Name the language

Can you work out what language this short conversation is in, and what it means?

This language is spoken mainly in one large city and has no official status.

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14 Responses to Name the language

  1. DMH says:

    It’s Shanghainese! (Or 上海话…) My first thought upon reading the clue was Shanghainese and when I listened to the clip I had my suspicions confirmed. I really like Shanghainese (and Shanghai!!!) and plan to learn it some day.

  2. Simon says:

    You’re right, it is Shanghainese, and comes from Zaunheireiwo Zemen (上海话入门 / An Introduction to Shanghainese)

    It sounds unlike any of the other varieties of Chinese I know.

  3. DMH says:

    To me it kinda sounds like Japanese. I think it doesn’t really sound like other Chinese 话s b/c Shanghainese only has high and low tones and not 4 to 9 depending on the 话.

  4. d.m.falk says:

    Sounds like a mix of Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, and similar languages- Most notably like Japanese, but isn’t any of the above. Would be fascinating to hear a radio station in this unusual language.:)

    d.m.f.

  5. jdotjdot89 says:

    Try doing some language identification tests with some other language families. I have zero experience with Asian languages, but I do with others, and I’d love to try your challenges.

  6. Matt says:

    haha.. i was thinking it was Hungarian… I would have never guessed it to be Shanghainese!

  7. Trevor says:

    This is the first one that really stumped me. I thought it sounded Slavic and was dumbfounded trying to think of a slavic language without official status spoken mainly in one city.
    AND I even speak Mandarin, so it’s a testament to the differences between Chinese dialects/languages that I was waaay out of the ballpark on this one.

  8. Simon says:

    d.m.falk – as far as I know there aren’t any radio stations that broadcast in Shanghainese.

    jdotjdot89 – which language families are you familiar with?

  9. d.m.falk says:

    Many turkic-altaic languages sound slavic, at least to those not familiar with either. Shanghainese, or more properly Wu, may or may not be an altaic language. It has the added similarity to Korean (which is) and Japanese (which officially, no-one’s sure what family of languages it belongs to, if any). It certainly has the Japanese syllabic regularity. It is certainly unique being in a land otherwise surrounded by primarily sino-tibetan languages and dialects!

    d.m.f.

  10. Joseph Q says:

    The intonation makes it sound like a muddled korean, and like Trevor I speak a little mandarin, and was amazed at the difference

  11. ISPKN says:

    At first I thought it sounded like a mix between Mandarin and Hebrew. I could tell it wasn’t either of course. Just some of the harsh kh sounds remind me of Hebrew.

  12. Dave W says:

    How weird! It almost sounded like an oscure dialect of Armenian. Really! I live in a city with 50,000+ Armenians and I almost thought I recognized a word here and there. Oh well! :)

  13. Linda says:

    It is definitely Shanghainese, Chinese. I am Shanghainese and it is my first language. The guy was asking about the library.

    Chinese has so many different dialects, so you can’t say “this doesn’t sound Chinese,” because it’s like…well…what Chinese? Mandarin? Cantonese? What? Ya know?

  14. Mariam says:

    Shanghainese! my first language, people consider me amazing when i was spending time in Shanghai, according to them, not many people at my gae can speak the language fluently anymore. (im 17 years old). lol
    my mom’s side family are native Shanghainese, so thats why i know how to speak the language. :)