Vergleich der Kantonesisch und Hochchinesisch

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Copyright © 2008 Andrew WhiteCreated: 20 Oct 2008
Page authored by Andrew WhiteUpdated: 08 Nov 2012

Vergleich der Kantonesisch und Hochchinesisch Chinese Dialects - Which is more difficult, Comparison of Hochchinesisch and Kantonesisch, Kantonesisch, Hochchinesisch, compare, language comparison, dialect comparison, Kantonesisch versus Hochchinesisch, Hochchinesisch versus Kantonesisch, vs, which is more difficult, Hochchinesisch is easier than Kantonesisch, Kantonesisch is harder than Hochchinesisch, Kantonesisch is more difficult than Hochchinesisch, differences between Hochchinesisch and Kantonesisch, differences between Kantonesisch and Hochchinesisch, language difficulty, 學中文, 学中文, 學廣東話, 学广东话, 學粵語, 学粤语, 學普通話, 学普通话, 比较, 难, 简单 A Comparison of Kantonesisch and Hochchinesisch from a Native English Speaker’s Point of View Written by Andrew White, November 2006, updated January 2009. What are the differences between Hochchinesisch and Kantonesisch? Which is more difficult, Kantonesisch or Hochchinesisch, and why? My Background: I’ve studied both Kantonesisch and Hochchinesisch for 200 hours each at TAFE NSW in Sydney, Australien. I’ve also lived in China on and off for 2 years. I speak everyday Kantonesisch and Hochchinesisch at a conversational level, but my vocabulary is not yet large enough to be able watch TV and understand it fully. By “conversational level” I mean that I can do the following things without using any English at all: go shopping for food or clothes, buy tickets and catch buses/taxis/train/planes, apply for a visa, watch TV and understand most of a children’s program, understand some but not all phrases in TV commercials, understand most weather forecasts on TV or radio, talk with friends or strangers on the phone or face-to-face about most non-technical topics. I estimate that I know over 1000 spoken words (in each dialect), and around 500 characters (including some Kantonesisch-specific ones) but these numbers could actually be much larger since it’s very difficult to accurately estimate such things. Some characters I know the meaning of, but cannot remember or have never learned how to pronounce them. Others I can pronounce but do not know the meaning. Out of the 500 characters I can read, I can probably write about 300 of them. It’s much easier to recognize a character than it is to remember how to write it! I guess that I’d need at least another 3 years of continuous exposure to Chinese in order to get to a point where I’d be able to understand most TV shows. It might need another 5 years after that before I consider myself fluent. Motivating oneself to learn such a complex language is not easy, so I rarely study. Instead, I just learn by absorption, i.e. by talking to people and using a dictionary. This document is for those people interested in studying or analyzing the Hochchinesisch and Kantonesisch dialects of Chinese. Colours: I’ve coloured each section as either green meaning ‘easier’, red meaning ‘harder’, or orange meaning ‘similarly difficult’. Note that the word ‘easier’ does not mean ‘easy’! Notes: The system of Kantonesisch romanization used in this document is that of Sidney Lau. All comments are written with respect to a native English-speaking learner. If your first language is not English, then some Chinese sounds may be more familiar to you, and Chinese sounds which are familiar to an English speaker may be completely unfamiliar to you. Factor Kantonesisch Hochchinesisch Speaking (Difficulty of tones) There are 7 tones, but one of them is very rarely used. Because there are so many tones, they are extremely important in pronunciation. The most commonly cited example is the words for buy and sell which have the same pronunciation except for the tone, i.e. maai5 and maai6. There are between 4 and 6 tones depending on how you want to count them. Because there are fewer tones than in Kantonesisch, they are less important in pronunciation but nevertheless in some situations they are absolutely essential to convey the correct meaning. The most commonly cited example is the words for buy and sell which have the same pronunciation except for the tone, i.e. mǎi and mài. Speaking (Difficultly of phonemes) There are 19 initials and 51 finals that form approximately 590 sounds in modern Kantonesisch. The most difficult sounds for a native English speaker are the short and long vowel pairs ai/aai, au/aau; the sounds iu, ooi, oon, ui, ut, ue; and the initial sound ng. There are 24 initials and 33 finals that form approximately 420 sounds in modern Hochchinesisch. The most difficult sounds for a native English speaker are the initials z and c; the vowel ü, and the multi-vowels ia, ie, iao, iu/iou, io, ua, uo, uai, ui, and üe. Speaking (Consistency of tones) A Kantonesisch word does not change tone depending on the word preceding it, or following it, in a sentence. Kantonesisch words sometimes change tone because they change meaning but this is nothing special since all languages including Hochchinesisch do this. Hochchinesisch words in the 3rd tone change to the 2nd tone when followed by a word in the 3rd tone. Some other Hochchinesisch words, such as yī meaning one, and bù meaning not, change tone in a sentence depending on the tone of the word which follows them. These tone changes make speaking tonally-accurate sentences very difficult. These tonal changes are often omitted in the romanization of Hochchinesisch in textbooks. Listening (Distinctiveness of tones) Kantonesisch tones are extremely difficult to distinguish for non-native speakers (even for those born in non-Kantonesisch parts of China). The words for buy and sell are so close that even native speakers mishear them. Hochchinesisch tones are more distinct and easier to hear than Kantonesisch tones, but in regular-speed speech they are also difficult for an English speaker to distinguish. Listening (Distinctiveness of phonemes) Kantonesisch sounds are generally more distinct than Hochchinesisch sounds in regular-speed speech, but there are sounds which are difficult to distinguish for learners, e.g. oi/ui, ok/uk, ai/aai, and au/aau. Hochchinesisch sounds are not as distinct as Kantonesisch sounds. Hochchinesisch has many aspirated consonants which sound similar in regular-speed speech (just like English). Some vowels sound similar to others. Multi-vowel words often have a vowel omitted in regular-speed speech. Listening (Consistency of speakers) One source of confusion is that some speakers omit an initial ng, whereas other speakers add an initial ng to some words starting with a vowel. e.g. The most common pronunciation of I/me is ngoh5 but some people say oh5. The word duck is pronounced aap3* but many people say ngaap3*. Another is that many people say l instead of n (but only in some words), and they say n instead of l (but only in some words). e.g. The word you is pronounced nei5 but many people say lei5. Another is that many people say g instead of gw. e.g. The word country is pronounced gwok3 but many people say gok3. Also, a very small number of words in regular speech are pronounced with a vowel sound omitted, e.g. gam3 is often pronounced g’m3, just as in English running is pronounced runn’n’ in fast or lazy speech. These variations rarely if ever lead to ambiguous meaning. Hochchinesisch is a language that mainland Chinese are forced to learn by the government in order for the country to function in an efficient and unified manner, but most people speak their own province’s or town’s local dialect as their first language. As a result the vast majority of native Chinese speakers don’t speak “standard” Hochchinesisch. The most common mis-pronunciations are saying s instead of sh, z instead of zh, fu instead of hu, and i instead of ü, but there are more than 20 others. The vast number of possible mispronunciations can make it quite difficult for the listener. Reading (Formal) Formal written Kantonesisch is the same as formal written Hochchinesisch except that full-form characters are used. Full-form characters often give a clue to the pronunciation or meaning of a word. Formal written Kantonesisch is totally different from spoken Kantonesisch so this makes it almost like a separate language. Formal written Hochchinesisch is the same as Formal written Kantonesisch except that simplified characters are used (except in Taiwan). Simplified characters have sometimes lost the clue(s) to the pronunciation or meaning of a word. Some simplified characters have multiple pronunciations since multiple full-form characters were simplified to the same form. Reading (Vernacular) Vernacular Kantonesisch is almost a language in itself. In fact, many people refer to spoken Kantonesisch as being “Kantonesisch”, and to written Kantonesisch as “Hochchinesisch”, but it is actually possible to write down spoken Kantonesisch. Kantonesisch comic books are good place to see this. The special Kantonesisch-only characters, of which there are hundreds, are often not recognizable or pronounceable by people who haven’t studied Kantonesisch (even for those born in non-Kantonesisch parts of China). Vernacular written Hochchinesisch is very similar to formal written Hochchinesisch. Reading vernacular written Hochchinesisch is not particularly difficult. Writing (Formal) Kantonesisch in Hong Kong is written using full-form characters. Full-form characters are notoriously difficult to write, hence the reason the mainland Chinese government undertook a program of character simplification in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 80’s in an attempt to improve literacy. Kantonesisch in mainland China is often written using simplified characters. Formal written Hochchinesisch is the same as formal written Kantonesisch except that simplified characters are used for Hochchinesisch (except in Taiwan). Writing (Vernacular) Vernacular Kantonesisch characters are very difficult to write since they are rarely taught in school. Native speakers learn them by reading comic books and other vernacular publications. Vernacular written Hochchinesisch is very similar to formal written Hochchinesisch. Writing vernacular Hochchinesisch is not particularly difficult. Grammar Some parts of Kantonesisch grammar are similar to English but most are totally different. It’s not easy to say which grammar is more or less similar to English. Kantonesisch and Hochchinesisch grammar differ slightly. Some parts of Hochchinesisch grammar are similar to English but most are totally different. It’s not easy to say which grammar is more or less similar to English. Hochchinesisch and Kantonesisch grammar differ slightly. Romanizations Many romanizations exist for Kantonesisch. Over the last 200 or so years, various scholars have come up with newer and better ones as the understanding of world language phonetics has progressed. One of the best and most internally-consistent romanizations is that of Sidney Lau (which itself was based on other romanizations). The system has only 1 internal inconsistency which is so minor that you may not even be able to work out what it is! The pronunciation of letters in Sidney Lau’s system is similar to English, so it’s not that difficult to learn. Many other systems use silent letters to denote tones. They do this solely for the reason that before the advent of the computer age, it was very difficult to put tone marks into publications. This money-saving and labour-saving decision has created a glut of horrible Kantonesisch romanization systems which are extremely difficult to read and write. Sidney Lau’s system uses number-superscripts to denote tones. The Martha Lam / Stanley Po system is identical to Sidney Lau’s except that it uses diacritics to denote tones. Both these romanization systems are excellent. Hochchinesisch in mainland China is Romanized using PinYin (which literally means “pieces of sound”). Taiwan uses its own system called BoPoMoFo which does not use the Roman alphabet. Taiwan has recently started moving over to using and teaching PinYin because of its ease-of-use on modern English computer keyboards. The PinYin system has been almost universally adopted worldwide in teaching Hochchinesisch. The pronunciation of some letters in PinYin is nothing like English, e.g. q, x, z, and c, plus the PinYin system itself has many inconsistencies which make it very difficult to learn and use. For example, the letter y is used to represent the sound yi, thus the word yie is actually always written as ye, whereas other words containing the same ie sound have the ie written in full, e.g. bie. Another inconsistency is that the sound ü has the umlaut omitted in words starting with j, q, or x, but retains it in words starting with l or n. There are many other inconsistencies but I won’t list them all here. These inconsistencies make learning, reading, and correctly pronouncing PinYin words very difficult. Conclusion: Both Kantonesisch and Hochchinesisch are extremely difficult to learn for a native English speaker. Tones are almost an alien concept to English speakers, and tones are the most difficult part of learning to speak a Chinese dialect. Written Chinese is also an alien concept to native English speakers since it does not involve an alphabet. Writing Chinese is much harder than speaking it. In terms of which dialect is more difficult overall, even if the student chooses not to learn to read or write Chinese, Kantonesisch is still slightly more difficult to learn due to it having more tones than Hochchinesisch and no standard Romanisation system. Thanks for reading, and good luck learning Chinese!