When hiring a Chinese nanny or a senior caregiver, you may want to know if they speak standard Mandarin or Cantonese.
Beyond Mandarin and Cantonese, China boasts a rich tapestry of regional languages, commonly known as local dialects. Understanding these linguistic variations can help you determine whether a potential Chinese nanny or Chinese senior caregiver speaks standardized Mandarin.
Distinguishing Dialects from Accents
A dialect is a distinct form of a language with its own words, grammar, tones and way of speaking. An accent, on the other hand, refers to the specific way a person pronounces words, regardless of the language they speak.
For instance, a New Yorker’s accent differs from a Texan’s, although they both speak English. On the other hand, the variation of American, Canadian, and British English are standard dialects of the English language. They have different phonetics and some different words and phrases.
Understanding Chinese Dialects
Chinese people speak many dialects in their country and around the world.
The diversity of Chinese dialects can be overwhelming and confusing. Many mainland Chinese locals find it difficult to understand the dialect of another region they don't belong to. In China's Hinterland region, there are hundreds of ethnic groups and citizens. China has 23 provinces, each with its distinct dialect.
Chinese authorities selected Standard Mandarin as the official language to facilitate communication among the majority of the population who speak it. Currently, Mandarin Chinese is used by over 1.3 billion people in China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and other countries and regions.
Here's a breakdown of the seven major Chinese dialects:
1. Standard Mandarin
Known as "Putonghua" in the West, it means "commonly spoken." When asked if you speak Chinese, it means Mandarin. Over a billion people speak Mandarin dialect, making it the most commonly spoken dialect in China and worldwide.
Mandarin is China’s official language which all Chinese media industries use to communicate with the citizens. Singapore and Taiwan populations also speak Mandarin, but their versions differ from that of China.
2. Min (Min Nan)
Spoken in several southeastern provinces and by Fujian residents. Taiwanese people speak the Min dialect, also known as Taiwanese Hokkien or Taiwanese.
The Canton region of southern China speaks Cantonese, also known as the "Yue" dialect. Cantonese or Yue is the official language of Guangzhou, Macau and Hong Kong.
If you watch Hong Kong movies, you'll hear Cantonese, especially in films made by the famous Chinese director Stephen Chow
The Cantonese pattern is noticeably different from the Mandarin. Chinese citizens that speak other dialects and non-Chinese individuals can easily spot the distinction. Mandarin uses a generally different words, rhythm, and diction from Cantonese.
Spoken by people in the southeastern part of China's inland region.
The southeastern coastal region of China is home to the Hakka dialect, also known as "Kejia."
6. Wu Chinese
Spoken by the people of Shanghai in the central-eastern region of China, along with the coastal parts.
Spoken by people in the central region of China, particularly in Hunan province.
Written Chinese: Traditional and Simplified
The written form of Chinese includes traditional and simplified patterns. A person speaking a particular dialect will read the written form differently from another speaker. Traditional Chinese language has more strokes, while simplified Chinese provides a more standard and easier writing system. Most Chinese people can read both traditional and simplified Chinese.
Select A Caregiver Based On Chinese Dialects
Mandarin is the official language of China, other places such as Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, and others also use it.
Some nannies may speak their local language better, but they can still communicate well in Mandarin. Factor your language needs and preferences when choosing a nanny.
If you need a nanny who can speak fluent Mandarin, consider a nanny from a region where Mandarin is more common. People from northern China or Taiwan speak Mandarin usually have strong command of Mandarin. This can make communication and overall experience much better.
If you or your elder parents speak Cantonese, look for a nanny from an Cantonese speaking area. This includes places like Southern China (Guangdong, Guangxi), Hong Kong, and Macau.
Assess A Caregiver's Chinese Mandarin Proficiency
Now that you know more about Chinese dialects, you should know that a Chinese nanny may not speak standard Mandarin. Many may not have Mandarin as their first language. Interview them to see if they can speak standard Mandarin. If you're not sure, ask for a Mandarin test or get help from families who might be a Mandarin speaker.
Alternatively, our Concierge Advisor can help you find the right Chinese nanny or Chinese senior caregivers by removing the language barriers. For a hassle-free experience, please schedule a free discovery call with us.
Ultimately, the choice of a nanny depends on your specific needs and preferences. Knowing about nuances of the Chinese languages helps you choose a nanny who can communicate well with your family.
For more related articles, please read below:
Articles related to Chinese-speaking nannies (Ayi, Baomu, yuesao):
- Everything you Should Know about Chinese Postpartum Confinement Nannies (Yuesao 月嫂)
- Essential Guide to Hiring a Chinese Nanny (Confinement Nanny YueSao)
- How to Manage Effective Communication with Chinese Nannies
- Working with Chinese Nannies in American Households
- Understand North v.s South Chinese food: Help You Discover Caregivers
- How to conduct a background check on Chinese Nannies or Caregivers (Ayis)
- How can you define "legally authorized to work" in the US?
AyiConnect a platform to connect families with helpers who have a language specialty in addition to care. You can engage with them directly through self-service or concierge service. The concierge 1:1 service can provide another option to ensure successful matches for busy families who don't have time to search or need language assistance. Schedule a free consultation here for our concierge service, or check us out on ayiconnection.com