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Resources for Learning Shanghainese (Wu Chinese)

Topher Farmer

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     Hi, everybody! I just recently began attempting to learn Shanghainese. I have mostly been receiving help from my friend and her mother, who speaks it fluently. I've done most of my learning by simply attempting to converse with the two of them and grasp onto whatever words that I took, but I'm looking for something more tangible to grab onto, so I took to the internet to find resources for learning the language, but to my dismay, they are terribly lacking. Can anybody recommend any online resources? I would prefer that they have audio and/or phonetic spellings, but anything is better than nothing. Thanks in advance!

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This might get picked up by people who share your interest if you put it in the non-Mandarin section. Not to be discouraging, but I doubt there would be much produced to formalize learning of Shanghainese.


Even non-Shanghainese who move to Shanghai don't tend to learn the language. I can't think of any of my Chinese friends who knew Shanghainese if they weren't from Shanghai. I knew a handful of people studying Mandarin , who picked up phrases in Shanghainese that they'd spice up their Mandarin conversations with locals. I think they primarily did what you are doing by talking with friends and learning phrases and vocabulary. By contrast I know some non-native Cantonese speakers who live in Guangzhou and Guangdong (mostly Chinese), who've learned Cantonese. 


Are you living in Shanghai right now? 


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Well, that depends on if you are decently confident with Mandarin or not. 

Over the last few weeks, I've actually found quite a few resources for Mandarin speakers. Most of which are online and free. 

There are also a few textbooks for Mandarin speakers, and an absolute wealth of sentences with native audio on Tatoeba. Just search English to Shanghainese with audio.  I'm actually working on turning those sentences into an Anki deck right now. 

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Absolutely, just give me a day or so to separate the good resources from the bad. My search method was more of a "save everything that has anything to do with Shanghainese and sort it later" type than "get the good stuff" type. 


Thank you!  I've been lurking for a while, it just never occurred to me to actually register until yesterday.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Okay, here is the list. I'll admit that it is fragmentary and hardly comprehensive–but I hope it is helpful nonetheless. 





Text with audio (there is no standardized Shanghainese writing system, so chances are you will see different sources use different characters to represent the same word.)



This one is especially cool because of the decently large selection of topics. Each entry takes the form of a recorded and transcribed Shanghainese sentence with a Mandarin translation. 



Especially good


Generalized Wu Chinese


Shanghainese listening/video (Including courses for Mandarin speakers)







Mobile apps



Other random resources/stuff I’m really not sure how to sort











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It reminds me of a professor I knew when I lived in Shanghai. He was from Sichuan, but he had lived in Shanghai many years. He lived with his wife, twin sons, and his wife's parents. I asked him if he understood or spoke Shanghainese. He replied he deliberately didn't learn Shanghainese because he didn't want to know what his in-laws were saying. I thought him a very wise man. 



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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 4 months later...

There are some textbooks and dictionaries specialised in Shanghainese on the market. As a Shanghainese myself, I find it pretty interesting but I doubt if they are qualified to be used as study resources. My advise would be talking with native speaker in Shanghainese as much as possible since such language has always been picked up by talking instead of learning in school. Though nowadays measures have been taken to "preserve Shanghainese as part of Shanghai culture", they are not effective as far as I can tell. Take my nephew for example, he speaks way better Mandarin than Shanghainese. Sometimes I talk to him in Shanghainese on purpose, and he can hardly continue our conversation. So... I dare to say that there are no systematic ways to learn a local dialect, which is something we should pick up gradually.

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