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Old 02-04-2013, 11:43 PM
 
Location: Macao
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Would u say Cantonese is the most difficult language for english speakers?

It has the most tones of tonal languages at 9. As opposed to mandarin at 4, etc. Additionally, the mainland uses simplified Chinese characters now, whereas cantonese hong kong/Macau use the much older Chinese characters.

Anyways, what would you all say? Agree or disagree?
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Old 02-04-2013, 11:55 PM
 
Location: Shaw.
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Cantonese doesn't really have 9 tones. It has 6. There are three endings of -n, which are counted as another tone, despite being the same as the other 6. That's still a lot, though, and it's a tough language.

Grammatically, Japanese and especially Korean are tougher than any Chinese language.

As far as traditional vs. simplified characters, I find traditional characters to be easier. Simplified characters have a lot less variation, which makes it easier to confuse one for the other. Traditional characters have more variation, which not only makes them easier to distinguish, but their meaning and pronunciation as well. They're harder to write, but with computers, you don't have to actually learn how to write them.

As for the most difficult language, the State Department lists Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Arabic. These are the most difficult languages that are in critical need, so the Khoisan languages do not count. Some people separate Mandarin and Cantonese and the consensus is that Cantonese is more difficult. They're both pretty alien to an English speaker, so I think that's pretty subjective and depends on the student.

TL;DR: They're about the same, but Cantonese is harder. It might not be the hardest to learn overall, though.

Here's someone else's list: http://matadornetwork.com/abroad/9-o...kers-to-learn/
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Old 02-04-2013, 11:58 PM
 
Location: Macao
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6 tones. That is much better than 9. I wonder what language it was that I heard has 9.
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Old 02-05-2013, 12:06 AM
 
Location: Shaw.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger Beer View Post
6 tones. That is much better than 9. I wonder what language it was that I heard has 9.
It's often reported as 9 in Cantonese. It has the same 4 as Mandarin + 2 more for 6. Then there are the three finishing sounds. These are really repeated tones, but because they end in a different sound, they're considered different tones by some people.

I tried learning some Cantonese, but I didn't have the time to stick with it. I can pretty much only say, "Excuse me, miss. Do you have beer?" and a few other words.
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Old 02-05-2013, 12:15 AM
kyh
 
Location: Malaysia & Singapore
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Seems quite easy for me.
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Old 02-05-2013, 12:34 AM
 
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It really depends on what other languages you already know. At one point, I tried learning it and did not seem difficult. Just didn't have the time or the opportunity to use it that much. I still can use Cantonese to order dim sum though, which is very useful for me :-)

Tones is just one of the things that make a language more difficult. I tried to teach people Hokkien (aka Minnan, Southern Min or Taiwanese) and found that to some people, Hokkien with 7 tones (actually 5 tones + 2 entering tones in comparison to the 6 tones + 3 entering tones in Cantonese) is more difficult primarily due to tone sandhi. Tone sandhi means that each of the tones can change to another tone depending on the tones of the previous/next syllables.

To English speakers, they may find the tones very difficult. But for those used to isolating languages (Chinese has no inflections, English far fewer inflections compared to other Indo-European languages), I find the synthetic languages (ones with numerous inflections such as noun and verb cases) very difficult to learn. When I tried to learn German, I had the most difficulty with noun cases. I think that will make Arabic and Russian the most difficult for me to learn among the more commonly spoken languages.
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Old 02-05-2013, 01:51 AM
 
Location: Macao
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I have heard people say mandarin was easier than Korean/Japanese just because of the grammar similarities with English. I guess that would apply to Cantonese as well.

What are peoples impressions on the sound of Cantonese? Grating? Or musical?
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Old 02-05-2013, 09:34 AM
 
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I speak Mandarin but I gradually learned to understand Cantonese news on TV. Nobody taught me but I adapted to the sounds gradually.
However, TV news uses standardized/formal language, and thus largely shares the vocabulary with Mandarin. I don't think I will understand much if I listen to people talk in Cantonese.

My opinion is Mandarin sounds much softer. The reason why Mandarin has more consonants (but fewer vowels) is that many consonants are "softened".
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Old 02-05-2013, 12:09 PM
 
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I think Japanese is the hardest
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Old 02-05-2013, 04:59 PM
 
Location: Columbus, Ohio
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger Beer View Post
Would u say Cantonese is the most difficult language for english speakers?

It has the most tones of tonal languages at 9. As opposed to mandarin at 4, etc. Additionally, the mainland uses simplified Chinese characters now, whereas cantonese hong kong/Macau use the much older Chinese characters.

Anyways, what would you all say? Agree or disagree?

Agree!
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