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Too little too late? Shanghainese

From the Telegraph: Shanghainese speakers rally to save language from extinction


How to pronounce Huawei

It seems Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications company, is trying to increase its profile in the English-speaking world. Watch the video above to see people trying to pronounce the company’s name. About half way into the video, the presenter tells how the name is actually pronounced. He pronounces the name in the same way as is written on his board just below the logo, WAH-WAY.

There are many comments on the video discussing that WAH-WAY is the incorrect pronunciation. Actually, it seems as if Huawei have opted for the Cantonese pronunciation (see below) of the company’s Chinese name, which makes sense as the company is based in the Cantonese-speaking region of Guangdong. Bravo! It is nice to see some linguistic variation and also some recognition that Mandarin doesn’t have a monopoly on the pronunciation of Chinese characters. Despite opting for the Cantonese pronunciation, Huawei are still using the Mandarin Romanisation method (Hanyu Pinyin), which, admittedly, is rather confusing. The fact that Huawei didn’t use Cantonese Romanisation could be because there is yet any consensus to an accepted standard or maybe because they are affected by one of the CCP’s Mandarin-only policies. Who knows?


Mandarin: Huáwéi

Cantonese(Jyutping): Waa4wai4

Cantonese(Yale): Wàhwàih

And just for comparisons sake,

Taiwanese: Huâ-uî

Cantonese 粤语 (粵語通) iPhone App

After a brief hiatus from blogging, I am back to write a short review about a new Cantonese app available on iTunes. “Cantonese 粤语” is a dictionary app, which also includes some “specialised Cantonese grammar books” and numerous example sentences. The app is priced at £1.95($1.99). Before I talk about the many shortcomings of this app, it is worth mentioning that there are lots of apps on iTunes for Cantonese that are so bad I haven’t even bothered to review them. The fact that I am reviewing this app shows that it is at least worthy of some consideration, especially for a learner already proficient in Mandarin. Pleco should be releasing a Cantonese dictionary soon and I am sure, given the company’s track record, it will be more than worth the wait.

My litmus test for any Cantonese dictionary is to search for a Cantonese specific term i.e. a term that is expressed with different characters from its Mandarin equivalent. If one were to search a English-Cantonese dictionary for “angry” and find 生氣, it is a good sign that it is not a true Cantonese dictionary, merely a Mandarin dictionary with Cantonese pronunciations. Similarly, for a Mandarin-Cantonese dictionary, if one searches for 生氣 in Mandarin and the Cantonese equivalent is 生氣 (saang1 hei3) then it is also not really a Cantonese dictionary. If one searches “angry” in Cantodict, the first result is ‘嬲 (nau1/lau1)’ which is the typical way of saying angry in Cantonese. To illustrate how the app fares in this litmus test, I have included some screenshots below.

Read more…

Speakers of a tonal language show improved pitch perception (Cantonese)

I had always wondered about this. Check out the article below.

Speakers of a tone language show improved pitch perception.

Learn Cantonese with Henry Tang 跟唐英年學粵語

The Hong Kong Chief Executive election is a good excuse to improve your Cantonese skills while watching some light entertainment. The series of gaffes, lies and scandals that have emerged during the election have been strange and humorous; for an outsider at least. For translations of articles relating to HK news and netizen reactions check out this blog. The most recent video posted is of a debate between the election candidates. The speech is slow, clear and highlights a few differences between MSM (Modern Standard Mandarin) and Cantonese, of which I highlight below. Read more…

Pockmark Grandmother Tofu 麻婆豆腐

One doesn’t have to search the internet for long to find a number of humorous translations of the names of Chinese dishes. I suggest  Victor Mair, who usually gives great analysis on things ‘lost in translation‘. However, the CCP wants to change all this and has released a very detailed publication (美食譯苑—中文菜單英文譯法) with English translations of Chinese food items (click where it says pdf at the bottom to download the file). After a quick browse, the most interesting thing I found was that ‘餃子’ typically known as ‘dumplings’ or ‘Chinese dumplings’ are now to be called Jiaozi (the Romanisation of the Chinese). I can’t see it catching on.

A Simple Life (桃姐) Taiwanese Style

A Simple Life(桃姐) is the Golden Horse winning film starring Andy Lau(劉德華) and Deanie Ip(葉德嫻). As a Hong Kong production, naturally the film is in Cantonese. I haven’t seen the Taiwanese version of the film, but judging by the trailer, it seems that they decided to dub the old servant (Ip) in Taiwanese and the young master of the family (Lau) in mixed Mandarin/Taiwanese. Read more…