While I have an accent when I speak my mother tongue (like everyone), and I come from the Dutch countryside, I am not a native speaker of any dialect. While my parents grew up in the same province, they came from towns some 50 kms apart, so when bringing us up they stuck to standard Dutch.
I can understand several dialects of Dutch and I guess I could try to reproduce what I hear and learn to speak them, but in my eyes, a dialect is something very close to yourself, so learning it as a foreign language would feel stupid, and sound stupid to other dialect speakers, some of them close family and friends. So I stick to my standard Dutch.
Since people have become more mobile, and marriages of people with different backgrounds have become more common, dialects seem on the retreat, wherever I look. Yet I see those who speak a dialect with family and close friends get enormous strength out of it. Be it the proud inhabitants of Maastricht, my university town in Netherland’s South, or my Teochew friends amongst each other, speaking a dialect brings intimacy and close identification. The people from Maastricht are just like the Shanghainese: if you don’t speak their dialect, you can never truly belong to their inner circle.
It’s paradoxical: a language is a means of communication, but a dialect, by cutting out everyone but the people of a single city or area, achieves closer communication. Exactly because the language is limited to an inner circle, it brings a strong sense of identity.
Which dialects do you (not) speak? Do you regret not speaking a dialect?