Hi I have a couple questions:
1. Is it true that all chinese languages use the same characters, but the spoken langauge is completely different?
2. How much does the incorrect use of the cases in slavic languages hinder comunication?
On the second. It causes a lot of trouble in Russian.
As for the second question, in every slavic language, not only Russian, it causes a lot of problems.
Macedonian is a Slavic language, but it doesn't have cases, but I know incorrect use of cases in German can be a HUGE mistake and change the whole meaning.
The spoken forms of the different dialects or regional languages of Chinese are similar to each other somewhat in the same way that the different forms of Romance languages are similar to each other. For the most part the vocabulary is the same for all Chinese languages but the pronuncation has evovled differently in differfent areas.
"Jiang" - to speak in Mandarin becomes "gong" - in Cantonese etc.and these evolutions of the sounds are quite constant. ( It is probably the Cantonese prounciation that is more similar to ancient Chinese and Mandarin has changed, perhaps the influence of the invasions of Mongols and Manchurian peoples over the last 2000 years.)
There are other differences.
Where several Chinese words exist that mean similar things, different dialects may favour different words in the natural phrasing of the language. Thus the natural way to say speak Chinese is "shuo zhongwen" in Mandarin but "gong zhungman" in Cantonese. If the Mandarin speaker said "jiang zhungwen" that is also OK, whereas to say "syut zhongman" in Cantonese would sound funny although it would be understood, "syut" being the Cantonese pronunciation for the character which is pronounced "shuo" in Mandarin. These differences are greatest in the colloquial language.
The dialects all have their own original words that only exist in their versions of Chinese, and which again appear mostly in colloquial speech. Similarly, the different dialects also have unique phrasing and slang expressions. In the Cantonese from Hong Kong there are a lot of borrowed words from English.
The combined effect of all these differences makes it difficult for Chinese people to understand other regional dialects at first. It is not hard, however, for them to learn to understand other dialects, although much more difficult to learn to speak them.
Normally written Chinese is similar everywhere, except that Mainland China and Singapore use Simplified characters, i.e. fewer strokes per character. Traditional characters are standard in Hong Kong and Taiwan and in most overseas Chinese communities. The colloquial language, where the greatest difference between the dialects occurs, is seldom written down, but when it is there are often unique characters to represent words that are unique to that dialect. However, the overwhelming majority of written material is intelligible to all people who can read Chinese, and is based on standard Mandarin.
Have I confused everyone?
Child of Extasy, I am Russian!
thanks Steve K, awsome explanation
So do you prefer Mandarin or Cantonese (or something else), and why?
The entire country (including Taiwan or "and Taiwan", depending on your view of the matter) learns Mandarin. I wonder which one should study! ;) Learning Cantonese is really only good if you're planning on staying in HK or Guangdong (where, even then, people will be able to speak Mandarin).
I find that traditional characters (used in HK, Macau, Taiwan, and just about anywhere with an overseas population of Chinese) to be the easier to learn first because they're easier to understand than simplified. A bit of study in calligraphy after
"A bit of study in calligraphy after that, and one should be able to transition into simplified characters smoothly."
Unfortunately, most people in Hong Kong do not speak fluent Mandarin, but you'll get along just fine there by speaking a mixture of English and Mandarin (the rationale being that, if a Hong Konger doesn't understand a certain word in Mandarin, there's a good chance that he DOES understand it in English, and vice versa).
Tourist, in Mandarin: Chu-zu-che zàn zài na'er? (Where's the taxi stand?)
Local, in Cantonese: Lei gong mut, ah? (You say what, ah?)
Tourist, in English: Could you please tell me where the taxi stand is?
Local, in English: Ah! You want dixie? There!
Continuation of the dialogue, to illustrate the "vice versa"...
Tourist, in English: Could you get me to Causeway Bay, please?
Taxi Driver, in Cantonese: Been do? (Where?)
Tourist, in Mandarin: Wó xiang qù Tóng Lúo Wan. (I want go Causeway Bay.)
Driver, in Cantonese: Ah! Tong Lo Wan! Ho! Mo mun tai! (Ah! Causeway Bay! Yes! No problem!)
So, as you can see, you can get along VERY WELL in Hong Kong if you speak both English and Mandarin. But if you speak, say, French and Taiwanese (the dialect), you'll die in HK.
There is no question that the language to learn is Mandarin not Cantonese, even if you live in Hong Kong. It is much more useful.
I also prefer Mandarin because it is easier to pronounce, with 4 tones instead of 6 (or 9) according to some. To me Mandarin sounds more elegant. Cantonese can be quite rough, and Cantonese speakers use a lot more foul language.
Even with essentially no knowledge of Chinese, I find Mandarin more pleasing to the ear than Cantonese. I was concerned mainly because HK apparently still speaks Cantonese, and it's a non-negligeable portion of the Chinese-speaking world in terms of importance and influence. But if everyone in HK understands and speaks enough Mandarin to get by, then I suppose Mandarin would be a better choice.
Not that I'll be learning Mandarin any time soon, though. The thought of memorizing all those characters is daunting, and using tones phonemically sounds so "funny" to my ear that I have a hard time forcing myself to do it. Odd that it doesn't sound funny when native speakers do it; it just sounds odd when I do it, perhaps because I associate changing tone with emotional inflection rather than simple communication.
i am from china. in my oppinion if you wanna learn chinese, you better learn manderin,because it is more popular and more people can understand you even by the citizens in Hongkong, Guangdong and Macau. Maybe the people in Hong Kong cann't speak manderin very well, but they can understand you and communate with you smoothly.