Languages of Taiwan and Hong Kong

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by Let's Talk English, May 2, 2012.

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  1. Let's Talk English Banned

    I have several questions regarding the language customs in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

    1) Is Cantonese well-understood in Taiwan? Do people (ever) learn Cantonese in Taiwan? If so, how would you describe the general proficiency of Cantonese among Taiwanese?

    2) Are Hong Kong movies at a movie theater or TV shows subtitled in Taiwan?

    3) The question about written form. Does Taiwanese newspaper and Hong Kong newspaper use exactly the same traditional Chinese? Is there possible variations in written Chinese between Hong Kong Chinese and Taiwanese Chinese? And are Hong Kong newspapers available in Taiwan and vice versa?

    4) When Taiwanese person travels, or moves to Hong Kong, which language would they use, Mandarin, Cantonese or English? Do immigration check in Hong Kong understand Mandarin?

    5) When Hong Kong person travels to Taiwan, what kind of language would they use, Cantonese, Mandarin or English?
  2. terredepomme Senior Member

    Human Language
    No. Sometimes learned as a foreign language and spoken among small immigrant communities.

    Yes. Or dubbed.

    99.9% same. In fact a lot of publishers publish books simultaneously in TW and HK.

    1. Mandarin 2. English 3. 筆談. If the person moves there permanently then s/he will eventually learn Canto.

    Probably Mandarin. Maybe some English. or 筆談.
  3. kareno999 Senior Member

    Columbus, OH
    筆談 is a myth. Nobody actually does it... at least not to my knowledge
  4. terredepomme Senior Member

    Human Language
    I did it some years ago. (in HK) Anyway, wouldn't online chatting or text messaging between a HKer and a Taiwanese technically count as 筆談?
    Last edited: May 3, 2012
  5. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    The fact that you don't know about it does not mean it doesn't happen. Only an all-knowing god is entitled to make this kind of statements :). As a matter of fact, a Japanese friend of mine during his stay in Hong Kong often wrote down a few characters and showed them to his listeners, when he was unable to make himself understood otherwise.

    It may do, but that would change the meaning of 筆談 as you used in the context of your earlier post.
  6. AquisM Senior Member

    Hong Kong
    Yes, that happened to my cousin too. She wrote Kanji in Japan to make herself understood. If that can happen between Japanese and Chinese, why not between Cantonese and Mandarin/Hokkien (or whatever the people concerned speak).

    That no. At least, Taiwanese newspapers are not available in Hong Kong (unless you bring some from there). I'm not sure whether the opposite occurs or not, but I guess it almost certainly does.

    If you're lucky, they may. There have been many observations and reports on the decrease in proficient Mandarin speakers in Hong Kong. The older generation never had to use Mandarin during colonial times, and the new generation aren't bothered to learn it (of course these are generalisations). Add the recent Mainland-HK controversies into the mix and you have a result of only a small number of people having an advanced level of Mandarin. I suppose border control officers will have a level of Mandarin better than the average Hongkonger, but when I pass customs, I speak Cantonese, and have never heard any one of them speak Mandarin.
    Last edited: May 3, 2012
  7. viajero_canjeado Senior Member

    English - Southeastern USA
    In addition to the above:

    Super low. The only people I know who speak it are exchange students from HK and Macau.
    Almost all Taiwanese tv shows are subtitled anyway, so foreign language productions definitely are as well.
    I haven't seen any HK papers in Taiwan. There's plenty of Taiwanese ones to choose from.
    I used Mandarin getting through customs in HK and didn't have much of a problem asking questions. For the local population, most of the younger people I spoke to had at least a rudimentary understanding of Mandarin. For the others, I was forced to use extremely horrible Cantonese with them.
    If they don't speak Mandarin, they'd be better off using English than Cantonese.

    As for 筆談,I've used it when trying to converse with Japanese people, but it didn't prove necessary during travels in Guangdong and HK, except when confirming an address or how to write someone's name.
  8. OneStroke Senior Member

    Hong Kong, China
    Chinese - Cantonese (HK)
    3) The question about written form. Does Taiwanese newspaper and Hong Kong newspaper use exactly the same traditional Chinese? Is there possible variations in written Chinese between Hong Kong Chinese and Taiwanese Chinese?

    In Hong Kong, we either follow the Mainland's transliteration of foreign words (e.g. Hollande - 奧朗德, which is 歐蘭德 in Taiwan) or have our own (e.g. Hitler - 希特拉, which is 希特勒 everywhere else). Certain words are only used or more commonly used in Taiwan than HK or vice versa, though those differences are minute. The characters are also printed slightly (very, very slightly) differently, but you'll need a transmission electron microscope to notice that. :p I also assume that the language proficiency is higher in Taiwan than Hong Kong as the Putonghua has pretty much became the predominant language in Taiwan, which the standard language is still far from often used in Hong Kong - many Hongkongers don't know much Putonghua beyond wuxia movies. Also, Hong Kong's newspapers often use a bit of Cantonese now and then; many newspapers print articles written in Cantonese in its entirety.
  9. Let's Talk English Banned

    Is it safe to say that columns and editorials on newspapers in Hong Kong are written in so-called "standard" Chinese and there's no trace of spoken Cantonese? In other words, mainlanders and Taiwanese have no problem reading them?
  10. yuechu Senior Member

    Canada, English
    I am not a native Chinese speaker (nor do I speak Cantonese), but I've asked this question to (Mainland) Chinese friends before, and they've told me that it's very obvious to them when a newspaper article is written in Cantonese. It sounds like there are different structures that are used..
  11. bubokribuck Member

    Cantonese is a really tricky language. It's spoken form is very different from its written form. For example, when you want to say "I've eaten", you SAY "我食咗喇"(1), but the standard WRITTEN Chinese should be "我吃過了"(2).

    Now, (1) is that form that is used in most of the HK newspapers and magazines nowadays, it contains a lot of "Hong Kong characters" that only native Cantonese speakers would understand. So if Mandarine buys a local HK magazine/newspaper, it's very difficult for them to understand the contexts (they might be able to roughly guess what the article is about based on some "neutral" words).

    However, spoken Cantonese cannot be always "written" as Chinese characters, for example, there is no character for the word "seut滑梯(sir滑梯)".
  12. vinceyeung New Member

    I just come across this page and I think I need to clarify something.
    I am from hong kong and most of the newspaper are written in standard written chinese (2) and there are very very few of them written in (1). The only exceptional case are the entertainment magazines, most of them is written in (1). So if a mainland chinese buys a local HK newspaper, he can understand the content most of the time and may only suffer from not knowing some of the traditional Chinese characters.

    And also, all cantonese words can be written as a normal chinese character like the example you said "seut滑梯(sir滑梯)" that "seut" have a proper word "瀡" and most of the cantonese-specific words comes from ancient type of Chinese character (those wont be used in modern standard written Chinese words but the character DO still exist for us. Since chinese language education in Hong Kong only teaches standard written form of Chinese, majority of us don't know how to write it.
  13. OneStroke Senior Member

    Hong Kong, China
    Chinese - Cantonese (HK)
    Maybe you just happen to read mostly high-quality papers. Nowadays, even *Ming Pao* prints written Cantonese articles. (Great for increasing sales, not so great our for language skills.)

    I'll also add that it's not always possible to have an etymologically accurate character for every Cantonese word. For nit-pickers, the 呢 and 唔 and 呢個人唔係好誠實 have never existed in Classical Chinese and should not be used. ;)
  14. vinceyeung New Member

    I would recommend you read wikipedia page of 廣州話 first.
    there are quite a few anicent Chinese words still using in Cantonese and words you may not know how to write can actually be written but most of people just didn't know how to write it since we (in HK) don't use written Cantonese to communicate most of the time and schools don't teach us how to write them.
  15. khoo1993 Member

    they speak different languages, Taiwanese speaks Taiwan Mandarin and Hong Kong people speaks Cantonese, but both of them they are using traditional chinese characters. By the way, some of the Hong Kong people speaks Mandarin too
  16. HYCHIN Member

    One example of different written form is 着 and 著.
    According to 教育部異體字字典 (Taiwan), 着 is a Chinese Character Variant of 著. Taiwan mainly use 著.
    In 香港小學學習字詞表 (Hong Kong), however, 着 and 著 is clearly distinguished in terms of meaning and pronunciation.

    However, in Hong Kong you may find some occasions in which 著 is used in place of 着.
    This is because early computer systems used Big5 encoding developed by Taiwan, so some Hong Kong characters not used in Taiwan were missing. Then Hongkongers followed Taiwan's 著.

    WARNING: Do not rely on
    香港小學學習字詞表 if you want to learn spoken Cantonese. In Hong Kong schools, written form of Chinese is that of Putonghua (Mandarin) only. They never teach the written form of spoken Cantonese.
    Last edited: May 10, 2013
  17. Rosalie Blythe New Member

    Ontario, Canada
    Cantonese, Chinese - Hong Kong SAR
    spoken Cantonese is used in conversation and informal writing like texting your friends and writing on Facebook...and there is a lot of new invented words/characters with written version of spoken Cantonese because most of the spoken Cantonese are considered to be slang.
    I suggest to learn the formal Chinese first ....
  18. xochu New Member

    Japanese 日本語
    Totally agree. I am surprised that many people in HK are misled by some so-called scholors who assert that Cantonese is 'closer' to ancient chinese than other sinitic languages but the fact is we don't even know much about the etymology of many words. Vinceyeung I suggest you read more academic articles.

  19. vinceyeung New Member

    could you give more examples why Cantonese is NOT closer to ancient Chinese? I did say that hk people nowadays dont know the etymology since our schools do not teach us anything about Cantonese. We just use it while we speak. I suggest xochu should give more examples or reference or there's no point to discuss about this.
    Last edited: May 17, 2013
  20. xochu New Member

    Japanese 日本語
    Well please read my response carefully. What I mean is that we can't say that Cantonese is the closest language of Old/Middle Chinese. We cannot generalize all linguistic structures in this subjet.
    1. What do you mean 'closer' in which aspect? phonologically? morphologically?
    2. Do you know that Cantonese is strongly related to southern asian languages? Onestroke is totally reasonable to point out that many words are never written in chinese characters.
    Read these:

    If you want I can give you more. BTW i am a student in linguistics. Beat me.
  21. vinceyeung New Member

    If you read my first reply carefully, you will know I am talking about the the ancient origin of some Cantonese words. In my original reply, I just say there are quite a few Cantonese words related to ancient Chinese words. I didn't make comparisons with standard written Mandarin Chinese at the beginning. You can see much more examples here:
    I know Cantonese is strongly related to southern asian languages and I haven't denied this before. There is a passage talking about this.
    For more readings, you can take a look at this book: (mentioned several Cantonese dictionary which contains many Cantonese words)
    BTW, being a linguistics student didn't imply you are a specialist in Cantonese. It's always good to stay humble and objective when discussing some cultural differences between two different languages.
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