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Mandarin

This tag is associated with 5 posts

China, Hong Kong and Cantonese: Dialect dialectic


What I’ve learned from conversations with bloggers and others who are Chinese language speakers, and therefore have a stake in this, is that even thoughtful Chinese people have unwittingly accepted very authoritarian definitions of language and dialect: only officially recognised languages are language, and everything else is dialect.  When one says Cantonese is not a … Continue reading

Do Hong Kongers speak a language?


“Cantonese is just a dialect, it’s not a language.” I’ve heard this meme many times since coming to Hong Kong four years ago. They always say it as if it’s some sort of linguistic fact. My interest here is in the ability of this meme to spread, not in its truth. But given how much … Continue reading

Getting China’s Tower of Babel on record


Michael Wu, 20, a student at Peking University, grew up in Shanghai. But when he wants to talk to his cousins in Hainan, he needs to bring his mother along to interpret the conversation. The cousins in Hainan speak two kinds of Hainan dialect. “I actually cannot understand either of them,” Wu says. “It’s actually … Continue reading

Cambodians flock to learn Mandarin


Seventeen-year-old Muth Sovannara is not like most Cambodian teenagers. For starters, he speaks three languages – his native Khmer, the English he spent most of his life studying, and, for three years now, Mandarin. Each weekday, he wakes early to get to his high school at 7am. After four hours of lessons in Khmer, the … Continue reading

Is English or Mandarin the language of the future?


The assumption that Mandarin will grow with China’s economic rise may be flawed. Consider Japan which, after spectacular post-war economic growth, became the world’s second-biggest economy. The Japanese language saw no comparable rise in power and prestige. The same may prove true of Mandarin. The character-based writing system requires years of hard work for even … Continue reading

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