let's talk 方言
I'm interested in the differents dialects/languages of China. You guys living in places with a non-Mandarin 方言, are you studying it? Why/why not? What are some interesting differences from Mandarin?
Also, what are your thoughts of the future of the language? Do you think it will disappear, replaced by Mandarin?
zhongeSeptember 03, 2010, 01:40 PM
I live in Guiyang. The local dialect here is fairly different from standard 普通话 but not nearly as far removed as say 福州话, 上海话 or cantonese. I'm not studying it exactly but I often encourage my friends not to worry about switching to mandarin to talk with me to help improve my comprehension of the dialect. I've been here a year and half so my understanding of it is pretty OK now, but I can't really speak it. There are, however, a few things I know how to say in the dialect that i'm not sure how to say in mandarin!
In terms of it disappearing... Not in the near term I would think. Its more likely that the gap will get smaller between standard and local language. You can observe it pretty easily - old people are a nightmare to understand whereas young people I can follow pretty easily. They're more likely to use mandarin terms with the (strong) Guiyang accent. An interesting parallel exists in England (where I'm from) - if you grew up in Liverpool and spoke the Queen's english you'd get beaten up at school. Likewise here (if they're true 贵阳人) kids who speak standard chinese are thought of as a little stuck up or something.
贵阳话 seems to be something Chinese 外地人 can adjust to pretty quickly... So they generally just do what I do, ie. reply to 贵阳话 in 普通话 and get along fine that way.
千翻 (pronounced more or less the same as Mandarin) means fussy or annoying or sometimes clumsy/stupid.
崴wai3 (not sure how it would be written in 汉字) means naff or cheesy
(ka ka) gor gor all in like a flat low tone means a place that's a bit hidden away/ hard to find for example if accessed by an alley and not a proper road
simonpetterssonSeptember 03, 2010, 01:41 PM
Interesting question, Simon! I'm currently living in Foshan, Guangdong and studying Cantonese. I feel like it's impossible to really get into the culture and the social life here without knowing Cantonese. I recently started studying it and it's opening up a whole new world to me.
Here are some cool examples of Cantonese differing from Mandarin:
C: 佢高過你 (keoi5 gou1 gwo3 nei5)
C: 畀嘢我 (bei2 je5 ngo5)
C: 我食慣中餐 (ngo5 sik6 gwaan3 zung1 caai1)
Due to Cantonese having preserved more of the sounds and more tones than Mandarin, it is often more concise, being able to express the same sentiment in fewer syllables. It is overflowing with colorful slang expressions and it has a written form, which is mostly used in magazines, comics and online. Since the language is completely unregulated, however, there are no dictionaries published and often many spelling conventions exist side by side. Sometimes people even use latin letters to write things, especially in the PRC where people often cannot write trads, and simps simply don't have these characters, since the simplified character set was developed for Mandarin. I've seen "而家" (ji4 gaa1) (now) written as "依家" and even "E+".
As to the future of the language, well, I recently ranted about that in another thread, so unless people really want to discuss it, I'll keep quiet here.
bweedinSeptember 04, 2010, 10:34 PM
In Zhejiang province 溫州話 is so far removed from Mandarin, that any 外地人 does not understand it, even after being there for years. and by 外地人, I mean someone 100km away. Even though I was in Wenzhou for about five months, I only understand very few words, and not even all the numbers. Only 美國，外國, 三輪車，楊梅，mmm and one extreme example, which I actually saw on youtube of some guy trying to teach 溫州話 where the pronunciation of 安全 is yu(low flat tone)yu(mid flat tone)
They also have a very pronounced strong z sound, like an English "z" or at least that's what it sounds like to me.
also for spoon they say 調羹 which, like Cantonese preserves some aspects of ancient Chinese. They don't distinguish between 兩 and 二，it's always 兩。
I do know how to say one swear word in the local dialect, which I learned by accident. My friend told me in English, "I'm 準備-ing right now" which was our stupid joke to use English grammar with Chinese words. Anyway, it turns out the pronunciation of "準備ing" sounds like a swear word in 溫州話 meaning to fornicate. My boss told me this. I thought, maybe since he's around foreigners, he could hear it from my non-standard pronunciation, but I tested it out by saying to people I had just met who have no exposure, or interest in learning English, and the looks on their faces told me that they understood. lol
Interesting. Are there any public expressions of it? Like radio, television, a written form even, perhaps? You say that the 外地人 don't understand it, even after years? It seems the general attitude is that nobody who comes there bothers to learn the local language, is that correct? How much is Mandarin heard on the streets as compared to 溫州話?
Usually if someone is yelling out 三轮车, 组出车 or 杨梅五块， 等等 they will usually say it in Mandarin，if they can speak Mandarin. There was this one lady who was selling something and she said 五块 with “五” in Mandarin and "块” in 温州话。It sounded funny.
Other than for such advertising purposes, meetings, school, usually people in their late-twenties and older will speak in 温州话 in most conversations I heard on the street, at the market, on the bus, and wherever。The people in their late teens to mid-twenties will usually mix it up in varying combination of 温州话 and Mandarin. some speak like half and half, and others maybe 20% Mandarin 80% 温州话，it all depends.
This one lady who was 35 got made fun of, because my Mandarin was more standard than her's. She seemed kind of upset, and started to try and defend herself in Mandarin, kind of stuttered a bit, stuck in words in 温州话 and then just laughed at herself.
I will tell you this, though. I DEFINITELY heard way more 温州话 in Wenzhou than I heard 上海话 in 上海, but I think in Guangdong I heard way more Cantonese than I heard 温州话 in Wenzhou. The media probably has a lot to do with it, since in Guangdong even children speak the local dialect, which is not heard from the children in Wenzhou.
There is no kind of media that I know of, except for 温州话 opera. Old people don't even own a TV, because they wouldn't understand any of the Mandarin broadcasts.
The thing is that I met very few 外地人, and I think most have the intention to come to 温州, work and save money, and eventually go back to their hometown, so they don't really care so much to learn the local dialect. In my town where I lived 永嘉，which is a suburb of Wenzhou, I met one 外地人 from 昆明 who was married to a 本地人, and I think she could speak 温州话 。
I think in Wenzhou you speak Mandarin when first meeting someone, and then you speak 温州话 if they can speak it, except maybe in rural areas, and depending on the age of the speaker. In Guangdong, I think most people automatically speak Cantonese when first meeting people, no?
The kids do speak Cantonese in Foshan, but not to the same extent as the adults, who in turn speak it less than the elderly (who sometimes don't speak it at all). I'd say it's about 50-50 for the kids, 70-30 for the adults and 90-10 for the elderly. Which seems to indicate that the next generation will speak more Mandarin than Cantonese. Cantonese is generally considered the strongest of the fangyans and seeing the decline of it makes me wonder how the others are doing. Shanghainese seems pretty doomed, Shenzhenhua is already pretty much dead. I'm glad Wenzhouhua is holding out, but it seems it's also on the way out. I recently went to buy a DVD in the local store. Looking around, I couldn't find a single DVD with Cantonese audio. This included many many Hong Kong flicks, all of which had had their Cantonese audio stripped and replaced by a Mandarin dub. Of course there were also a lot of Hollywood movies, all of which had both English and Mandarin audio. This was in the big store with the classy, quality pirate DVDs. If I go to the night market, I can definitely find some Cantonese DVDs, but the quality of those discs is abysmal.
Another question: do people in Wenzhou seem to have any pride in their language? Or do they generally think "Mandarin is more useful" and want their kids to speak that?
There's someone at HTLAL polyglot forums asking about tips/resources on learning Wenzhouhua. Maybe you can give him some info, bweedin? If you don't want to register, you could write something here and I'll pass it on.
The only advice I can give him is that he has to go to Wenzhou, and learn from Mandarin to Wenzhouhua, because it will be extremely hard to find someone who can teach it in English. Also, he should have a good bank of Chinese characters under his belt, and learn to read them in Wenzhouhua, because there is no phonetic way to write it. I know some young people in Wenzhou that would love to teach him. Actually, the buses in Wenzhou city have automated announcements of the destinations in both Mandarin and Wenzhouhua. I don't know of any online resources. but as I don't even know how to say “你好” in Wenzhouhua, I'm not the best person to ask.
Well, my friend who is 37 years old speaks Wenzhouhua to his son, but his son answers him back in Mandarin. He doesn't have the whole language prestige thing ingrained in his head, unlike so many Chinese people. His lack of interest in English helped my Mandarin improve lol
I think they just kind of face reality that their kids don't speak the local dialect. Then they make fun of their kids' bad Wenzhouhua. but what happened to my ex-girlfriend who was born in Wenzhou but grew up in Yangzhou, when she tried to speak Wenzhouhua, they answered her in Mandarin.
There is also an interest in learning from people who were born in Wenzhou, but grew up somewhere, and then came back to Wenzhou as adults.
I think some do have pride in their dialect, though. When I told a rickshaw driver where I lived, he said that I said it too standard, that I should say it like . . . and then he said it in Wenzhouhua. One lady used to answer me in Wenzhouhua when telling me the prices, but I never bought more than 3 kuai worth of stuff from her. and when I said 美國 in Wenzhouhua while I was riding a bus, the entire back of the bus jumped back in their chairs. I did not get that kind of a shock when I spoke Cantonese in Guangdong.
I think if I had stayed there longer, I would have made some attempt to learn the local dialect, but I knew I was only gonna be there for 5 months. Plus, Cantonese is my fangyan of choice, as you said it's the strongest one. Since I currently live in the States, it's useful in Chinatown.
I plan to study in Taiwan, but I don't plan on learning 台語. who knows? I might change my mind once I'm there.
and as for your Cantonese learning, 加油 （It's up to you whether you read it the Cantonese, or the Mandarin way!)
and as for your Cantonese learning, 加油 （It's up to you whether you read it the Cantonese, or the Mandarin way!)
Hehe, I was recently reading a piece about Cantonese. Halfway through the sentence I realized it was written in Cantonese, not Mandarin, and I had to start over. It felt kinda weird.
bweedin in reply to bweedin
some things I HAVE to read in Cantonese, like 今日，客家，的士，巴士, and those other weird HK only Chinese words.
Everything else, I pretty much just read it in my head the Mandarin way.
It was interesting, though, because I met my friend's mom who left China 40 years ago and is now in her late 70s. She only speaks a little English, Cantonese, and 台山話, so when I had a gap in communication, I would write it down and she would read it out to me the Cantonese way. It was weird. It reminded me of this youtube video that I saw a long time ago of a student in Hong Kong reading in Chinese, but she read everything the Cantonese way. 對不起 （deoi bat hei) especially stuck out at me.