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Speaking Chinese

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  1. #11

    Join Date
    Jan 2008

    I stayed 3 months in Belgium, and learnt quite a bit of Dutch.

    I have stayed 3 years in HK, with very limited Canto (just the numbres and a few other words).

    The reasons for me are simple:
    It is difficult to learn because -
    a. Most other languages we learn are European, and we have some exposure to them in one way or the other, the letters are familiar, there is similarity with English words since they share the same roots

    b.Canto is tone based, something I have never encountered in other languages (I came across Canto and Putonghua parallely) which makes it a very difficult concept to grasp. In my language, or other languages I am familiar with (English, Hindi, Dutch etc.) tones are used only to express emotions.

    c.If I try to speak, my tones go awry (would happen for a newbie), I find local people refuse to even try to mentally you can put the sentence together, and figure out that this particular word is not making sense, but if it were a slightly different tone, it would make sense. This is called "trying to understand" when a foreigner makes an effort to speak your language.

    I have seen people do that when we tried speaking Dutch (which sounded very funny), I have seen people doing that when foreigners come to my country and speak a few phrases of Hindi or Bengali...but somehow, people in China (HK AND the mainland) cannot do that. Maybe it is something in their language, or maybe they just don't bother...I do not know...either way, it leaves a beginner frustrated.

    dear giant likes this.

  2. #12

    Join Date
    Jul 2006

    Could just be your perception. I have a lot of non-Hong Kong friends who've learnt Cantonese for fun and use in daily life, but they're the type who also learnt Mandarin if/when they were on the Mainland. It seems that if one has to interact more with people who don't speak whatever language(s) one speaks (for me when I came to HK, mostly Mandarin, English, French, and Japanese), then one will learn the local language. I do feel that this is why it's generally not good to compare foreigners learning Cantonese in HK with foreigners learning Mandarin in the Mainland (even though I just did!). There, while one can almost always get around without any Mandarin, it is much more difficult unless one does not leave the areas which cater to foreigners/tourists. Here in HK, however, I feel that it is much easier to get by without Cantonese -- even the local wet markets have signs in English or at the very least marked prices for most, if not all, products; street names have known English and Chinese names and taxi drivers tend to know them both; etc.

    My first year here, I lived in a very Mandarin-friendly area, so I did not bother to learn to speak much Cantonese other than simple pleasantries, but when I moved to an area which was neither Mandarin- nor English-friendly, I started actually speaking Cantonese (rather than just listening and replying in Mandarin). I assume that many do the same with English, and, in certain areas, it's not necessarily true that one would have to speak Cantonese at all (unless one wished to).

    (I should note that I have friends from an unnamed East Asian island of disputed sovereignty who've been here much longer than me, live in an area that is predominately Cantonese-friendly, yet have completely resisted learning to speak Cantonese and instead speak only Mandarin, sometimes doing so quite rudely. So it's not just English speakers....)

  3. #13

    Join Date
    Aug 2009

    A key question in my mind is how foreign chinese (who don't speak mandarin or cantonese) find life! (and associated awkwardness?)

    niossap likes this.

  4. #14

    Join Date
    Mar 2010

    it depends on their cultural background.
    If they can not speak Cantonese or Mandarin but can read and write the characters then it's still very convenient here. Like it is somewhat convenient for Japanese people here.
    If their mother tongue is Hakka, it's also very convenient as you can guess many Cantonese words.
    So what's your definition of foreign Chinese ?
    Can't speak, read and write any Chinese dialect ?
    Then he is just like any other foreigner.

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