The Beauty of Chinese Dialects, including My Very Own: Hakka

One person might ask, “But oh, don’t you speak Chinese?”, and I reply back with “Yes, but I speak Hakka to be more specific,” and then what might appear is a very surprised and puzzled look on that person’s face, which spells, CONFUSION.

Every country in the world will have one language but many dialects (e.g. just as music has many genres), whether it be Russian, Vietnamese, Portuguese, or Korean. But that’s not it, all these languages can be broken down even further, for example Korean is the main language, but then you also have the Busan dialect. The Chinese language just happens to fit into this category of the language with “more than one dialect” and believe me, I almost had a heart-attack when I did my research.

The Chinese language is very broad and covers many dialects (with 5 main dialectical groups, and 200 individual dialects), not just Mandarin (standard Chinese).
Spoken Chinese dialects include Cantonese, Hakka (my mother tongue), Taiwanese, Teochew, Fuzhou, etc., and these are just to name few. Each dialect is spoken in different parts of China, and the tones and words will sound different depending on what part of China your family came from.

The funny thing is, the Hakka dialect I speak sounds a lot different to what other Hakka people speak in other countries (e.g. Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, America, and even China). Although there isn’t a major difference, I have accepted that there are no faults in the way other Hakka people speak, and it’s just that the dialect itself has changed over time and will vary between countries.

Now more about this language I speak at home and (sometimes) to my friends. The Hakka dialect is from the Southern province of China called Guangdong (city of Guangzhou), but the more predominant language spoken in the province is Cantonese. For most of the time, I rely on the research of my family (grandparents) to find out more information about my identity and where the Hakka dialect suddenly came from. So where does the Hakka dialect originate from? The answer is, the Meixian District (梅县区) from prefecture city of Meizhou (梅州市) located in the eastern Guangdong province. “Meixian” is the standard Chinese pinyin spelling but in my Hakka language, we say “Moiyan.”

My Hakka is pretty decent and I can have a good conversation with family and relatives without trouble. The thing is, I try to maintain my mother tongue because it means I’m multilingual (in English, Mandarin, and Hakka), and can also have good communication skills with my elders. Having been brought up only speaking Hakka at home means I actually don’t speak Mandarin, in fact, it’s the one language I’ve had to learn over the past 8 or so years. More so than that, Mandarin is the hardest language I’ve come by in terms of pronunciation and character strokes.

If you’re Hakka like me and want to know more, or interested in knowing more about this unique Chinese dialect then click on the links below:


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