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Do you think being foreign-born is a non-issue for Canadian politicians (unlike the US)?

wild goose chase

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When I was a kid growing up in the 90s, it seemed that it was most common for people to refer to Cantonese as the typical Chinese language, and I think among my Chinese-Canadian classmates I knew at the time it seemed more common, but nowadays I hear that people speak of the Mandarin language as the default when people speak of a language as simply "Chinese".

I've read that Cantonese, or a closely related form Toishan or Taishanese, used to dominate the language of Chinese immigrants to the US and Canada for over a century from the 19th century onwards, but by the later 20th century, Mandarin speakers surpassed them.

I know the Canadian census treats Chinese languages as separate when reporting statistics, but there is also a large proportion of people who report Chinese (not otherwise specified) so we can't tell among those that answered that as their language, which one it is.
 

wild goose chase

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Having lived in both the UK and US for extended periods of time, I found that our bilingualism is seen as a defining characteristic, and one that I've come to be quite proud of and thankful for.
I have noticed that a lot of people outside Canada seem to think that bilingualism in Canada means that most Canadians as individuals know both English and French rather than the fact that there are English and French-speaking regions within the country. I know some people actually get surprised when they find out that someone from Toronto or Calgary or Vancouver can barely speak a lick of French outside a few phrases learned in elementary school, because they expect or expected Canada's bilingualism to be nation-wide.
 

wild goose chase

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Obviously, there's nothing to stop potential leaders from being fluent in languages in addition to French and English. In fact, I think that would be a neat selling point of a potential candidate—one who speaks, say, Mandarin or Tagalog or Hindi, etc.—I think would have a leg up on other candidates in terms of being able to communicate with large swaths of Canadians of certain heritages and would also have a nice little PR feather in her or his cap.
Australia had a Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, that spoke Mandarin. On the flip side, in the US, during the 2012 campaign with the Republicans, Newt Gingrich attacked Mitt Romney for speaking French, with clips alongside John Kerry speaking French (apparently the thought being that some voters stateside would actually think speaking French somehow would be seen as negative, but then again it's not like he won anyways so maybe not).
 

AlvinofDiaspar

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When I was a kid growing up in the 90s, it seemed that it was most common for people to refer to Cantonese as the typical Chinese language, and I think among my Chinese-Canadian classmates I knew at the time it seemed more common, but nowadays I hear that people speak of the Mandarin language as the default when people speak of a language as simply "Chinese".

I've read that Cantonese, or a closely related form Toishan or Taishanese, used to dominate the language of Chinese immigrants to the US and Canada for over a century from the 19th century onwards, but by the later 20th century, Mandarin speakers surpassed them.

I know the Canadian census treats Chinese languages as separate when reporting statistics, but there is also a large proportion of people who report Chinese (not otherwise specified) so we can't tell among those that answered that as their language, which one it is.
Waves of immigration - early Chinese immigrants are from the Toi Shan area, followed by Hongers in the 70s-90s and now Mainland Chinese are the dominant subgroup of immigrants. Which is why I am saying using the blanket term Chinese for the language is problematical in our context.

AoD
 

ADRM

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Australia had a Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, that spoke Mandarin. On the flip side, in the US, during the 2012 campaign with the Republicans, Newt Gingrich attacked Mitt Romney for speaking French, with clips alongside John Kerry speaking French (apparently the thought being that some voters stateside would actually think speaking French somehow would be seen as negative, but then again it's not like he won anyways so maybe not).
Yeah, there's a nasty and far-too-prevalent anti-intellectual streak in American politics that I'm super glad we don't have here.
 

AlvinofDiaspar

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Yeah, there's a nasty and far-too-prevalent anti-intellectual streak in American politics that I'm super glad we don't have here.
Rob Ford? And to some extent Stephen Harper as well (think of the undermining of scientists, census, etc).

AoD
 

ADRM

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Rob Ford? And to some extent Stephen Harper as well (think of the undermining of scientists, census, etc).

AoD
Yeah, I certainly take your point, but I think 1) Municipal politics are a different beast and I don't think my comment applies well there; and 2) Stephen Harper was pretty routinely characterized as being intelligent, even by detractors—cunning and smart, which made him especially dangerous. The media quite often referenced the fact that Harper was an economist as a reason to trust his judgment on fiscal and economic issues (rightly or wrongly).
 

AlvinofDiaspar

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Yeah, I certainly take your point, but I think 1) Municipal politics are a different beast and I don't think my comment applies well there; and 2) Stephen Harper was pretty routinely characterized as being intelligent, even by detractors—cunning and smart, which made him especially dangerous. The media quite often referenced the fact that Harper was an economist as a reason to trust his judgment on fiscal and economic issues (rightly or wrongly).
Let's keep in mind that some of the most anti-intellectual figures in history are anything but poorly educated (worst of that lot is Pol Pot).

AoD
 

ADRM

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Let's keep in mind that some of the most anti-intellectual figures in history are anything but poorly educated (worst of that lot is Pol Pot).

AoD
Yeah, agreed—important lesson that's easy to lose site of. I think that's one of the things that makes Ted Cruz the oh-so special mix of dangerous and effective that he is. Still, I don't ever recall Harper facing significant criticism for actually being intelligent—and I say that as a tried and true liberal/Liberal. It doesn't make me hate him or the policies he pursued any less.
 

ksun

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Beg to differ a little on this, given the cultural differences between Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan and the fact that we have significant populations of each in the Canadian context, the use of the blanket term "Chinese" in reference to Putonghua can be problematical (think about what that assumption will do in situations where translation services are needed, for example). Fundamentally, Cantonese and Putonghua (not to mention Shanghainese, etc) - are not that inter-intelligible - it definitely isn't like UK vs. North American vs. Caribbean English.

AoD
Not exactly true. Italian has various dialects too which are not inter-intelligible, but when one talks about "Italian", everyone knows it is the standard Italian originated from Tuscany, not a version from the very south of the peninsular. It is exactly the same situation among Chinese dialects.

So when someone says he speaks Chinese, by default, it should mean he speaks the language that is used as the official language in China. The fact that in Canada Cantonese speakers represent a much higher percentage of Chinese speakers than their actual weight in China doesn't change anything. It is the Canadians who should change their way of thinking. More Cantonese speaking people immigrated, so what?

Plus, Cantonese doesn't have a distinctive written form except a few highly vernacular vocabulary. A Cantonese speaking person still writes the same way as a Mandarin speaker. I agree it is very different from Mandarin in terms of both pronunciation and vocabulary, and I have no problem calling it another "language", but when one says Chinese, that means the standard Chinese that is used in the Chinese media and education.

Not to mention the status of Cantonese is in rapid decline, in China or overseas (accompanied by HK's inevitable decline in economic relevance). The handful of people form Hong Kong or descendants of old immigrants are not going to change that. In 50 years, Cantonese as we know it will become nothing but one of the dialects, much like the Italian dialects spoken by people of different regions, and few people would automatically equal Cantonese with "Chinese".
 

AlvinofDiaspar

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So when someone says he speaks Chinese, by default, it should mean he speaks the language that is used as the official language in China. The fact that in Canada Cantonese speakers represent a much higher percentage of Chinese speakers than their actual weight in China doesn't change anything. It is the Canadians who should change their way of thinking. More Cantonese speaking people immigrated, so what?
Except in our local context, which is one made up of waves of immigration, blanket use of the term Chinese isn't sufficient for our purposes. I don't really care about what you consider as "should" - I care about what is.

AoD
 

ksun

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Except in our local context, which is one made up of waves of immigration, blanket use of the term Chinese isn't sufficient for our purposes. I don't really care about what you consider as "should" - I care about what is.

AoD
True but whoever mentioned the word "Chinese" first doesn't really know you or your personal background that well, and judging from the response he isn't even in the same local context as you think he is, so you shouldn't expect him to know that you belong to a very peculiar group of Canadians who tend to equate Cantonese with "Chinese", which is technically wrong, when the rest of the world doesn't. So it is indeed safer to associate "Chinese" with Putonghua, instead of Cantonese.

Canada is a bilingual country, yet I doubt when someone talks about "French", one automatically thinks of Quebecois French. Most would still associate French with standard French spoken in France.
 

wild goose chase

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Canada is a bilingual country, yet I doubt when someone talks about "French", one automatically thinks of Quebecois French. Most would still associate French with standard French spoken in France.
What about American English and British English? Even though England is where English originated, so many people outside of the West associate it with Americans, Hollywood and all that jazz. A large proportion of the people that go abroad and teach English to non-English speakers are Americans too, and sometimes non-Western people will even assume an American first over a Brit when they visualize the image of the typical English speaker coming from the West to their countries.
 

Johnny Au

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Catalan has some aspects of French and some of Spanish, but Catalan is a distinct language.

Italy has many different languages as well. The "Italian" vernacular spoken around Venice isn't Italian proper, but a distinct language called Venetian. Sardinian is another language spoken in Italy and Sardinian is very different from standard Italian, different enough to be a distinct language.

The same can be said about Mandarin and Cantonese. Chinese is too broad for a language. Chinese is a group of related Sinitic languages.
 

ksun

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Catalan has some aspects of French and some of Spanish, but Catalan is a distinct language.

Italy has many different languages as well. The "Italian" vernacular spoken around Venice isn't Italian proper, but a distinct language called Venetian. Sardinian is another language spoken in Italy and Sardinian is very different from standard Italian, different enough to be a distinct language.

The same can be said about Mandarin and Cantonese. Chinese is too broad for a language. Chinese is a group of related Sinitic languages.
True, but the fact is when people talk about Italian in the general sense, they are not thinking about Venetian or any of the southern dialects, but the standard Italian used by the Italian government and media, just like when people talk about "Chinese", it is by default Mandarin, not some southern regional dialects such as Cantonese which doesn't even have a written system consistently with its oral form. I am not saying Cantonese is not influential, but with all due respect it is no country's official language in the world. It is nothing but "vernacular".

What about American English and British English? Even though England is where English originated, so many people outside of the West associate it with Americans, Hollywood and all that jazz. A large proportion of the people that go abroad and teach English to non-English speakers are Americans too, and sometimes non-Western people will even assume an American first over a Brit when they visualize the image of the typical English speaker coming from the West to their countries.
Keep in mind I didn't suggest a language must be associated with the country it is originated from, but that it is usually associated with the largest/most influential country where it is spoken. This is the case of China versus Hong Kong/Macau - similar to an elephant versus a cat. Same applies to France vs. Quebec (or any other francophone countries).
 
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