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Do you know?
Cantonese is the second most spoken Chinese language:
Around 75 million people speak Cantonese worldwide.
Cantonese is spoken as a primary language in Guangdong and the southern Guangxi provinces of China.
It used to be the dominant Chinese language spoken by the Chinese immigrants in North America, New Zealand, and the UK. In recent years Mandarin speakers have been increasing in number.
History of the Cantonese Language
Cantonese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family. It got its name from Canton, the English name of Guangzhou. During the 9th and 10th centuries AD, after the decline of the Tang Dynasty, Han Chinese people migrated to the Guangzhou area in large numbers. However, it was not the first Han Chinese migration to this area. Throughout history, people from Northern and Central China migrated to the Guangzhou area, which is located in South-eastern China.
Eventually, the Han Chinese population expanded so much that they outnumbered the local Tanka people, an ethnic Tai group. The language of Han Chinese (Proto Cantonese) became dominant in the area, and the Tanka people adopted this language while retaining many elements from their own language. It gave birth to a new variety of language now known as Cantonese.
Guangzhou was a part of an extended trade network and was the most important port in China. It also used to culturally dominate the region and developed a distinct literary tradition. The Cantonese language was used in folksongs as well as in operas. Some literature can also be found from this period written in Chinese characters. However, numerous additional characters were also introduced to express Cantonese words.
In 1715, the British East India Company established a chamber of commerce in the city of Guangzhou, and the port city became the center for foreign and trade exchange. During this time, Cantonese became the primary language of communication when interacting with the Western world.
In 1842, Hong Kong was ceded to Britain, and a large number of the Han Chinese population migrated from Guangzhou. The present-day Hong Kong Chinese is thus derived from the language spoken in Guangzhou (Canton).
In 1949, after the communist revolution, Standard Mandarin became the only medium of instruction in the schools in Mainland China. It is also used in all administrative works. Whereas, in Hong Kong and Macau, Cantonese continues to be the most widely spoken language.
Why learn Cantonese?
How to learn Cantonese?
Is it hard to learn Cantonese Chinese?
Cantonese is a complex language, and it is pretty hard to learn even the basics of the language.
What makes it challenging to learn Cantonese Chinese?
The writing system is the first hurdle you will encounter while learning Cantonese. It doesn’t have an alphabet system. Instead, it uses a logographic writing system. So, have to learn and memorize thousands of Chinese characters to read and write Cantonese.
The other thing that makes it extremely complex to learn Cantonese is its tonal system. The same word can mean complete things based on the pitch that is used. Traditionally, Cantonese had nine such tones. However, now six tones are used in Hong Kong Cantonese, and seven are used in the Guangzhou variety. To non-native speakers, certain tones may sound totally identical. It takes a lot of time to learn the tone differences and distinguish between them.