The Nanfang / Blog


Two laowai kids speaking perfect Canto (and accented English)

Posted: 02/27/2012 10:00 am

White Mandarin speakers are now more common than Jeremy Lin stories, so it’s no longer so impressive when a laowai opens his mouth and Putonghua comes out.

The same can’t quite be said for Cantonese, however.  The language is difficult, with some estimating it contains anywhere from six to nine tones.  To make matters worse, there isn’t the same standardized romanization for Cantonese, like pinyin for Mandarin.  Yes, standards exist, but none have become dominant (the MTR uses different standards for different station names, even).

The topic of Cantonese is an interesting one in our region.  While Guangzhou is the heart of the culture, the Cantonese language is slowly becoming maligned in the city.  It’s common to travel in Shenzhen or Zhuhai and not hear it at all, as those cities were largely populated by migrants over the past 30 years.  But Cantonese pride is as strong as ever, as evidenced last year when protests erupted in both Guangzhou and Hong Kong over the government’s plans to limit television broadcasts in Cantonese.

This is a roundabout way of saying the language may not have the reach of Mandarin (although even this is debatable, considering the plethora of overseas Cantonese communities), but that could be because it is far more difficult to learn for non-native speakers.  Which makes these two white kids even more impressive.

Make sure to watch the whole thing, as their imitation of Cantonese English is pretty much spot on (we could do without the videographer’s stale commentary, however).

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