Thousands of years of culture…

I’m in YOUR country, butchering YOUR language!

Thousands of years of culture wash down the drain as my co-workers attempt to help me learn Cantonese. It’s a very confusing language and even more confusing to read and write. And as hard as it is, it finally gives me the perspective I’ve always lacked to understand why people say English is the hardest language to learn. More on that some other time. So why am I trying to learn Cantonese? Simple. That is what they speak here in Hong Kong and southern China.

However the national language of the People’s Republic of China is now Mandarin so that’s what most people here are trying to learn. I’ve noticed though that people who know Cantonese seem to have an easier time with learning Mandarin later than the other-way-around. Chinese is a tonal language meaning that you can see the same word in many different tones and it means something completely different each time you change the tone. It seems to be debatable but Cantonese seems to have anywhere from five to nine different tones depending on who you ask. The most common I have seen is six. Mandarin has four. So it seems that Cantonese is the harder language to learn. I’m guessing Mandarin must be comparitively easy to a Hong Kong’er.

Anyway, I’m not going to get too in depth here. There are plenty of sites out there that can better explain the minor and major differences between the Chinese languages and frankly, I’m probably not the guy you want to be getting your facts from anyway.

Suffice it to say that my pronunciation of many a Cantonese word or phrase has garnered anything from praise to bewildered stares to gasps of shock followed by giggles. That last response means I accidently said something “naughty”. Hee hee.

Here’s an awesome resource for learning Cantonese if you are interested: Learn Cantonese!

2 Responses to “Thousands of years of culture…”

  1. yoshi says:

    I was learning a little bit of cantonese when I was dating Joanna, but you know I just about forgot it all.

    Most asian languages (if not all) are very tonal. and I’m sure you remember from me telling you that Japanese is especially also gender specific. So yeah, I bet they’re having fun with you mispronouncing a lot.

    I surely had many laugh when some of my friends would talk to me, and talk like a girl. :P i.e. never learn japanese from your japanese girlfriend. hehe

  2. tiggerprr says:

    I can totally picture your co-workers getting a little chuckle. Asian languages are difficult to learn but I think it’s cool you’re trying. :)

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