What is Cantonese Subtitle?

Subtitle on TV is merely Mandarin translation.

Most people (including Chinese) who don’t speak Cantonese think that subtitle provided by TV stations, like the picture above, is “Cantonese” subtitle.  I once encountered a person, who doesn’t speak an ounce of Cantonese, couldn’t stop arguing with me that the subtitle he saw on TV was “Cantonese”. In fact, subtitle provided by TV stations is merely Mandarin translation of Cantonese dialogue. However, since the belief  “Cantonese is a dialect” is so deep-rooted, and written Mandarin subtitle on TV/movie reinforces the idea, most non-Cantonese speaker considers written Mandarin subtitle as genuine Cantonese – “Cantonese sounds so different from Mandarin but its written form is same as Mandarin.”

And people who reject Cantonese has grammatical differences from Mandarin constantly use the simplest sentence structure such as “I love you” in Cantonese is also SVO to support their argument. (English is also SVO, right?) . For the good of my own argument support and Cantonese learners/scholars, I decided to add real Cantonese to TV shows and two subtitled videos were created.

Real Cantonese Subtitle
Upper line is Cantonese subtitle and lower line is Mandarin translation

I faithfully recorded every dialogue and paid great attention on the final particle, like “吖嘛 aa1 maa1” in the picture, which is a distinctive feature of Cantonese and not always taught in detail in Cantonese-learning books.


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