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Is it worth it to learn Cantonese or is it a dying language?

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querido

Tytzer, you don't realize that what you wrote in the first line of post #13 isn't accurate. I don't blame you because I still think it's peculiarly hard to understand.

 

I'm pretty sure that a more accurate attempt - if you really want to use the word dialect - would be that Cantonese and Mandarin share to some large degree a common written form with regard to meaning, but with regard to pronunciation the one is no more or less a dialect (of some supposed common ancestor) than the other. To argue otherwise you'd have to prove that one is the more genuine inheritor of some "true" system, while the other is deviant. If you looked into that you would find that Cantonese has some pretty good claims in that regard. (You can find these arguments but I'm not interested.)

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Pokarface

Whoops, repost I was trying to delete my post since I submit it twice s-=

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querido

To the original poster:

 

Should a dying person bother to learn Mandarin? Well, I would hope that anyone - who realizes that they will die someday - would have the chance to spend their remaining years doing something fulfilling. So yes, I hope your remaining years are as rich as you can make them, friend!

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tytzer

Querido, thanks for clearing that up for me... Perhaps I have been speaking both Mandarin and Cantonese in a mashed-up context (I.e switching between the 2 languages) too often that my perspective of the word 'dialect' has been clouded.

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lakers4sho

nevermind

 

lakers4sho

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hackinger

Hi,

 

regarding what is a dialect and a language, in addition to linguistic aspects one has to  take also other considerations into account, like "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy". 8)

 

That has been mentioned for instance here:

http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/6309-mandarin-dialect-ratio-in-dialect-provinces-in-china/?p=53027

 

Cheers

 

hackinger

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Demonic_Duck
Once Hong Kong becomes just another Chinese city, Cantonese is doomed.

Aside from what Imron said about mainly Cantonese-speaking cities on the mainland...

 

There are a good number of other Chinese languages/dialects which aren't Putonghua, which are only spoken on the mainland and yet which are still very much alive.

 

As for the original question: it's certainly a personal choice. If you have Cantonese-speaking friends, by all means continue learning it. If you have none, perhaps put it on the back-burner for a bit, unless you have a particular passion for the language. Either way, if you decide to resume learning it later in life, it's certain there will still be a good number of Cantonese speakers around for you to practice with.

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hedwards

Unless you have a specific purpose in mind, it's largely a matter of personal preference. Mandarin is more or less the default Chinese for people to learn these days, mostly because it's much more widely spoken, and theoretically anybody in the PRC is supposed to be able to understand it. In practice, that's somewhat less than true, but it's a much larger number than if you learn Cantonese.

 

Cantonese is great if you're into Kung Fu movies, as a good number of them were filmed in Hong Kong and are in Cantonese. It's also historically more common outside of the PRC than other forms.

 

But, really, it's a personal preference to a large extent and I'm sure there are people that get all fired up about learning Cantonese and not Mandarin.

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C.J.

Wouldn't it be confusing to try and learn both mandarin and Cantonese for someone new to the language?  I am having a problem remember all 4 tones and think learning even more Cantonese tones would be super frustrating.  Am I wrong about this?

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Demonic_Duck

@hedwards: OP isn't asking whether s/he should give up learning Mandarin to focus on Cantonese, but whether s/he should continue learning Cantonese alongside Mandarin or not.

 

@C.J. I'd imagine only as confusing as learning, say, Spanish and Portuguese at the same time.

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Kobo-Daishi

To paraphrase John Lennon on Christianity.

 

Cantonese will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I'll be proved right.

 

 

 

 

 

Once Hong Kong becomes just another Chinese city, Cantonese is doomed.

 

 

 

Aside from what Imron said about mainly Cantonese-speaking cities on the mainland...

 

There are a good number of other Chinese languages/dialects which aren't Putonghua, which are only spoken on the mainland and yet which are still very much alive.

 

 

 

You guys are talking about the past or the present which will later be "past".

 

I'm talking about the future. Sometime after the fifty years of "hands off" are over in 2047.

 

And it won't happen right away. It'll probably take a few generations after 2047. Two or three generations at least.

 

Kobo.

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hedwards

@Demonic, it's the same answer. It's still a question of whether to prioritize one, the other or take it equally. And it's still largely a matter of preference and individual use.

 

I will add that because they're closely related that the OP does benefit a bit from being able to cleanse the mind a bit with Cantonese when the Mandarin is being annoying and the other way around. I know some folks really swear by learning multiple related languages at the same time, as in learning Portuguese and Spanish at the same time to benefit from the synergy, but I have mixed feelings about that.

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querido

To Kobo-Daishi: A prediction, that something will happen some generations after you're dead, whether true or not, is a somewhat stupid criterion for choosing how to spend your time in this life.

 

Edit:

"I'm moving to Antarctica because I predict it'll be a paradise there in a few thousand years."

"I'll spend my life in total submission to Party X because Party Y will someday be in the dustbin of history."

 

Need I continue, really?

 

Edit:

Some people observe that some people from powerful countries adopt a *personal* arrogance just because the militaries and/or economies of their countries are strong. That's a little ugly.

Similarly, I think that - in this specific context especially - many Mandarin learners indulge in a comparable imperial arrogance. This is ugly too.

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Lu

Wouldn't it be confusing to try and learn both mandarin and Cantonese for someone new to the language? I am having a problem remember all 4 tones and think learning even more Cantonese tones would be super frustrating. Am I wrong about this?

I'm not sure if 6/8/9 tones are all that more difficult than 4, since the main difficulty is getting used to the idea that tones are a thing and are important. But I've never been in this situation, so I might be wrong.

I think there is some danger of confusion when you learn two closely-related languages at the same time. That doesn't have to be a huge problem, but it is something to keep in mind. If you have time and it's not inconvenient, I'd first learn one of the two for perhaps a year, and only then add the other.

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renzhe

I think that the 4/5/6/7/9 tones thing is a red herring. It's basically a categorisation scheme for linguists and a number more or less does not mean that something is more difficult or easier.

As for learning Portuguese and Spanish at the same time, it's a nightmare. I dropped Spanish for the foreseeable future, and will revisit it once I'm satisfied with my Portuguese level.

As for the handover of Hong Kong in 2047: the "handover" of Guangzhou was millenia ago, and Cantonese is still here ;)

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hedwards

That's interesting renzhe, now that I think of it, Mandarin nominally has 4 tones plus the neutral tone, however because of the tone change rules there's arguably more of them. The way that the 3rd tone changes results in a tone that isn't quite like any of the other tones. Or at least  that's my hearing and what I've read, it doesn't seem like the 3rd tone change is quite like any other tone.

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Demonic_Duck
To paraphrase John Lennon on Christianity.

 

Cantonese will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I'll be proved right.

 

Good analogy there, actually. Lennon has been dead for over 30 years, yet Christianity is still alive and well.

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Touchstone57

There are apparently more Cantonese speakers than German speakers, if you add them up from the many different countries people have settled in. 

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carlo
To date I've had direct personal experience of two non-Mandarin dialects/languages: the one spoken in Changzhou, a subset of the Wu family, and Cantonese. In Changzhou, all local adults have it as their first language, yet my 8-year-old nephew refuses to speak it, although he understands it - he talks back in Mandarin. From empirical observation, this looks like a very common phenomenon, and it started sometime around primary one. In the absence of any literature or audio/video entertainment, it's not far fetched to assume that by the time he's a grandfather, everyone around him will be a native speaker of Mandarin. But there are still sixty+ years to go, and a lot could happen/change before then.

 

Cantonese, in comparison, is in a much, much stronger position, at least in HK.

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Kobo-Daishi

To Kobo-Daishi: A prediction, that something will happen some generations after you're dead, whether true or not, is a somewhat stupid criterion for choosing how to spend your time in this life.

 

I only wrote "Once Hong Kong becomes just another Chinese city, Cantonese is doomed." in answer to the original poster's query as to whether Cantonese is a dying language and left it at that.

I wasn't planning to write any more on the topic until Demonic_Duck specifically brought up my post, so, I added as clarification,

 

You guys are talking about the past or the present which will later be "past".

 

I'm talking about the future. Sometime after the fifty years of "hands off" are over in 2047.

 

And it won't happen right away. It'll probably take a few generations after 2047. Two or three generations at least.

Assuming that a generation is about 25 years and there's 33 years until 2047, that would mean that Cantonese would still be around at least 108 years.

So there's still plenty of life left in the old language yet.

 

And nowhere did I say not to study Cantonese.

 

I, in fact, have been studying Cantonese on and off and have done so for more than 30 years.

I've even started a Kobo's Cantonese Corner YouTube video channel.

Not a lot of good that does, seeing as nobody visits the site. I even posted about it at the Cantonese.Sheik.co.uk web forums and didn't even get one response.

 

If the original poster wishes to continue to pursue Cantonese he's welcome to it. But obviously he himself doesn't feel its worthwhile as he wrote "I should not have even started to learn Cantonese",

 

Only he can determine whether it's worthwhile to him or not. Is he willing to put in the work, time and effort to learn 2 languages?

Kobo.

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