This interactive map by Phonemica allows users to browse and listen to stories recorded in various dialects across China as part of a project to archive and share the spoken languages to a wider audience.
According to the website:
Phonemica is a crowd-sourced project to record spoken stories in every one of the thousands of varieties of Chinese. We believe that each language and dialect is a priceless cultural treasure embedding history, social customs — the knowledge of a people. The Chinese language today contains thousands of language varieties, with differences as wide as Mandarin and Cantonese, as nuanced as the different words of neighboring villages.
The map features color-coded pins representing speakers of major dialects across China, and users can click on them to listen to stories spoken by volunteers in that specific dialect.
The project was launched by Kellen Parker and Steve Hansen in May 2012 and has become an effort to preserve dialects that are gradually dying out as Standard Mandarin has become the mandatory means of communicating in schools.
Shanghai Daily reports that the project has gained a steady following recently but has also garnered criticism from people who are “embarrassed that Americans are doing something they believe Chinese should be carrying out”.
The orange pin on the map represents Shanghainese, a dialect which Shanghai has recently made moves to protect.
A pilot program launched by the city’s education bureau this month has encouraged children to speak Shanghainese rather than Mandarin between classes, to the mixed reviews of parents.
Shanghai Metro authorities also said this month that Metro announcements will soon begin being broadcast in Shanghainese along with Mandarin and English, and the trial operation of the project has already began on lines 12 and 16.
Check out the Shanghainese speakers on the interactive map here.