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Calling out Chinese 'polyglots'?


Tomsima
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With all the polyglot debate that has flared up again recently here, and reading through some (heated) comments, it got me thinking. It often seems to be suggested that the commercial 'polyglots' are only capable of so many languages as the languages they speak are all or mostly from the same European language group. And thus they often slow down or even give up when trying an unrelated language such as Mandarin.

 

What I am more interested in is, how many people here (or across the interwebs) can speak multiple chinese dialects/languages to a high degree of fluency?

 

Is there anyone who can claim to be a Chinese language polyglot? Can you speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Minnanhua, Shanghaihua, and Sichuanhua all to a C1/2 level of fluency?

 

 

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3 hours ago, Tomsima said:

Can you speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Minnanhua, Shanghaihua, and Sichuanhua all to a C1/2 level of fluency?

 

Foreigners (without Chinese background) who speak even any two of those to a C1/2 level are as rare as hens' teeth. I doubt that there are even any Chinese people who speak all of those.

 

In my experience, Chinese people who speak more than one dialect tend to have grown up in a dialectal area and have parents who each speak a different dialect. Even in this situation, they would only have exposure to four languages, and may not speak all of them well.

 

The closest I know of anyone in this situation is a Bouyei girl from Guizhou who speaks Mandarin, Guizhouhua (which is essentially a dialect of mandarin anyway), Bouyei language and some other minority language, though she could not tell me what it was (Zhuang maybe). And I guess this doesn't count anyway, as Bouyei and Zhuang are not, I suppose, what you are referring to as Chinese dialects.

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Looking at the reference levels, C2 is comparable to Superior in the ACTFL proficiency guidelines. Proficiency in terms of the ACTFL guidelines is usually determined by an oral proficiency interview (OPI). You might have seen some test administrators-in-training offering mock interviews around here. Although it's oral, we can usually expect a comparable written proficiency in test takers. It may be different in Chinese languages. Haven't looked into it.

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Being fluent in all of the major Chinese topolects (Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese, Hakka, Hokkien) is like being fluent in all of the major Latin topolects (Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian). In both cases, you're a polyglot, but a branch-based one, which is less impressive than a polyglot who knows Arabic, German, Russian, Chinese, Hindi, and Swahili.

 

Yes, Mike Campbell can.

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Had a couple of Tibetan friends who spoke two dialects of Tibetan (Khamba and Lhasa) and two of Mandarin, Sichuanhua and Putonghua. Old classmate had an American boyfriend who spoke good Minnan as well as Guoyu, only non-PRC citizen who springs to mind - actually, saying that several BBC classmates spoke Cantonese and Mandarin though former usually learned at home.

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I know an interpreter who works in Mandarin, Cantonese and Minnanese (to Dutch). I never heard his English but he works in academia, so I assume he has a good mastery of that as well. He recognises a few more dialects, although I don't know to what extent he speaks those. His abilities awe me.

 

A Chinese person once told me of a classmate of theirs who bragged about his four languages. Turned out they were Zhuang, Guangxihua, Mandarin and English. People were not nearly as impressed when he told them it was those four.

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7 hours ago, Lu said:

People were not nearly as impressed when he told them it was those four.

Having lived in guangxi and been completely bamboozled on a daily basis, I feel like they've got some bragging rights. Zhuang is so different, I bet if they said their languages were mandarin, Vietnamese, Thai and English people would be really impressed

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8 hours ago, Tomsima said:

Having lived in guangxi and been completely bamboozled on a daily basis, I feel like they've got some bragging rights

Oh I agree. If I'm not mistaken, Guangxihua is a type of Mandarin, but Zhuang, Mandarin and English? That's impressive.

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There was a German guy that impressed me with his funny videos in both Chinese and Shanghainese. One where he mocks his mother in law and imitates her shanghainese but I could not immediately find it. another example

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEVE8YpvhWM

 I was gonig to mention Mike Campbell but people already have.

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