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I know there is a Nanjing dialect of Jianghuai Mandarin but I have not been able to learn much about current usage in the city of Nanjing. For example, do many people in Nanjing today ordinarily begin words with an "l" sound where standard Mandarin has "n"? Do many people in Nanjing today use a very different vocabulary than say people in Beijing?

I am considering travel to Nanjing, and I wonder how well my Mandarin training will suit Nanjing and whether Nanjing usage will conflict with my training. (I speak French with something of a Montreal accent, which causes more amusement than misunderstanding in France.)

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Nanjing has a very good education environment. Most of the famous universities of Jiangsu province locate at Nanjing. So Mandarin is wildly used in Nanjing and most of the young people are well educated there( this means they can speak English). They may speack Nanjing dialect with their parents and friends, but they can also switch to Mandarin as soon as they find you are speaking Mandarin. Additionally, my hometown is a small city adjacent with Nanjing and our dialect is very close to Nanjing dialect, but I found both these two dialects are quite close to Mandarin. So just go there with your Mandarin, don't worry! (I know little about French but I still went to the Quebec city last year!). And If you found some trouble, ask for help to the young people there, they can speak Mandarin and even English!

By the way, the 'l' and 'n' issue you referred is true about the dialect. However, most of Nanjing people won't do this when they are trying to speak Mandarin seriously.

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I have friends who are native people near Nanjing, both mother tongue of language variants of Wu, one of the major Chinese dialect. Comparing to Sichuanese, Wu is more difficult even for Chinese people who speaks standard Mandarin, in my view, Wu is just another Cantonese level aircraft (figuratively).

Because of influence imposed by the China's economical center status, greater Shanghai area (including Nanjing) attracts more and more people working there, along with more and more Wu language learners. Some story as how Cantonese had thrived.

Don't get scared about the difference between Wu series and standard Mandarin, even we Chinese people can't understand them without professional and painstaking training.

Go ahead and you'll find out that you're welcome by all friendly people there. (But bad guys are anywhere though...)


Update

By the way, both Wu and Sichuanese ignore the difference between l and n consonant (that is, l is used in all cases), so guess your life get easier there.

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Actually, you are wrong Nanjing is not in the Wu dialect zone. Nanjing dialect is in the zone of Jianghuai, which is more northern like. Your friends are near Nanjing, but do you know that almost every city east to Nanjing in the Jiangsu province is in the Wu zone, but not Nanjing itself. –  zyc Aug 19 '13 at 17:05
    
嗟乎 敢問尊者 Jianghuai者 江淮乎 –  congliu Aug 19 '13 at 17:13
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江淮官话, 南京,镇江,扬州等 –  zyc Aug 19 '13 at 17:16
    
諾 依君之意 先生亦休矣 :D –  congliu Aug 19 '13 at 17:19
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@StumpyJoePete Do you know 镇江? I'm from there and we speak Jianghuai Mandarin there. From the west to the east it's like :南京->镇江->常州->无锡->苏州->昆山->上海. I think 常州 is the border of Wu and Jianghuai Mandarin. Any way nice to meet you here and hope you enjoy your Chinese study :-) –  zyc Aug 19 '13 at 19:07
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