME you learned the local dialect and can understand 60% of the conversation!!! I speak Mandarin with my friends, Cantonese with my sister and Shanghai dialect with my parents, so it’s very confusing for my wife to really learn because she couldn’t figure what she’s hearing. The only word she can remember is “Foreigner” in Shanghai dialect because that’s what everyone called her when we visited there. ;D

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