I know that one of the few things I learned in middle school about China was that the Chinese language has many “dialects.”
I had never been clear on what a dialect really was, often people say that it’s like an accent, and for a few of them that’s correct. In many cases though “dialects” are completely different languages that are based on the same written system.
That means even if you couldn’t understand what the person was saying you could read what they wrote.
This is most likely the result of China’s vast lands and difficult terrain that made travel rare. This limited direct communication and made writing invaluable.
In this video my former students count from 1-10, first Mandarin (the official language), then Gui-Liu (the dialect of northern Guangxi), then Zhuang (a minority language), and then Baihua (a “dialect” of the “dialect” Cantonese, spoken around the Southern coast), wrapping up with a language you’ll hopefully understand.
I think from time to time it’s good to be reminded that in this country, there is far more diversity than we might expect at first glance.