Hā Jiu!

Background on Qingdaohua (青岛话)

Some find the heavy tongued accent of Qingdaohua (Qingdao dialect) either a bit comforting, funny, or frightening at first, but once you dig in there certainly is a unique and rich flavor as delicious as a plate of la gala (spicy clams) washed down with a shot of sanpi (draft beer). Though not too far off from standard Mandarin (Putonghua, literally common language), whose modern origins are based around Beijinghua, there are some clear differences which serve as insightful reflections on the colorful history of this relatively young city.

Qingdaohua belongs to the Jiaoliao Mandarin (胶辽官话) dialect, which is spoken primarily on the Shandong Peninsula (aka Jiaodong 胶东 Penisula) and across the Bohai Sea on Liaodong 辽东 Peninsula, which includes Dalian. However, differences within the Jiaoliao dialect are vast, and the same goes for Qingdaohua itself. From the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) on, there were a scattering of small seaports and fishing villages in what is today’s downtown Qingdao (i.e. Shinan District). Accents varied over the short distance from Tuandao to Fushansuo and today these distinctions can be heard from one area of town to the next by a very keen listener. Out at Laoshan, a fisherman from one side of the mountain might even have trouble negotiating bayu / 鲅鱼 (mackerel) prices with a villager from the other side. Besides the homegrown roots of pre-colonial era China, it is said that a small part of the colloquial accents and lexicon of modern Qingdaohua were retained from Deutsche after the German colony ended in 1914.

Qingdaohua Tutorial

German Roots:
A sewer manhole cover is xiàshuǐdào kǒu de pánzi / 下水道口的盘子 in standard Mandarin. In Qingdaohua it is called a gǔlìgài / 古力盖, likely derived from the German word gully. Some people familiar with Qingdaohua claim that young girl: xiao manr / 小曼儿 (which is the QIngdaohua equivalent of Putonghua’s xiǎo nǚháir / 小女孩儿 or xiǎo gūniɑng / 小姑娘) may have come from the German equivalent Mädchen, though this connection is not as clear as for gully.

Accent and Tones:
Qingdaohua often exchanges or adds a th sound in place of sh, x or s sounds, and a hard g sound is often thrown in after an n sound, as well as the arr sound after an a sound that is common in Beijinghua. Other patterns discernible in Qingdaohua:

– the short a vowel sound replaces the shwa e sound, as in gala for geli (clam), ha instead of he (drink), and gabei in place of gebe (arm)
– words such as tui and dui (leg and correct) drop the pursed lips w sound just before the oo sound of the middle u
– the ow sound heard in Mandarin, as at the end of Qingdao, becomes a more direct oh sound, as in biao (stupid)

As for those troublesome tones, it’s commonly held that the fourth tone predominates in Qingdaohua. To overcome your tone troubles just speak fast, use a lot of fourth tones, throw in some pirate-esque arrr and a few fluid th sounds and you will be speaking like a Qīngdǎoyín in no time.

Common Phrases and Words:
Qingdaohua = hā / 哈
Putonghua = hē / 喝
English = drink
Example: Let’s go drink some beer at the beach. / 我们到海滩去哈一点儿啤酒吧. / Wǒmen dào hǎitān qù hā yìdiǎnr píjiǔ bā.

Qingdaohua = yín / 银
Putonghua = rén / 人
English = person
I am Qingdaonese! 我是青岛银! / Wǒ shì qīngdǎoyín!

Qingdaohua = Biāozǐ / 婊子
Putonghua = shǎ / 傻
English = stupid
Is he really that stupid or is he just acting? / 他是装膘子还是真膘子? / Tā shì zhuāng biāozǐ háishì zhēn biāozǐ?

Yo! Qingdao Raps!

Qingdaohua also lends itself well to rapping. There are a couple of Qingdaonese who have had been instrumental in spreading the sounds of their local dialect in this increasingly popular musical genre in China. Check out Shazhou (沙洲), one of Qingdao’s more well-known rappers. He spits rhymes about the realities of growing up and being influenced by the myriad of changes happening at a break-neck pace around him in a rapidly modernized Chinese city. Shazhou represents for Qingdao on an episode of Sexy Beijing with Sophie Lowenstein. Xiaoqiang (小强) is another Qingdao native who lays his Qingdaohua rhymes to some funky, funny, up-beat tunes. He’s hosted a series of videos on Qingdao cultural and scenic spots for QTV, viewable online on Youku.

Relevant Links:
Qingdao Dialect on Wikipedia
Qingdao Dialect Intro (Chinese)

Photo Credit: uncorneredmarket.com

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  1. this is probably the reason I can’t get a taxi driver to understand where I wanna go!


  2. mei ji

    wo ai chi ga la 我就喜欢吃ga la

  3. una

    haha there`s a qingdaohua reading for u,could u turn it into putonghua? (@ ̄ー ̄@)


    ∩▂∩ just for fun~

  4. mei ji

    不噶到了旮旯一口木拉了穆拉,咋撒了咋撒说了一声。安阳来 ,我 呸。。后弦啊。。。。
    who can translate it in Chinese. 🙂

  5. Hey Una,

    This is all I got:

    王: 没,没。

    I cheated by the way, found it on another webpage.

  6. Here is one for everybody: http://www.flickr.com/photos/qingdaossadventures/4241065116/?processed=1&cb=1262532241605

    Can anybody transcribe? Not the best quality video:(

  7. Here is another one with Huang Bo talking about Tsingtao Beer: http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTMxMTA1NTcy.html

  8. bean

    Qingdaohua = Biāozǐ / 婊子
    Putonghua = shǎ / 傻
    English = stupid
    Is he really that stupid or is he just acting? / 他是装膘子还是真膘子? / Tā shì zhuāng biāozǐ háishì zhēn biāozǐ?

    this one is really funny.lol.i didnt know Biāozǐ = shǎ before

  9. Xiao Ye

    about the German roots: I heard that the expression 大曼儿 (da manr) for women is related to the German word “Dame”, which has the same meaning. To me that sounds quite similar…

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