Article by Stephen Robinson
When most people think of the Chinese language, the first thing that comes to mind is how difficult it is to learn. After all, most foreigners who have come to live in China have, at some point, attempted to learn the language, with varying degrees of success. But when we say, “learn Chinese”, what we are actually referring to is Mandarin Chinese or standard Chinese. However, anyone who has attempted to have a conversation outside of a classroom has likely encountered a slight hiccup – dialects and accents.
Chinese language is actually composed of a wide variety of different dialects and accompanying accents. The good news is, most people under 30 likely speak with relatively unaccented Mandarin Chinese, with only a slight inflection here or there that may uncover an indication of where they are from. The older generations, though, are a different matter entirely. In either case, most people in China can speak at least two versions of Chinese, standard Mandarin and their hometown dialect.
The local dialect in Shaanxi is called “Shaanxi Dialect” or “Guangzhong Dialect”, named after the Guangzhong plane that Xi’an sits on. In reality, the dialect can be divided into different sub-dialects, each with its own slight variation on vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar. Lucky for those of us that live in Xi’an, the Xi’an version of the dialect is the closest to standard Mandarin.