Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Random Tuesday Facts - let's pretend it's stll Tuesday

This time, I thought we'd check out some actual language. :) So many people have asked me about the Cantonese-Mandarin distinction recently, that I thought I'd share a little here:

Mandarin and Cantonese are not two separate languages. They're both dialects of Chinese. In fact, there are many (I'm not sure of the exact number) Chinese dialects, most of which sound so different from each other that you'd not know they were from the same language. It's not at all like a Southern accent is different from a North-Eastern accent in the United States, where "twang" aside, it pretty much sounds the same (no southen accent jokes, please!).

"Simplified characters" notwithstanding, written Chinese is the same for all Chinese people, no matter where they live, so that even if you spoke an entirely different dialect than the region you're visiting, if you can read Chinese characters, you can essentially communicate with any other literate Chinese person by writing.

And what's in a word? Would a word by any other name smell as...confusing??
Cartoon by the brilliant Sidney Harris in the book You Want Proof? I'll Give You Proof!

"He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home." ~ Johann von Goethe

11 comments:

Amy Ellen said...

very interesting. glad i stopped in today!

The Blonde Duck said...

I love the cartoon!

Michelle said...

That is so interesting. I wonder if it's anything like the different writing styles in Japanese? Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji. Why do there have to be so many! I went to Japanese school and it just confused me so!

Ryan@Cool Dad Central said...

Can I pretend it's Friday instead?

Teresa R said...

Thanks, Amy Ellen! :)

Blonde Duck, I am a huge fan of Harris' cartoons!

Michelle, not really, because dialects are different from the different forms of Japanese writing (from what I know - one of my best friends is Japanese American - one of the forms is all Chinese characters, another form is pretty much a pronunciation "alphabet", and I can't remember what the third form was...). But both languages are very difficult, that's for sure...LOL!

Ryan, oh yeah - I hear ya! I'll pretend with you. ;)

Carrie said...

And here I thought Mandarin & Cantonese were just food. hehe

Allison said...

Wow, talk about learning something new every day! You taught me about the difference between Mandarin and Cantonese AND how to identify a Carolina Wren!

Firefly mom said...

You know what I'd *really* like to know? How accurate were the pronunciations in Firefly? ;D

Oh, you *knew* I'd be the one to ask that question!

Teri said...

Isn't an elliptical that machine that makes me sweat a lot at the gym? :-)

Minka said...

I have just nominated you to receive the “When Life Gives You Lemons” blog award. Stop at my blog for a moment and claim it.

Maureensk said...

Ni hao! (I hope I spelled that correctly - actually I hope I got the correct phrase also) One of the moms at our homeschooling ALE is going to offer Chinese next year (I assume Mandarin). I am trying to get my son (10) to take it, but he is obsessed with all things Japanese. He does samurai sword fighting for exercise, loves anime and manga, plans to move to Tokyo, etc. My friend said that 1 out of every 4 people in the world speak Chinese! I studied it with my older kids for a while, several years ago and my accent was sooooo bad. I always prided myself on my accent for German, Spanish, and Latin, but Chinese was egad bad! Anyways, in one way Chinese is important here as there are so many Chinese immigrants in Seattle. In another way, not so much, because people from China always seem to speak English well. Better than we speak Chinese anyway.