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Posts: 335

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Q: Why is Cantonese more difficult to learn than Mandarin?

11 years 9 weeks ago in  Culture - Guangzhou

 
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Posts: 80

Governor

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It may seem difficult depending on how you perceive it. Any language learning skill needs a right exposure and practice. To my own honest opinion , though i can't speak cantonese, i feel its more easy to pronounce cantonese than the chinese mandarin. Mr. Ludovico, if you can find a good cantonese family buddies or just a sounding cantonese environment where they always speak it, i think you will stand at a better chance.

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11 years 9 weeks ago
 
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For starters, Cantonese is mainly only spoken in Guangdong province and Hongkong. Most Cantonese speakers learn the language through speaking and watching tv since Cantonese isn't generally used in schools (at least not in the Mainland, I don't know about Hong Kong). That makes it harder for Cantonese speakers to explain things to people trying to learn the language. For example, Cantonese has 9 tones, but if you ask someone from Guangdong to explain them to you, there's a good chance they're not really sure what to say.

Mandarin, on the other hand, is the official language of China so it's taught in schools all over the country. Students learn about the four tones from an early age and usually have no problem explaining at least pronunciation rules. And with so many more Mandarin speakers, it's easy to find plenty of people to practice with~~

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11 years 9 weeks ago
 
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It is because Mandarin is spoken by way utmost people proportionally to Cantonese. By doing simple math, you can say it's statistical. Science never lies. Except for Santa.

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11 years 8 weeks ago

Getting halp from moar and moar people is like spin-o-rama high-fiving new friends on answers.echinacities.com with a tip of the hat finishing move.

 
Posts: 39

Governor

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6 tones! nuf said.

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10 years 41 weeks ago
 
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Mandarin has 4 or 5 tonals depending upon which expert (A hole) you talk to.

Guangdong language (Cantonese) has 8 (or 9 tonals depending on which A hole you talk to), So its more difficult for a westerner.

Be glad you aint in Nam etc. 16 tonals,its  like singing a frickin song! Smile

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10 years 41 weeks ago
 
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It's been easier for me to learn Cantonese because it just sounds better to me and I enjo speaking it more, so I get more practice.

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10 years 41 weeks ago
 
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I also think Cantonese is more difficult to learn. This is not so much because of having more tones as it is for other reasons.

First, Cantonese is not widely spoken outside Guangdong, so there are fewer publications for the study of the language. 

Next, unlike the Mandarin pinyin system, which took me about half an hour to master, Cantonese does not have a pinyin that makes sense for English speakers, or possibly speakers of any other language that uses roman script. For example, when I am in Hong Kong and I see a sign that says, "Mong Kok," I want to say it like Mong COCK, when in fact the locals pronounce the "kok" more like a "gogk" or with some kind of gutteral chocking sound from that back of their throats that we don't have in english, thus cannot make a proper transliteration for.

That brings me to my third point, which is that Cantonese is more difficult than mandarin because it is full of strange consenent sounds that are totally foreign to my American ears. the nasal and gutteral back of the throat sounds are subtle sometimes (except in Guangzhou when I hear two old ladies yelling at each other, when in fact they are only having a friendly converstaion) and at other times pronounced.

Mandarin, especially far North Mandarin can be hard to understand too, but i think its much easier to speak.

My joke is that Beijingers sound like they are talking with marbles in their mouths, and Cantonese sound like they are talking with a clothing pin on their noses and an egg stuck in their throat!

mainlander:

“My joke is that Beijingers sound like they are talking with marbles in their mouths, and Cantonese sound like they are talking with a clothing pin on their noses and an egg stuck in their throat!” -- i like this description

 

i will look at the difference between cantonese and mandarin from the perspective of evolution. 

 

​language is a tool for communication. the development of a tool is for it to become more user-friendly and more effecient. the more effecient tool has more aesthetic appeal. aesthetic appeal is like the lighting house to guide the development of a tool. the aesthetic appeal of a language is its pleasantness of pronouciation to our ears.  the more pleasant one is a more evolved (therefore more user-friendly and more effecient) communicating tool whereas the less pleasant one is a backward tool.  

 

cantonese is mainly spoken in the southern tip of china (guangdong and guangxi) where the weather is warmer and of less changes than the rest of china. the pronouciation of cantonese is said to be closer to the official language spoken in central china about 1000 years ago, which is why poems from the tang and song dynasties(1000years ago) sound more in ryhm if read in cantonese than in mandarin. in other words, the aesthetic appeal of modern cantonese is about the same as that prevalent in central china 1000 years ago. some cantonese speaking people(and scholars) in hong kong and guangdong are very pround of this fact, claiming cantonese is therefore more "elegant" and "graceful" than mandarin since china in the tang dynasty era is generally considered a more advanced nation in the world's history of civilization. whether the logic behind such a claim is laughable or not is up to viewers' own judgement. 

 

if someone who has never been exposed to cantonse and mandarin before is asked to listen to these two languages and then differentiate which sounds less abrasive and less coarse (ie more pleasant) to ear, its more likely he will pick mandarin by intuition. similarly,  if we are to distinguish a language near the equator and another near the north pole, we are more likely to prefer the one near the north pole. the very reason behind such preference is to do with weather's effect on the languages' evolution.  cold and harsh weather increases the selective pressure on the language to become more energy efficient whereas complacency due to warm weather slows down evolution.

 

a question from a 3 year old: why black africans tend to have much thick lips than white people?  

 

10 years 19 weeks ago
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10 years 34 weeks ago
 
Posts: 2735

Shifu

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More people speak Mandarin as opposed to Cantonese. Many Hong Kong residents speak both Mandarin and Cantonese, but not so for mainlanders. That would be one of the reasons that it is harder to learn. Also I'm not sure that there are many schools that teach Cantonese. I've never seen one. 

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10 years 34 weeks ago
 
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Actually I would say the opposite.  I think that the 9 tones in Cantonese are quite clear and rather short as opposed to the 4 tones of Mandarin.  While some of what has been written is accurate, nonetheless, there are many televisions stations that broadcast in Cantonese.  Announcements in the Guangzhou subway system are made in Cantonese first as is the case on the buses.  There has been a tremenduous influx of workers from other provinces into Guangdong who do not speak Cantonese and this may have had an impact on the overall percentages.  Nonetheless, Cantonese remains the de facto language of the province and of at least one or two neighboring provinces.  Remember, too, that Guangzhou is one of the two strongest economic motos of the countries.  And while children in school should ostensibly be taught in Mandarin only, my own observations have lead me to the conclusion that that is not the case.

Cantonese is more staccato than Mandarin, for a fact, but for a person with musical training or a musical ear, the sounds are clearly discernible.

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10 years 32 weeks ago
 
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For the pronunciation is quite different between mandarin and Cantonese,so I think it's not more difficult than mandarin

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10 years 31 weeks ago
 
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Contrary to what everyone else here has said, Cantonese is more widely spoken throughout the rest of the world, because of the history of the place in relation to Europeans.

That, of course, has little to do with one's ability to learn it easier than Putonghua...

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10 years 31 weeks ago
 
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Tonal languages are obsolete and have been for thousands of years.  If I said "hi" to you as a greeting or if I said "HiiiIIIIIgghhhh!!!"...  Ugh, ridiculous.

Mandarin Chinese has 1600 different "words" you can say.  That's it.  Combine initials and finals, there are actually only 400 x 4 tones = 1600.

This language is so limited.

Look in a Chinese dictionary.  There are 30-40 common meanings for "shi" in any tone.  The word is used for lord knows how many things, and you can only derive the meaning by context.

So, like 1,000 years ago, people thought that making other sounds was wrong?  Obviously.  And this "tradition" carries through to today as "culture".

Sure, speaking like a caveman might have it merits I guess.  It's simple, easy, but then why make the written language so difficult?

It's because it was made that way so only "scholars" knew it. 

Honestly, Chinese as a language is ridiculous.  It's based in folklore and tradition and will never become a world language.

It's the same as trying to say Egyptian heiroglyphics are a modern language.

Sorry linguistics have evolved.  Sure Chinese might have been amazing in 220BC, but it's 2012 now.  Just like numbers, use what the rest of the world is using.

Or I guess be proud of the fact that the Chinese language hasn't evolved at all for such a long time that it has to make BS phonetic sounds for stuff, like "Ke ka ke le" - Which means "bite the wax tadpole" or something.  This language needs to die out because it's not useful for anything more than asking a store clerk how much something is and arguing about it.

mainlander:

 

 

the following is to answer a 3 year old kid's question: why chinese name is shorter than english name? 

 

"We receive information from around us through the 5 senses: sight (eye), sound (ear), smell (nose), taste (tongue) and touch (skin), with sight and sound being the most important as these 2 senses are responsible for most of the information brought into our brain. The importance of sensing the world through our eyes and ears is well illustrated in the Chinese language:  the word meaning “intelligent” is formed by two characters with one meaning “hear well” (pronounced as “cong” and the other “see well” (“ming”).  So if you can hear well and see well, you should be intelligent.  The information gathered by our senses helps us understand the world and form ideas in our mind. If we want to communicate the ideas in our mind to other people, we need to use language. Language is a system of symbols to translate ideas. Some languages translate ideas based on sound, for example, English, whereas some languages use both sound and sight, for example, Chinese.  English is an alphabetic language. Every word is made up from a combination of the 26 alphabets or letters. The main form of communicating information is the sound of the letters. The written symbols (letters) do not carry any extra information.  All the European languages are like that. However, each Chinese word carries information through both sound and shape of the character, and this allows the word to be a more compact(or denser) information carrier than english. In other words, the Chinese character can carry more information in shorter sound and less space than the equivalent English word. For example, the English word “mountain” obviously sounds longer than the Chinese word ,山, with “shan” as the sound.  This is why a Chinese name is usually shorter than an English name. If a full page of English writing is to be translated into Chinese, the Chinese version may only take up half of the page.  

 

Chinese is a bit harder than English for people to pick up at the beginning because you have to remember both the sound and the shape of the word together whereas with English you mainly need to remember the sound of the word. However, by including the “sight” (shape) information in the Chinese character it helps the language stay more stable over time as sounds (pronunciation) are more easily changed. This has helped the Chinese language remain as one language over the last 2000 years after the first Chinese emperor united China.  Having the same language also helps China remain as a big country. If people uses different languages, there might be more chance of being misunderstood, which may lead to conflict and even fights. 2000 years ago most of the european area was covered by the Roman Empire, the size of which was bigger than China today. The official language used then was Latin, which is also an alphabetical based language. Through time, the language slowly changed into different european languages like italian, spanish and french and the empire also split into different small countries in europe because people speaking different languages wanted to have their own country. From this viewpoint, the Chinese ancestors seem fairly wise in including the “sight” information into the language symbol. "

 

information coded in chinese is said to take up the least memory bytes, ie, very effecient for storing information.  

 

 

there is of course many merits to the diversity of language but the downside of different languages is an increase in communicating cost and thus reducing the communication effeciency. 

 

10 years 19 weeks ago
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MrTibbles:

A.)  2000 years ago Chinese characters look NOTHING like they do today.

 

B.)  Chinese characters while "shorter" for some things written is absolutely horrible for say, writing a technical manual.  It will be 3 times longer because you need to add in explanations for everything because:

 

C.)  Chinese written doesn't grow.  They don't make a new character for "computer" for example they use old characters ie "lightning (which now also means electricity)" and "brain". - "train" is still "fire cart" even though they aren't powered by fire or steam anymore.

 

It's a language that is stuck where it is and it has to explain modern things with outdated terminology.

10 years 19 weeks ago
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8 years 21 weeks ago
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10 years 31 weeks ago
 
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Cantonese is not as well documented for those with English mother-tongue, however it's not too hard to learn. Start with cusswords,a s they roll off the tongue so much easier than Mandarin cusswords.

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10 years 19 weeks ago
 
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that is cultural difference, many Chinese live outside Guangdong or even far from Guangzhou City can't speak Cantonese well. So it's normal to a foreigner who is hard to learn and speak it. 

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10 years 18 weeks ago
 
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They have 6 standard tones and an extra 2 tones that can be used in different contexts. Enough said, I gave up on learning Cantonese a long time ago.

Ranvir:

They have 6 standard tones and an extra 2 tones that can be used in different contexts.Moreover,the pronunciation of Cantonese is come from ancient Chinese...

8 years 39 weeks ago
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10 years 18 weeks ago
 
Posts: 3

Governor

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In fact , know mandarin is enough to travel around the world! no need to learn other dialects.

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8 years 39 weeks ago
 
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In fact , know mandarin is enough to travel around the world! no need to learn other dialects.

Hotwater:

Learning English would be better for traveling round the world! But if you want to talk easier with the Chinese diaspora then learn Cantonese, Hokkien or other of the Southern China dialects and you'd be better understood than with mandarin. As an example, the majority of the British born Chinese speak Cantonese, not mandarin (in fact I speak more mandarin than my british born chinese friends!)

8 years 33 weeks ago
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8 years 39 weeks ago
 
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As a native Cantonese speaker, I always feel pitiful that my mother language is not Mandarin.

 

Cantonese is an awesome language but it's kinda useless for career or in any purpose if I stay abroad or out of my city.

 

It's harder to learn but less useful than Mandarin and some or the Asian languages.

qbsinceage10:

Most Chinese in America speak Cantonese, not Mandarin.  So welcome to the states.  I could find no one there to practice Mandarin with.

8 years 34 weeks ago
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lilichristian:

That happens, because there were many HongKong people moved abroad before the Reunion that HongKong was under China gov again.

 

As a HongKonger, I don't see US has anything better than HongKong honestly. Plus, I don't wanna pay the super high tax, haha! Didn't you just leave your home country? :P

8 years 34 weeks ago
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8 years 36 weeks ago
 
Posts: 4400

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  It's not, just start by learning that drinking game: "SEI HONG SEI, YAO DIN YAO, TOU MING JIAO, BI YUN TAO!!!!"

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8 years 36 weeks ago
 
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