Discounts on Second Sinitic Languages
Since I don’t know the answer, I’d like to forward a question left on an unrelated post. “Deany” asks:
How much “discount” can someone gets if she/he is already able to speak cantonese and want to learn mandarin (pu tong hua)?I’ve noticed that a friend of mine who is able to speak cantonese (raised in a family who is able to speak cantonese), he has a higher speed in learning mandarin. Is it true that mandarin is easy to master when you already fluent in one of chinese dialects?
Then Albert of Laowai Chinese chimes in
I myself would like to find the following resource (though I admit it would be a very VERY small market): A Cantonese instruction book for foreigners who already speak Mandarin. I, like you, would love to see an overview of the differences to get an idea of what kind of “discount” I’d get if I actually tried to learn Cantonese.
I figure there’s gotta be a discount from knowing one Sinitic language to another, at the very least because there are lots of cognates and grammatical similaries. It might also be easier just going from one tonal language to another (here is some experimental data and anecdotal comments from Sinosplice).
The difficulty in answering the “discount” question is that lots of folks in China who know two Sinitic languages learned them both as kids. Usually, they started out with something non-Mandarin as a native tongue then learned Mandarin very early in school. So you can’t judge from their experience whether the adult second language experience is easier or not.
It would be interesting to hear from those who learned a second Sinitic language as an adult about how knowledge from the first helped or hindered. Anyone got stories or data?