American English and British English are different dialects of English.

The basic translation of dialect is 方言.

But I feel that 方言 corresponds to say different dialects of British English, or different dialects of American English, not to Am.Eng. and Br.Eng. themselves.

How would you translate the following sentence ?

Americans and British speak different dialects of English.

  • 2
    There is no word for "dialect" in Chinese. 方言 is a highly overlapping but not really an identical concept - despite sources (e.g. Wikipedia) linking "dialect" to "方言", "方言" is really topolect. (Also - I don't believe that the English word "dialect" is well-defined)
    – dROOOze
    Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 22:10
  • 1
    i highly recommend the book “the english language”, written by david crystal, isbn: 0-14-013532-4 👍 Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 13:09
  • 1
    There are people who argue that English is a Germanic dialect. The history and historicity of any human language is bound to be complex and argued about from, as expected, nationalistic standpoints till the End of Time itself. If one were to subscribe to the anthropological assertion that the earliest "humans" were hominid migrants out of Africa, then all human languages are African or, if you prefer, dialects of Africana? Commented Jun 8, 2021 at 2:50

5 Answers 5


Chinese do not consider American English a dialect

American English = 美式英語 (American style English) or 美國英語

British English = 正宗英語 (Authentic English), 英式英語 (British style English) or 英國英語

Both are English. We Canadian consider our English North American (北美洲) English - the same as 美國英語

American accent = 美國口音

British accent = 英國口音

The difference between American English and British English are mainly in the accent. they also have the different spelling of certain words (e.g. color vs. colour) and unique slangs

For Chinese, most 方言 dialects are not mutually comprehensible.

Common Cantonese cannot understand Shanghai dialect, Sichuan dialect sounds completely different from Fujian dialect

Dialects are mostly regional, not national. Outsiders may think Scottish a British dialect, but the Scottish themselves consider it a language. If you talk to a Scottish, the language you hear from him is most likely English with Scottish accent


According to ISO 639, Cantonese, Mandarin, Wu, etc. are languages, and Chinese is a macrolanguage.

It is easy and somehow correct to translate dialect <-> 方言, but it is not precisely accurate.

As far as Chinese is concerned, those called 方言 today once were languages and sounds like languages more than like dialects. But they share the same writing system. Wu users and Mandarin users cannot communicate for even a full sentence with tongues and ears, but they are fluent with paper and eyes. (Cantonese uses many different characters, but the writing system still "kind of" shares)

The reason might be that Qin Dynasty standardized the writing system, but that was long time ago and history is complex for me to explain every details.


I believe all countries have dialects. Where a dialect stops and a language begins is unclear.

I would say the Central Government of a nation will concern itself with the national language, because it directly binds the people of a nation together.

Thus the notion: "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy."

vernacular: 白话,通俗用语,日常用语,本地话,本国语,方言

The Americans and the British have different vernaculars.


With regards to the word 方言 popularly taken to mean "a dialect", a definition of the word "dialect" is necessary.

A dialect is defined as "A particular form of a language which is peculiar to a specific region or social group" So, it is a "form of a language", meaning it has a "mother language" and it takes on a certain "form", branching off from the mother language owing to particular regional usage over time and reasons of geography.

From this dictionary definition of dialect, does 方言 mean or equate to being a "dialect"?

方言 is made up of 地方 & 语言, meaning the "language" of a particular place or locality. Not the "branching off from a certain mother language owing to particular regional usage over time and reasons of geography", like, say, the branching off from Mandarin, (the mother language), giving rise to a regional dialect called "Candarin", spoken by Chinese immigrants in a country called Canada.

Thus I would argue that the word 方言 as I understand it does not fit, for reasons of strict definition, into the notion of a "dialect"

However, the popular understanding is that 方言 means "dialect". And I have oftentimes translated it as such. I am sure I'll be punished by the God of Linguistics.


I consider dialect is localized differences in speaking and pronunciation within a country.

While American English differs from British English, it should be considered as the former was a branch of the latter, as both are under the same root, but differences developed due to the separation of social-political systems, therefore a regional differences rather than local. Similar differences exist in other English-speaking countries, for example, Canada, Australia.... etc.

The Chinese language has branches as well. The most obvious case - the differences between mainland China, and Taiwan - two independent regions each having its own social-political system/identity.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.