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Any online tutorial on Henanese


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After arrived in Henan, it's surprised that many henanese refuse to speak Putonghua with me. Some said it looked weird to speak Putonghua in their local environment, but when i insist that i can only understand putonghua, some really find it hard to speak it, although both dialects share many commonality.

Then it's a big frustration. Although i'm perfectly confident at my putonghua, i only understand very limited conversation even if they speak very slowly. Not only the many intonations are different (sound seems mostly the same with putonghua), the vocab is often very short that a single word can mean a lot than putonghua.

Today, i tried to ask my friends in Henan to introduce me some teaching material, but none of them have an idea on it. All of them also find it so hard to specify the difference between both dialects.

Any idea about their difference? Any good learning material? Thanks in advance!

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Hey Zozzen. I lived in Henan for a year, and my wife is from Henan, so I go back there about once a year for Spring Festival.

Here's my take on it: generally speaking, most people from Henan can't speak Putonghua. They just speak Henanhua (or, to be more accurate, Luoyanghua, Nanyanghua, Kaifenghua....etc). Part of the reason is that, for reasons of economics, some people rarely ever travel beyond their city or town. So, for a lifetime, all the people they come into contact with speak the same way that they do.

Assuming they can speak Putonghua, in some social settings, it would be somewhat pretentious for them to do so. For example, imagine that there are three friends from some village in Henan. One of them is gets a great job in Beijing working for a multi-national comapnay. Later, he returns to Henan, and speaks to his old friends in standard Putonghua, instead of his village's dialect. His friends, most likely, would feel a bit like he "sold out", or that he now feels that he is better than them.

I once worked at a college in Henan. The college's students were from all over the province. In their first year as freshmen living in the dorms, many times in the first week or two the new students had communication problems speaking to their roomates, because everyone spoke their hometown's dialect. In fact, some students bought "standardize your Putonghua" books and tapes, so that they wouldn't face discrimination when seeking work in big cities outside of the province.

Unfortunately, it does work the other way around: there are no practical learning materials for learning Henanhua, especially aimed at the foreign learners market, as far as I know.

So, I don't think there is much that you can do. Try your best to listen to catch on to how they speak. Make friends with people who can speak standard Putonghua. Sooner or later you'll get used to it.

Also, if I were you, I'd mention at the start of a conversation that you can only understand Putonghua, and ask if they can help you by speaking Putonghua, and speaking it slowly. If you find that they can't speak Putonghua, then there is no need to push the issue, because I'm sure they might feel a bit embarrassed by the fact that they can't speak Putonghua perfectly. Also, keep in mind that some people are speaking in relatively standard Putonghua (perhaps for your sake), but their Putonghua will naturally carry with it some of the aspects of Henanhua. This is the same as any place in China. Shanghaiese people speak Putonghua in their style, Beijingers in their style, Hong Kongers in their style...etc.

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the explanation matches exactly what i see in the past week. some locals i met seemed proud to tell me how they forgot their dialect when left for other provinces, and how they re-remembered their dialect when they came back. putonghua still means the previlege to going outside and higher education here. that is really surprising to me as both dialects are really similar.

after staying here for a week i still find it difficult to imitate thier tones, but i begin to understand some henanese of some people (perhaps they are speaking henanese putonghua instead of henanhua).

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