We use cookies to give you the best possible experience on our site. Click here to find out more. Allow cookies

arrow Register here

Forgotten password?


  The Chatter Box : Travel
Chinese Dilemma - Language by Lucky on 16 April 2006 11:55am
Hi All,

Iam planning my first trip to China, and I'm torn as to which language I should learn. I hae ample opportunity to learn te basics of at least one language but which?? Mandarin or Cantonese???

I know that part of my plans are to spend time in the south of china - Hong Kong, Tibet etc...But also hope to spend and equal amount of time in the north.

Is Mandarin spoken in the south to the extent that I should be able to get by?

Any advice will be greatly appreciated

Re: Chinese Dilemma - Language by tim96 on 16 April 2006 5:36pm
i would suggest learning mandarin as its the most widely spoken and cantonese won't get you very far in away from the south, you get probably just about get by with english in hong kong.

i would also reccomend learing some basic written chinese as it is universal acorss the country, its what got me through china.

good luck with it

Re: Chinese Dilemma - Language by julwis on 16 April 2006 6:39pm
Definitely stick to Mandarin!
Mandarin does have an anglicised approximation called pinyin, which allows us westerners to have a go at promouncing the sounds right. Mandarin as has been mentioned is spoken almost everywhere, regional dialects notwithstanding, and only has 4 tones (5 if you count the absence of a tone as a tone)to get to grips with; Cantonese has 7!
As for the characters, thats an interesting point, there are two forms of characters used; simplified and traditional. Traditional characters, which are obvious because they have a large number of strokes per character are used in Taiwan and Hong Kong, however simplified characters are used on the mainland. Mao introduced simplified character after 1949 to make Chinese easier for the masses.
So the additional problem arises of matching the characters used to the region;
Mainland - Mandarin and simplified characters
Hong Kong - Cantonese (though mandarin is on the rise) with traditional characters
Taiwan - Mandarin with traditional characters.

Having said this, if you understand traditional characters, then you can generally guess the simplified form when you see it. In quite a few cases though the traditional and simplified characters are exactly the same. Bei Jing for example is written the same way in either character format.
Re: Chinese Dilemma - Language by tucsonmike on 16 April 2006 6:40pm
All Chinese have to learn Mandarin in school no matter what their "other" language is. Trust me, concentrate on getting the tones right in Mandarin when you speak. Yes, and Tim is right. Learn some basic characters. You will pick some up for bus routes and food types for example. If you are a visual person, you will become accustomed to seeing certain characters (called zi in Mandarin) all the time.
Re: Chinese Dilemma - Language by julwis on 16 April 2006 7:10pm
I should point out that youre not likely to see pinyin on any signs in China, however you will see it in phrase books etc
Re: Chinese Dilemma - Language by arty_farty on 18 April 2006 12:34pm
left handers can't write in Mandarin Chinese.
are you a leftie?
Re: Chinese Dilemma - Language by tucsonmike on 18 April 2006 2:33pm
Arty? You are back. Where did you get that? LOL!
Re: Chinese Dilemma - Language by julwis on 19 April 2006 12:53pm
Thats an interesting observation arty, Ive not heard that before, but I know a fair few Chinese who are left handed. Even if I didnt know them Id have said that due to left handed people displaying considerable artistic talent, and the fact that Chinese is a language that lends itself to one being more imaginative than say a Western language, then Id have said the opposite was true.
I say this last bit because I read an article in a journal recently that suggested the problems associated with Westerners learning Asian languages and Asians learning a Western language was due to the proportions of each side of the brain needed. In tests, native Western speakers showed almost exclusively activity on the cranial hemisphere assoicated with logic and analytical thinking; native Asian language speakers showed activity in both hemispheres, both logical and creative side. Obviously this is only speculation but it was suggested that Asian language speakers utilised a greater artistic input in constructing their speech than Westerners. This is fairly easy to understand when you try to learn Chinese and have to learn to differentiate the tones.
Re: Chinese Dilemma - Language by arty_farty on 25 April 2006 12:14pm
i cant remember where i read it but i think its true.
Re: Chinese Dilemma - Language by montyfreak0234 on 29 April 2006 12:47am
Learn Mandarin it is the most common throught the country and the one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. (I belive)

  Reply to this post:
  Register here


Select a discussion theme.
Register (or log in if you have not yet done so).

To start a new discussion topic:

Write the name of the topic in the 'Subject' box.
Type your message in the larger box to contribute.
Click 'Submit'.

To join a discussion topic:

Click on the discussion topic of your choice.
Type your message in the larger box to contribute.
Click 'Submit'.

To edit your message:

You can edit a message at any time after posting it as long as you're signed in.
Click on the 'Edit your message' link above the message.
Make your desired changes.
Click 'Submit'.

If you find you don't want to change the message after all, click on 'Return without changes'.

To set a chatmark:

Register (or log in if you have not yet done so).
Click on the "Set chatmark" link on the Chatter Box pages. This will set the time at which you have logged in.
Click on the "Go to chatmark" link to see all messages posted since you set your chatmark.

You can set your chatmark at any time and as often as you like.