User Comments - simonpettersson

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Posted on: Teaching English in China
September 13, 2010, 07:08 AM

I wonder if that comes from Cantonese? In Cantonese, "水" is often used to mean "money", as in "有水", "to be rich" or "水緊", "to be low on cash".

Posted on: You've been everywhere!
September 10, 2010, 01:42 AM

Hehe, Boda, I can tell you're in the north. Down here, probably half of them wouldn't know the pinyin, let alone the tone. In fact, people get very impressed when they find out I know pinyin. "Wow, not only can he read the characters, he even knows pinyin!"

Posted on: Reinstalling Windows
September 06, 2010, 02:21 PM

It's rarely the case even with a regular Windows installation. Usually you need a Mac for that.

… yea, I know, sorry.

Posted on: Asking about What to Wear
September 03, 2010, 01:53 AM

I have seen several modern Chinese men in traditional dress, but yeah, always in kung fu circles (in many ways the last refuge of traditional Chinese culture).

Posted on: You've been everywhere!
September 02, 2010, 06:59 AM

"I'm curious why wealthy Cantonese speakers don't just pony up the money to subsidize Cantonese schools."

Well, chances are they became wealthy by using Mandarin and English. Amongst many Chinese "发财" is the most important and Mandarin is the vehicle to do it. Thus they abandon their mother tongue. People who have already made it big are more likely than others to reason like this, I suspect. And I'm not sure if it's even legal to have a school that uses Cantonese as a teaching language.

In general, Cantonese has, apart from amongst the few enthusiastic supporters, a very low status. Even in Hong Kong, proper Cantonese grammar is not taught, and Cantonese writing, though it flourishes on the web, is looked down on by most. As far as I'm aware, there's a single Cantonese 词典 in existence, and it's created by foreigners on the web as a community project. Apart from comic books, there seem to be no books published in Cantonese. Even most Cantonese songs are actually written in Mandarin and just pronounced in Cantonese.

Posted on: You've been everywhere!
September 01, 2010, 02:22 PM

Just to complement the post. "Language Death" on Wikipedia:

"The most common process leading to language death is one in which a community of speakers of one language becomes bilingual in another language, and gradually shifts allegiance to the second language until they cease to use their original (or heritage) language. This is a process of assimilation which may be voluntary or may be forced upon a population. Speakers of some languages, particularly regional or minority languages, may decide to abandon them based on economic or utilitarian grounds, in favour of languages regarded as having greater utility or prestige."

Ring a bell?

Posted on: You've been everywhere!
September 01, 2010, 02:17 PM

In general, languages die all the time. Every year a number of languages go extinct. Preservation efforts are made by many Western governments who in the past acted much like the Chinese or even Singaporean* governments do now. Hell, even Sweden tried to stamp out dialects as little as a hundred years ago. Hopefully China will come around and realize the linguistic diversity within its borders is a treasure, not a problem.

Then again, preservation efforts are in general pretty useless. What one can work actively for is usually to document the language before it goes extinct. The few preservation efforts that have succeeded have been closely coupled with strong identity politics, like Irish and Hebrew (which wasn't even preserved, but revived). In fact, my hope for Cantonese lies in the Chinese government's attempts to stamp it out triggering a backlash amongst the Kongers. There have been some action down here of late when the government suggested switching the Guangzhou TV channel from Cantonese to Mandarin. Protests broke out with demonstrators waving signs of "Down with Mandarin" and even "(have intercourse with) Mandarin". Especially in Hong Kong the Cantonese identity is pretty strong and many people still say "I'm not Chinese, I'm Hong Kongese!". I'm afraid the fate will be worse for dialects like Shanghainese. The biggest threat is probably the great influx of people moving to cities like Shanghai and Guangzhou and not bothering to learn the local language.

That's my rant for today. Cantonese learners have to say things like this once in a while. Ask anyone.

* The Singapore government is actively trying to eradicate all non-Mandarin Chinese dialects. Broadcasting in Cantonese, Hakka, Toishanese &c. is illegal and DVDs from Hong Kong have to be dubbed to Mandarin and stripped of their original audio to be legally sold. Of course, the same happens in China, but it's still legal, if discouraged, to sell Cantonese DVDs here.

Posted on: You've been everywhere!
September 01, 2010, 12:44 PM

I wonder if the inhabitants know that? I know a guy from up there; I'll ask him. Last I heard, Manchu had eight now living native speakers, all elderly. Pretty bleak for a language that was the official court language of one of the largest countries in the world just a century ago. Mandarin had the power already then to wipe out "competing" languages, and back then the government was trying to promote Manchu. Makes you wonder how long the 方言s are gonna hold out.

Posted on: You've been everywhere!
September 01, 2010, 08:33 AM

I'm guessing … it's a transliteration? After all, there are many languages in China besides Mandarin, especially close to the borders. And even more so when you look back in time to whenever the place was founded.

Posted on: 4S Dealership
August 26, 2010, 02:00 PM

It depends on how you count words. If you include all the scientific terms, some estimate English has a million words, of which Greek and Latin probably account for 90% (just a number I grabbed out of thin air). Most people don't count all of these when talking about English words, but since it's hard to draw a clear line, you'll end up with different sizes of the English vocabulary and thus different percentages of words of French origin.