Sichuanese,so Chinese!四川话

Let’s go to Sichuan this week and discover Sichuanese. Ain’t that so Chinese? 😉

A little bit of history

Before we go any further, let me say a few words about the rich culture that has its roots in Sichuan. Located near Tibet and in the centre of China, Sichuan is quite a big region and its climate is rather damp. 四川 Sichuan is often thought of as to mean the “Four Rivers”, which are Jialing, Jinsha, Min and Tao. However, some claim otherwise.

Indeed, some pretend that 四川 Sichuan would be an contraction of Sichuanlu 四川路, meaning the “Four Plain Circuit” and Chuānxiá Sìlù 川峡四路, “Four Circuits of Chuanxia”. 川 would mean “plain” here and not river and would refer to the division of existing administrative circuit area during the Northern Song dynasty…

Not being an historian, I have no idea which is the true meaning behind the word Sichuan, but at least you got the two main reasons often cited to explain such a name. As they say, when in doubt, take it all. Wait… They don’t say that, do they? 😉

In addition, Sichuan used to incorporate the region of Chongqing 重庆, but that is not the case anymore since 1997. As a matter of fact, historically speaking, it might be a bit more complicated than that, but we won’t go into details here. Should you be interested in know more about it, I urge you to do some research on Sichuan history because that’s quite fascinating.

To sum us, before it was known as the Sichuan 四川 we know, the people living there belonged to the Ba (巴) and Shu (蜀) kingdoms. As a result, the inhabitants of Sichuan were refered to as people from Ba-Shu. Both characters are used to describe Sichuan people, up to this day. Besides, rumor has it – a little bird told me – the Shu family would come from the Yellow Emperor. That’s allegedly what is written in the Record of the Great historian, by Sima Qian 司马迁.

I like their emblem so I thought it’d be a good idea to share it with you. It is called the emblem of the Sun and the Immortal Bird.

sichuan-emblem
Sun and Immortal Bird Emblem of the Shu Kingdom

Sichuan is also famous for its Pandas!!! Yeah!!! That’s THE place on earth where they are raised! Moreover, the weather of Sichuan being quite damp, this may explain the need for the people living there to eat quite spicy…

Before we embark upon this linguistic journey into the banks of the Yangtze River – 长江 – and the land of the Pandas, let me introduce you to the Sichuanese way of speaking and the Sichuanese accent. Looks like our famous Panda star Po is in a good mood, isn’t he?

KUNG FU PANDA
Po is ready to welcome you anytime.

Sichuanese VS Mandarin

Compared with Mandarin Chinese, the placement of the tongue varies a great deal when speaking Sichuanese:

  • “sh” become “s”, so 10 (shi) is pronounced like 4 (si)
  • “ch” become “c”, che become cei. (see below)
  • “zh” become “z”, zhao become zao.
  • “h” is often pronounced “f”, like “hu” which is pronounced “fu
  • “e” in “ge”, “re”, “de” and “ke” become “ei”: 晓得 xiao dei, 没得 mei dei
  • “ge”, “re”, “le” and “ke” sound like “go”, “ro”, “lo” and “ko”
  • Words starting with a “n” often sound like a “ng” – a bit like Cantonese, I guess.

So, let’s be honest, it all sounds like a good old lisp. But it’s a typical one, probably inherited from the language of the 巴蜀 way of speaking! So, don’t make fun of it or Po will kick your arse!

Try to use those elements when speaking Sichuanese. For instance, for a simple like 你想吃什么, instead of saying ni xiang chi shen me, say ni xiang ci sa zi. (see why I use sa zi instead below).

It’s a bit difficult at first but I am sure that, overtime, you’ll get the hang of it. It’s just a matter of practice.

Useful words and sentences

SichuanesePinyin for SichuaneseMandarin equivalent with pinyinEnglish translation
我说得来四川话wo suodeilai sìcuan hua我会说四川话 wǒ huì shuō sìchuān huàI can speak Sichuanese
撒子/啥子sa zi?什么 shénmeWhat?
不存在bu cunzai不客气 bù kèqìyou’re welcome (after being thanked)
ɡuai可爱 kě’àicute
切 qie去 qùgo
晓得xiao dei知道 zhīdàoI know
吃撒子ci sa zì吃什么 chī shénmeWhat do you want to eat?
没得mei dei没有 méiyǒuDon’t have
没得事mei dei si没关系 méiguānxi It doesn’t matter, no big deal
哪个na guo那个 nǎgeWhich one/What?
哪儿切 / 切哪儿嘛nar qie去哪儿? qù nǎ’er ?Where to? (Taxis drivers will often ask this)
来了哇lai le wa来了啊 láile aOh, you’re here (used as a greeting).
瓜娃子gua wa zi笨蛋 bèndànIdiot
sua玩儿 wánr to have fun or to play
甩了suaile 干杯 gānbēi Cheers, Bottoms up! 
中国zonggui 中国 zhōngguó China
cei 车 chē car
巴适basi 舒服 shūfu or 爽 shuǎngFeels good!Great! comfortable, good or refreshing
要得yaodei对 duì or  好 hǎogood, right or okay
要不得yaodei不好 bù hǎonot ok
对的dui de好的 hǎo deRight/aha/ok (used as a filler, but context and tone can change it’s meaning)
嘎 / 要得不 / 不ɡa, yaobude, bu对不对 duì bùduìright ?
小妹儿xiaomer 服务员 fúwùyuányoung waitress
可以koyi可以 kěyǐ can, able to, okay
好钱haoqian 多少钱 duōshǎoqián How much is it?
你是哪个国家的ngì si ngago guìjia dei 你是什么国家的 nǐ shì shénme guójiā de What is your home country?
你说啥子ngi suo sazi 你说什么 nǐ shuō shénme What did you say?
你在哪儿ngi ngai ngar 你在哪儿 nǐzàinǎr Where are you?
耙耳朵 pa erduo妻管严 qī guǎn yánHenpecked husbands, men who are afraid of their wifes (humorous expression)
雄起xiongqi加油 jiāyóuGood luck! All the best!
在爪子zai zuazi在干什么?zài gànshénme?What are u doing ?
锤子 /毛线cuizi / maoxian放屁 fàngpìnothing, nonsense, horseshit, fuck all
咋个的了za ge de liao怎么办 zěnme bànwhat to do
龟儿子gui erzi王八蛋 wángbā dànson of a bitch
wai假 jiǎfake
娘娘niangniang阿姨 āyíaunt, nanny, miss, Madam

Finally, to make you hear the difference between Mandarin/Putonghua 普通话 and Sichuanese 四川话, allow me to upload a bit of rap music. I like the instruments and in it. You may see some folks from the Sichuan Opera, which I haven’t mentioned yet but it’s quite famous as well, culturally speaking.

The song is about how happy they are about their new clothes… Well, why no you may ask? After all, it feels good to look good… At first, you might hear mandarin Chinese sang by the lady but later, when the man starts rapping, you’ll notice a sort of lisp in his speech. That’s no lisp but that’s Sichuanese! 巴适!

Try to get familiar with it if you can because it can be rather useful when conversing with Chinese people. I will enable you to understand new accents. Besides, words like 晓得 are excellent and can also be added to your mandarin vocabulary.