Learn Shanghainese

Shanghainese, also known as the Shanghai dialect or Hu language, is actually a dialect of Wu Chinese spoken mainly in City of Shanghai and neighbouring areas.

Shanghainese is one of dozens, possibly hundreds, of local languages spoken in China. In a country whose government only actively supports one language – Mandarin — no one knows the exact figure.

Reasons to learn Shanghainese

  • Better understanding of Mandarin and Classical Chinese
  • Better understanding of the people of Shanghai and their character
  • Interact with the locals in a more meaningful way, talking with them in the language of their family

To further complicate communication between Chinese people, many of these dialects are mutually unintelligible, each with distinctive vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation.

To Mandarin-speaking Beijingers, for example, Shanghainese can sound as foreign as Russian.

What makes Shanghainese different from Mandarin?


The Shanghai language is still written using Chinese characters, though sometimes this is a bit confusing for Mandarin speakers. The reason is that sometimes it is written in an informal manner that uses many homophones that only exist in Shanghainese.


Mandarin has four different tones that are used, while Shanghainese has five. Shanghainese also implements voiced initials in many words, where in Mandarin this does not happen. Another difference is the fact that tones affect only words in Mandarin, whereas in the Shanghai language entire phrases are affected as well.

Introduction to Shanghainese with LTL

Richard teaches us some basic Shanghainese phrases and gives us an introduction to the Shanghainese language.

What’s learning Shanghainese like? Find out as Alex discusses his experience of learning Shanghainese compared to Mandarin.

More Videos & Resources

Jayme Lawman, a foreigner living in Shanghai, speaking Shanghainese

Shanghainese Phrases and Slang

Spencer Dodington, an American, who can speak Shanghainese

Learn Shanghainese Blog

  • One of the most confusing things when learning Mandarin from Cantonese is that the same characters have different meanings. The same happens when starting to learn Shanghainese.

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  • In Shanghai life goes fast and time is money. It is a great skill to be able to avoid all the intermittent rain during the 12-month rainy season and talk about the weather.

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  • Maybe you’re in Shanghai Learning Mandarin, doing an internship or working full time, whichever way you’ll need to be able to make your way around the city.

    Learn More

Shanghainese Books and Resources

Book cover "Learn Shanghainese"

LTL uses《学说上海话》for its Shanghainese class. It has a clear lesson structure, with 30 lessons based on different topics (discussing the weather, money, buying things, introductions, etc) and is beyond just a Shanghainese phrasebook as most other resources are.

This book also has a structured Romanization system, so as to help both Chinese and foreigners to learn it more easily, without resorting to similar sounding words.

View more Shanghainese books, videos, and other resources on our blog.

LTL Shanghai Blog

Learn Shanghainese – Prices

Private 1-on-1 Class, Certified Mandarin Teacher Shanghai

Class Hours Price (CNY per hour)
> 200 147
120 – 200 150
90 – 119 165
60 – 89 178
30 – 59 190

2-on-1 Class, Certified Mandarin Teacher Shanghai

Class Hours Price (CNY per hour)
>200 88
120 – 200 90
90 – 119 99
60 – 89 107
30 – 59 114

All prices are in Chinese Yuan and per person. If you need information regarding Fapiaos please visit our Fapiao Information page.

At LTL there are no surcharges for weekend, morning or evening classes. We also do not charge any teacher transport fees for Chinese classes taught anywhere on subway line 4. All students are welcome to attend our weekly social events free of charge and will also have access to our free LTL Online Chinese study kit.

Students follow a regular study plan depending on work and personal schedules. However, up to 30% of your lessons can be cancelled if we are notified six working hours before your class is due to begin. It is also possible to fix the duration of a class to anything between 1.5 hours (short lesson) and 6 hours (super intensive lesson). If you need even more flexibility, check out the LTL Super Flexible Chinese Program.

Other LTL Programs

  • Multi City


    Learn Chinese not only in Shanghai, but also other Chinese cities, even Taipei and Singapore. The Multi City Program offers Mandarin courses throughout Asia!

    Learn More

Ask us a question!
  • LTL Avatar Johan Brandal
    Johan Brandal, Student Advisor

    Welcome to LTL Mandarin School!

    How can I help you?