I need some info

Discussions on the Cantonese language.

I need some info

Post by Bernard »

I'm looking for some information concerning why learning cantonese is a hard language to learn? Please reply asap thank you.

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Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:53 pm

Re: I need some info

Post by Helmut »

Yes, Cantonese is a bit difficult to learn.
Strictly seen from the point of view of a Westerner, and comparing the learning of easy to learn languages, e.g. Italian, then I see mainly the following reasons:
1. Vocabulary
a. Cantonese vocabulary is very different from that of European languages. (Also true for most languages in the world.)
b. Tones are important parts of Cantonese words, but unknown to the western learner. It needs time to learn to hear them. (True for all Chinese languages.)
c. Cantonese has a lot of words, which sound the same but have different meaning, even taking tones into account. (True for all Chinese languages.)
2. Writing
a. The writing in use, i.e. Chinese characters, is not phonetical. This deprives the adult learner to a large extent of the possibility to learn more words and language structure by simply reading some texts of interest. Reading a new word somewhere, knowing its pronounciation from reading and understanding it from the context, all at once, is an important means of advanced language acquisition, but blocked for Cantonese. (True for all Chinese languages, including Mandarin.)
b. If you want to learn writing and reading, you have to learn Chinese characters, which are not phonetically related to the spoken language. It thus amounts practically to learning an additional language, i.e. additional work. (True for all Chinese languages.)
c. Cantonese do not write in Cantonese. Even though they pronounce in Cantonese what they write, it has usually the vocabulary and the grammar of standard Chinese, i.e. essentially Mandarin. It is hard to find a written text that one could clearly define as written in Cantonese. (True for all Chinese languages except Mandarin.)
3. Facilities
The amount of available courses and other learning material is pretty limited if compared to what is available for major European languages or Mandarin Chinese. This is especially true if one wishes to go beyond the beginner's stage. E.g. I found up to now only one reasonable Cantonese grammar book. (But it is still much better than for most other Chinese languages.)