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Is Japanese THE MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE?

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Re: Is Japanese THE MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE?

Postby KanjiHanzi » Mon 01.12.2009 10:59 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
KanjiHanzi wrote:Nowhere do I find ANY support for your idea that WRITTEN Mandarin and WRITTEN Cantonese are two entirely different languages.

Re-read what you yourself posted from Wikipedia. Cantonese speakers learn to read standard Chinese, which is essentially Mandarin.

I have read that enough. They do learn Mandarin? Yes, those living in mainland China do exactly that. Have I questioned that? But what about the rather large Cantonese population living elsewhere? Are they also more or less forced to study Mandarin? Were the citizens of Hong Kong in that situation before being returned to PRC? Can't they be discussed here?

wikipedia - again wrote:About 95% of Hong Kong's population is of Chinese descent, the majority of which is Cantonese or from ethnic groups such as Hakka and Teochew. The remaining 5% of the population is composed of non-ethnic Chinese forming a highly visible group despite their smaller numbers. A South Asian population of Sindhis, Indians, Pakistanis and Nepalese are found. Vietnamese refugees have become permanent residents of Hong Kong. There are also a number of Europeans, Americans, Australians, Canadians, Japanese, and Koreans working in Hong Kong's commercial and financial sector.

Hong Kong's de-facto official dialect is Cantonese, a Chinese language originating from Guangdong province to the north of Hong Kong, and is spoken by 95% of the population as a first language. English is also an official language, and according to a 1996 by-census is spoken by 3.1% of the population as an everyday language and by 34.9% of the population as a second language.[59] Signs displaying both Chinese and English are common throughout the territory. Since the 1997 handover, an increase in immigrants from mainland China and greater integration with the mainland economy have brought an increasing amount of Mandarin speakers to Hong Kong.

[ ..... ]

Hong Kong has two broadcast television stations, ATV and TVB. Cable and satellite services are also widespread. The production of Hong Kong's soap dramas, comedy series and variety shows have reached mass audiences throughout the Chinese-speaking world. Magazine and newspaper publishers in Hong Kong distribute and print in both Chinese and English, with a focus on sensationalism and celebrity gossip. The media is relatively free from government interference compared to that of mainland China, and newspapers are often divided along political lines of support or show skepticism towards the Chinese government in Beijing. Hong Kong is also one of three CNN International headquarters.


Yudan Taiteki wrote:Hong Kong newspapers are not written in Cantonese.


So what language are they published in? English? Mandarin? Official Chinese? With a population of 95% Cantonese speakers? Wouldn't it be utterly strange if there is not a single newspaper published in Cantonese? I never suggested that all newspapers in Hong Kong were published in Cantonese, but at least some. Why force a population to read "Mandarin", a language/dialect they are not totally happy with? I don't know. But will find out.
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Re: Is Japanese THE MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE?

Postby JaySee » Mon 01.12.2009 11:23 am

KanjiHanzi wrote:So what language are they published in? English? Mandarin? Official Chinese? With a population of 95% Cantonese speakers? Wouldn't it be utterly strange if there is not a single newspaper published in Cantonese? I never suggested that all newspapers in Hong Kong were published in Cantonese, but at least some. Why force a population to read "Mandarin", a language/dialect they are not totally happy with? I don't know. But will find out.


I think I already mentioned that China has a policy of marginalising differences (among other things) between the languages spoken there to present the country as a cultural and linguistic unity. This is why the government unrightfully calls these languages dialects, and it is also the reason why all Chinese have to study Mandarin (i.e. the "standard language"). Having newspapers published in local "dialects" does not fit that policy.
Last edited by JaySee on Mon 01.12.2009 11:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is Japanese THE MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE?

Postby NocturnalOcean » Mon 01.12.2009 11:45 am

According to my Hong Kong friend, newspapers in Hong Kong(the ones written in Chinese, there are also many in English) are written in standard Chinese, which is the official written language all over China. And it is the written language closest to Mandarin.
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Re: Is Japanese THE MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE?

Postby katafei » Mon 01.12.2009 2:03 pm

Isn't it cute?
Image
BTW, did I post this in the right thread? Not sure. But I'm sure I don't mean what I seem to mean.
Or do I?
Don't remember now.....I'm getting all confused.
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Re: Is Japanese THE MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE?

Postby Dustin » Mon 01.12.2009 2:19 pm

katafei wrote:Isn't it cute?
Image
BTW, did I post this in the right thread? Not sure. But I'm sure I don't mean what I seem to mean.
Or do I?
Don't remember now.....I'm getting all confused.


Great way to lighten up this tense mood....

Seriously, you're hilarious :mrgreen:
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Re: Is Japanese THE MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE?

Postby jcdietz03 » Mon 01.12.2009 2:49 pm

Well, replying to the original topic, "What is the most difficult language":
Khatzumoto of http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/blog/about says: "That isn't a very important question." And I would tend to agree with him. For someone learning Japanese, a more important question is "how can I learn Japanese."

Some people such as Department of Defense and others mentioned in this thread need to know this information. For the average Japanese learner however, the question is irrelevant.
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Re: Is Japanese THE MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE?

Postby two_heads_talking » Mon 01.12.2009 3:11 pm

KanjiHanzi wrote:
Yudan Taiteki wrote:That quote from Wikipedia you posted *supports* what I'm saying, so I guess there's no more discussion.

You are free to stop "discussing" at any point. This is anyhow kind of off-topic. You didn't seem to be very interested in discussing the on-topic focus here: Is Japanese the most difficult language to learn (for English speaking individuals)? The thickness of a Japanese grammar book vs. the thickness of a Chinese grammar book might be interesting, but it isn't really the END of any discussion..


You are also free to admit you have no idea what you are talking about and that the other side of your backside doesn't know either. I'd say at this point we've beat this horse senseless, can we lock it up, so as to keep it civil?

KanjiHanzi wrote:
richvh wrote:Do you always get hostile when you aren't told what you want to hear?

BTW
viewtopic.php?f=9&t=12581#p145917

"Do you always stop talking when you are told something you don't want to hear?"

Is this the kind of standard you - as a forum moderator - want to uphold? By all means! You ARE the boss! I am nothing but your humble servant here. But don't try to kick around your servants too much, though. They might run away.


If you don't like the standards, feel free to log off and delete your account. No one is forcing you to stay here, however, if you don't follow the posting rules, you will get banned. Like it or not, that's the way it is.
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Re: Is Japanese THE MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE?

Postby KanjiHanzi » Mon 01.12.2009 3:54 pm

Sorry, but my quota of message writing has been passed for today, so I simply 'ignore' the other messages until tomorrow morning when I have more time.

Yudan Taiteki wrote:Hong Kong newspapers are not written in Cantonese.


Yudan Taiteki wrote:So what language are they published in? English? Mandarin? Official Chinese? With a population of 95% Cantonese speakers? Wouldn't it be utterly strange if there is not a single newspaper published in Cantonese? I never suggested that all newspapers in Hong Kong were published in Cantonese, but at least some. Why force a population to read "Mandarin", a language/dialect they are not totally happy with? I don't know. But will find out.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspapers_of_Hong_Kong

nasty wiki again wrote:Popularity

By a significant margin, the Hongkong Standard is the most widely-circulated English newspaper. Among Cantonese newspapers, Oriental Daily and Apple Daily are the top sellers, while the Hong Kong Economic Times is the best-selling financial newspaper. According to independent surveys, Ming Pao and Hong Kong Economic Journal are the papers most trusted by local readers.

The fact that The Sun and Oriental Daily are among those with the highest circulation can be explained by their approach. Both use an informal style, concentrating on celebrity gossip and paparazzi photography, and written to some degree in colloquial Cantonese phrases. This style of writing, as in other markets, is popular with a large section of the public. The content is often exaggerated or outright fabricated in order to claim "exclusives". Although the subjects of these alleged falsehoods have tried to express their dissatisfaction through actions such as refusing interviews or even suing the reporters, they have not succeeded in stopping the papers' activities.


http://home.on.cc/news/
http://the-sun.on.cc/ (Very nice looking site!)
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Re: Is Japanese THE MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE?

Postby JaySee » Mon 01.12.2009 4:05 pm

I'm not really sure what you're trying to say with that last post. We already told you that newspapers from Hong Kong are written in either standard Chinese or English, and the reasons for doing so.

Also, you're misquoting Yudan in the second bit... it was actually you yourself who wrote that.

Edit: sorry, seems i missed the part about Cantonese in the wikipedia article. Still though, those two papers are only a minority.
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Re: Is Japanese THE MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 01.12.2009 4:10 pm

OK, but that's irrelevant to the main point -- if a newspaper is written in Cantonese, then Mandarin native speakers cannot read it. All I am trying to say is that it is absolutely impossible to have a single newspaper (or any real-world written text) that can be read simultaneously by Mandarin speakers as natural Mandarin and by Cantonese speakers as natural Cantonese. If it's written in Cantonese then Mandarin speakers cannot read it. If it's written in standard Chinese, then literate Cantonese speakers and literate Mandarin speakers can both read it because they learn to read standard Chinese in school. This does *not* mean that the text is representing both Cantonese and Mandarin at the same time.

The fact that Cantonese speakers read standard Chinese with Cantonese pronunciations of the characters misleads people into thinking that they're reading the text as natural Cantonese, but this is not the way it works.

(It's sort of like how in the 17th and 18th centuries, most educated people in Europe could read Latin. This wasn't because a Latin text represented French, English, German, Spanish, etc. all at the same time -- it's because educated people learned to read Latin in their schooling.)
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Re: Is Japanese THE MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE?

Postby KanjiHanzi » Tue 01.13.2009 4:27 am

JaySee wrote:Edit: sorry, seems i missed the part about Cantonese in the wikipedia article. Still though, those two papers are only a minority.

You are probably correct there, but it seems like we are merely guessing. The WikiPedia article mentioned these two when talking about POPULAR newspapers. There is no easy way to tell how many Hong Kong newspapers with a not so significant circulation are published in Cantonese. Perhaps there are dozens, perhaps there is none. How many Cantonese newspapers are published in the overseas Cantonese community? Don't know, but I would guess there are a few.

The point here is not how many Cantonese newspapers are published in Hong Kong, but if it is correct to state that a Mandarin only speaking person would find such a newspaper totally incomprehensible, which is what Chris suggests. I am still totally convinced that he is totally wrong, but I can't offer any solid proof yet. But it's an issue that can be inspected using fairly established methods of inquiry. Not exactly high tech, but standard "scientific methods". Ask and you shall know. :D
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Re: Is Japanese THE MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE?

Postby KanjiHanzi » Tue 01.13.2009 4:51 am

Just setting the ground for a post later today. Since I am not sure about how much of Salon.com is open for non-subscribers or not, I simply paste the short article at

http://www.salon.com/tech/htww/2009/01/ ... index.html

below. Pretty interesting stuff!

Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009 13:12 PST
A name China scholars will remember

I just retrieved a tattered green paperback book from a dusty corner of my bedroom, where it had lain untouched for at least a decade: "Beginning Chinese -- Second Revised Edition" by John DeFrancis.

A generation of China scholars are nodding their heads. My generation. During the 1970s and '80s, "the DeFrancis series," complete with its intimidating profusion of accompanying audio-tapes, was by far the most popular instructional text for teaching Chinese to English-speakers. Just one glance at its familiar cover was enough to send me spiraling back through the decades into the dreaded language lab.

I learned today that John DeFrancis died on January 2, at the ripe old age of 98. And as usual in these matters, I also learned that the professor had led an astonishing life of which I had hitherto known nothing about. Among the highlights: floating 1200 miles down the Yellow River in 1935 on a raft made of inflated sheepskins, and testifying vehemently in support of one of his colleagues, Owen Lattimore, when the longtime "China hand" was accused of being a "top Russian spy" by Senator Joe McCarthy.

I am tickled to find out that the man whose name opened the door to the Chinese language for me got so angry at Joe McCarthy that he lost his job. Beginning Chinese is dry stuff, but being a China scholar in the 1950s was anything but. Good for you, John!
― Andrew Leonard
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Re: Is Japanese THE MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE?

Postby JaySee » Tue 01.13.2009 4:59 am

KanjiHanzi wrote:The point here is not how many Cantonese newspapers are published in Hong Kong, but if it is correct to state that a Mandarin only speaking person would find such a newspaper totally incomprehensible, which is what Chris suggests.


I don't think that's what he suggested. He compared it the Romance languages (and I agree with him here), where speakers of for example Italian might be able to pick up some of the words in a French written text, and so get a rough idea of what the text is about, but they will not be able to interpret a lot of the grammar and will miss most of the details and nuances (I guess this is also comparable to what happens when a speaker of English reads a French text).
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Re: Is Japanese THE MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE?

Postby KanjiHanzi » Tue 01.13.2009 6:06 am

JaySee wrote:I don't think that's what he suggested.

I honestly don't know EXACTLY what Chris suggested. I can only read what he writes:

if a newspaper is written in Cantonese, then Mandarin native speakers cannot read it. All I am trying to say is that it is absolutely impossible to have a single newspaper (or any real-world written text) that can be read simultaneously by Mandarin speakers as natural Mandarin and by Cantonese speakers as natural Cantonese. If it's written in Cantonese then Mandarin speakers cannot read it.

I have never talked about "natural" back and forth. I am merely suggesting that these two groups of readers/writers are able to understand each other fairly well. Nuances will be lost, but the gist of the message will surely get across. Heck, I could get a superficial understanding of Chinese texts when I "only" knew Japanese/Kanji? Why would Chinese speaking/reading people be worse off?????
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Re: Is Japanese THE MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE?

Postby KanjiHanzi » Tue 01.13.2009 6:46 am

Just to add some perspective to this "discussion": Chris and I had EXACTLY the same disagreement almost 18 months ago, when I took the liberty to post something about the Heisig method. I reported my findings that Chinese characters (CC) - aka Kanji then - had a meaning outside context. Chris insisted that CC where almost devoid of anything but being carriers of sound and pronunciation with the meaning added when they formed words and sentences.

He is just as wrong now as then. How else could one explain that it's possible to look at a very old Tang poem and get the basic message the poem tries to convey?? I will see how much of the Hanzi shows up here, but the 'vocabulary' of the poem I studied a couple of weeks ago are as follows:

李 lĭ plum, name
首 shŏu head; measure word for poems
诗 shī poem
光 guāng light
疑 yí to suspect, think
霜 shuāng frost
举 jŭ to lift
望 wàng watch, look at (ambition etc. elsewhere)
低 dī to lower
思 sī thought, to think
故 gù old, ancient
乡 xiāng home, origin etc.


OK, let's try this. I didn't have access to the origingal Hanzi version, but had to transcribe from pinying. Some mistake, perhaps. And of course it was not written using simplified characters, but I take the lazy route now:

Lǐ Bái yì shǒu shī

Chuáng qián míng yuè guāng
Yí shì dì shàng shuāng
Jǔ tóu wàng míng yuè
Dī tóu sī gù xiāng

李白一首诗

床前明月光
疑是地上霜
举头望明月
低头思故乡

Japanese:
诗 = 詩 ー 举 = 挙 ー 头 = 頭 ー 乡 = 郷 (鄉)


If you know the Kanji, then you get the gist of the poem. Period. Even if it was written 3000 years ago, which it wasn't. Merely 1200 years old or so.
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