Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Chinese, Taishanese, Fujianese... er... Hakka and Chiu Jow?

A friend of mind mentioned listening to little kids at the playground at the Chinatown Gate and how all the little kids spoke so many dialects fluently and even flowed from one to the other seamlessly...so obviously they all had a knack for languages... and yet very few of them spoke English that well, either because they haven't been exposed to it that much or who knows.

A lot of Chinese parents told me I should only be speaking Chinese to my kids. "You don't have to be afraid that they won't speak English!"

But I don't know, I had trouble with Noah. Maybe I'll start trying again, to speak to them with a book. With a prop it is easier for me. Otherwise I have no idea what to say.

But having taught Kung Fu to kids. I noticed a similar phenomenon. These kids couldn't speak English.. but they could speak Cantonese Taishanese and Hakka, because of their neighbors.

It's an interesting relationship that Chinese Americans and non Chinese Americans, have with the Chinese languages.

Usually when I see something trending on the internet about Asian languages, it will be about how annoyed Asian Americans are that people assume that because they speak one Asian language, that they can understand others. This probably comes from two places. A) That many Asian countries used to use the Han language. In Japanese it's the Kanji, and I don't know what they called in Korea. To do a cross reference to a European equivalent... or Dah wang gong.. which Chinese people hate... Han language could be compared to Latin.

B) using this same reference... if you know Latin you can get the gyst of many Romance languages. That IS true in Europe. That is NOT true of the say Mandarin or ancient Chinese or whatever in Asia.

Interestingly, I heard these Chinese kids and old people talking about how great Latin was because English and other European languages are Latin. For the record, English is a Germanic Language. It has a Latin vocabulary because of the French going up in there. Okay I'm off topic but the conversation was with the girl at the BCNC desk and some old Pau Pau's so it's a Chinese perception of Europe that's why it's on this blog.


But getting back to learning a ton of Chinese langauges, Americans often think they are just dialects.. as in nt real languages. It's actually Chinese people's fault because they keep saying this too. And they will say how the real writing is Mandarin etc. that the writing is the same.... but there are actually Cantonese ways of writing. For instance you can write "Tai" to see. Some restaurant guy I shared a bed with at Moh Goon showed me after coming across my copy of the Three Kingdoms with one page in English and the opposing page in "Real" Chinese. Simplified Chinese mind you. I think it was the word for Eye and Little brother "dai" put together. In other words if you came across this character and you knew Cantonese and you knew the two radicals... you could infer that it was "Tai"  He then crossed it out saying I should learn such garbage. It wasn't "orthodox" It wasn't Jing Jong Chinese. But I guess a lt of the Magazines and pulp fiction type stuff he read was with these sort of characters. This is actually the type of thing that Americans love. Slang, unorthodox, counter culture. And yet we've been going around not knowing about it. I bet a lot of Americans would take an interest in learning this stuff even more so than Mandarin. Not for use... just for kicks because it's cool.

I mean most people that learn Chinese don't really NEED Chinese.


I'll revisit this topic again I think in my next post as well.

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