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Guest tgilbert

Learning strategies for Chinese characters

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Quest

By school age, most kids understand spoken mandarin pretty well in Guangzhou, even though they might not be able to speak it perfectly, and they sometimes mix and invent new pronunciations. However, it only takes a couple of months before they can speak fluent mandarin once they attend school. Then from there mandarin would become almost like their first language. Of course, many speak mandarin with some local accent, but it is otherwise perfect mandarin.

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Ian_Lee

Smith:

HK kids learn Chinese by learning the characters first, then the pronunciation, then combine and manipulate them for composition.

There is no pinyin, neither bomopofo nor hanyu pinyin, and seldom do they use to learn dictionary.

The Chinese language textbooks they use is arranged in Mandarin Chinese. That means it is a language that they hardly apply for colloquial use.

In my school years, the Chinese language textbook was strictly copied from Taiwan while English language textbook was from Malaya.

So the teacher told you how to pronounce that Chinese character in Cantonese and that was it. (There is no guarantee that the teacher pronounced it right.)

In fact, there used to be a TV program which a Ph.D. in linguistics kept telling HKers their fallacy in Cantonese pronunciation.

So HK kids actually are learning Chinese from Mandarin textbook but in Cantonese pronunciation.

Of course, during Grade 2 or 3 when the kids start on composition class, there is a strong tendancy for them to write their essays in Cantonese Chinese. The teachers will try best to correct them because written Chinese in Cantonese style is considered very rude.

Even by today most HK newspapers are published in Mandarin Chinese except the entertainment news.

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skylee
Except... tell us what happens in HK' date=' Sky. First off, don't you use some sort of Cantonese pinyin when starting to learn to read and write (as they use Hanyu pinyin and bopomofo elsewhere)?

Thinking about it, I suppose not. Because there's no standard romanization for Cantonese; and that's why nobody ever really knows what tone a syllable is or how to write it alphabetically?

So you just learn sequences of characters, perhaps by order of complicatedness, with a Cantonese pronunciation? Do you learn Cantonese or Mandarin characters where they differ (eg what do they teach you for 'he', kui or ta, etc etc)? And (assuming you agree that they are sometimes different, I know some people believe the grammars of Cantonese and Mandarin are identical but I can't remember if you're one of them) which grammar system do you follow?[/quote']

I think Ian has answered most of the questions already.

1) no pinyin or equivalent. We just learn how a character is pronounced in Cantonese. If it is a word we are already using daily, e.g. 粥, it is easier. If it is a completely new word, e.g. 轂, we may need to mark a word of the same/similar pronunciation beside it, e.g. 谷.

2) no, there is no standard romanization for Cantonese.

3) when I was a school kid, mandarin was not taught in primary/middle schools. I started learning it formally when I was an undergrad. The univ course focused on Mandarin pronunciation (Hanyu Pinyin) and the difference of vocabulary between Cantonese and Mandarin (I think these are the focus of any other Mandarin courses in HK). I think mandarin is still just one of the subjects in most if not all HK schools, not the medium of teaching.

4) no, grammar (if there is such a thing in Chinese, as I don't think I've studied it) is different for Cantonese and Mandarin. When we write, we are supposed to write in Mandarin. But when we talk, we talk in Cantonese. It can be confusing. I think Quest once said that HK students can't write properly in any language because they speak in Cantonese, write in Mandarin, learn in English. There is some truth in it, although the "learn in English" part may not be the case now.

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smithsgj

Thanks all for iinformative replies.

Just one thing Sky. Grammar. Every language has a grammar, otherwise it wouldn't make any sense. When people say "grammar", they mean various different things. But I meant it in the sense generally understood by linguists: the rules that govern word order (syntax) and (word) inflection. Inflection scarcely exists in Chinese, apart from a few oddities like the -men suffix, and arguably -le etc, but word order, while flexible, is important. You can't just say the words of a sentence in any old order: wo juede ni hen ke'ai doesn't mean the same as ni juede wo hen ke'ai, obviously, and it's grammar that makes the difference.

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Harpoon
1) no pinyin or equivalent. We just learn how a character is pronounced in Cantonese. If it is a word we are already using daily' date=' e.g. 粥, it is easier. If it is a completely new word, e.g. 轂, we may need to mark a word of the same/similar pronunciation beside it, e.g. 谷.

[/quote']

this sounds really clumbsy. you need an alphabet to help learn pronounciation, using similar-sounding characters seems kind of ineffective. How would a Mandarin or other dialect speaker learn Cantonese?

sorry to bump an old thread, but I stumbled upon this one somehow..

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