Can Cantonese and Mandarin Speakers Understand Each Other?

May 31, 2009 at 07:11 | Posted in China Business 中国商务, Language 语言 | 2 Comments
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Cantonese and Mandarin speakers can understand each other through standard written Chinese.  This is particularly true to Cantonese speaker. A Cantonese speaker can normally learn what a Mandarin speaker means when the speaker talks, and can further get a clearer understanding when the speaker writes in a standard Chinese. When Chinese is in standard written format, it is understandable to all Chinese people. Only spoken Chinese has difficulty in communication among different Chinese dialect groups because of the dialect diversities.

However, a Mandarin speaker may or may not understand the written document created by a Cantonese speaker when idiomatic characters are used. Cantonese-speaking communities, such as Hong Kong, have created words that match the pronunciations of the Cantonese dialect or are of unique expression. Under these circumstances, the written Chinese by a Cantonese speaker will not be understandable to a Mandarin speaker, or to other Chinese with other dialects.

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What are the Differences between Mandarin and Cantonese?

May 31, 2009 at 06:47 | Posted in China Business 中国商务, Language 语言 | Leave a comment
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The main differences between Mandarin and Cantonese are the pronunciations. For example, in Mandarin, the word for “look, see” is pronounced as kan, while it is tai in Cantonese. There are other differences in usage of words and grammar.

Mandarin and Cantonese share the same written language, Chinese. Standard written Chinese is understandable to all Chinese dialects. This is like the Americans and the British. Both can read English even though Americans and Brits have different dialects.

Mandarin and Cantonese both use “pinyin” to represent the pronunciation. “Pinyin” means “spelling the sound”. It is in the form of alphabet. For example, the pronunciation for the word “English”(“ 英语”) in pinyin is “yingyu”.

Why are there different Chinese, Simplified and Traditional?

May 31, 2009 at 06:29 | Posted in Language 语言, Translation 翻译 | Leave a comment
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Simplified and traditional Chinese nowadays refer to Chinese characters. Traditional Chinese characters are carried over from 3-thousand years of Chinese language history. Simplified Chinese characters reduce the amount of the strokes in most traditional Chinese characters.

For example, the word “tooth” in traditional Chinese requires 15 strokes: 齒, while it only needs 8 strokes in simplified Chinese: 齿. And the word “dragon” in traditional Chinese is formed by 16 strokes: 龍, while 5 strokes are enough in simplified Chinese: 龙.

Chinese started to simplify Chinese characters in the early 20th century to allow the ease of learning. The project was incomplete or delayed many times due to civil and world warfare until the early 1950s when the Mainland Chinese government formalized the simplified Chinese characters and implemented them as the national standard. As a result of the implementation, simplified Chinese characters prevail in Mainland China among its 1.3 billion population. Traditional Chinese characters are mostly used outside of Mainland China by the over 31 million people in Taiwan, Hong Kong and other overseas Chinese communities.

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