My hometown Hangzhou is a city with more than two thousands years of history, it is the capital of China during Nansong Dynasty(1127–1279), and now it is also a hot travel city famous for its cultural heritages. The experience of being a capital of a country has impacted the dialect, as the phonology of Hangzhou Dialect has Both the elements from Northern dialect and Southern dialect systems(Simmons and VanNess, 1996), and because of the unique history, there’s so many folktales and musical（Yue Opera) is being told and performed in Hangzhouness.
But sadly, the users of this cultural dialect are decreasing at shockingly fast pace.
The comparison between the old generation and the young generation is sad to look at. only in 40 years, the number of users of the Hangzhou dialect is decreased from 90% to 9.2%.
I feel very related to this statistic though. I grew up in Hangzhou, my mom and mother-side grandparents are both Hangzhouness, and of cause they can all speak the dialect. But I can’t until recently I asked my mom to only talk Hangzhou dialect to me. I believe the most important reason for it is when I was growing up, teachers in the school are only allowed to teach in Mandarin and we are being told “Please use Mandarin, and please write correctly”(请说普通话，请写规范字，this sentence is very famous in China). I remember when I went back home from school I persist to use Mandarin to talk with my mom and grandmother(even though she cannot speak Mandarin fluently) because I feel dialect is not important.
“The loss of local dialects is, in the big picture, just a facet of the more general uprooting that the modern economy has brought to the world.” (Nairobi, 2015)
The reason why Mandarin is being engaged in school is that free marketing in modern society accelerates population migration, and under current laws, people have the freedom to go and to live wherever they like. I’m always proud that nowadays many people come and choose to stay in Hangzhou as their home. So to prevent communication difficulties, the education of Mandarin is indeed necessary. But we should not just throw out the dialect away, it is part of the culture which people are just not realizing.
I remember when I desperately wanted to pick up Hangzhou dialect was after seeing the Hangzhou Standup comedy. I found there are so many words that just cannot be translated exactly to other languages. Like the word “buu”, it describes the state of people keeps a still, curly position and thinks about nothing. The sentence buu-lai-don means the person is buu-ing, and everyone who understands the dialect will laugh when listened to this. Therefore I realize dialect is also about mindset.
The disappearing of a dialect is not only the language itself, but also the disappearing of a unique culture, history, and mindset.
Saving china’s disappearing dialects. (2015, Aug 28). China Daily : Africa Weekly Retrieved
Simmons, R. V. (1996). An early missionary syllabary for the hangzhou dialect. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Languages, 59(3), 516–524.
Resource from Chinese News