I’ve received a few comments about Cantonese lately, and thought I’d do a few posts on the subject. One was actually in response to my post about my first speech in Cantonese. This poster wrote, “Chinese people don’t find Cantonese more charming. Certainly not I. We mostly find Cantonese loud and obnoxious, with more resemblance to Vietnamese than Mandarin in terms of tone and pitch. This would apply to my Korean and Japanese friends as well. They all see Cantonese as “inferior”.”
I felt defensive about the comment, being someone who speaks and enjoys Cantonese very much and personally have had very different experiences (as indicated by my post!). Plus this was a first for me that Cantonese was considered “inferior” like Vietnamese!
And then I recently saw this posted on the CUHK CLC facebook page, which I found pretty interesting. It’s a clip from the caller question section of an NPR program featuring learned linguist John McWhorter discussing “what is a language.”
In this clip, you will hear a caller talks about how Cantonese is quite different and even considerably more enjoyable (and this is from someone who understands both Mandarin and Cantonese). McWhorter clarifies that Cantonese is not a dialect.
I completely agree with both sentiments. Cantonese is in its own right a language and it really is a whole lot of fun. I think those of us who speak multiple dialects may have a better appreciation of that. And I have met people who learned Cantonese, but not Mandarin, who also love their study.