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So that's why problems exist: no word for "love" in Cantonese


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I speak a dialect of Cantonese...it is a village dialect from a district outside of Hong Kong. But same thing.. no word in that directly says "I love you".  It is a dialect that is dying and more associated with immigrant Chinese from 1800s to 1950s from that district.  Mandarin is govn't mandated dialect taught in mainland China since Mao came into power 1950's. 

 

No wonder there are SO MANY problems in bilingual families in Canada and U.S. My parents would half laughingly say "love" in English. I think they were embarrassed to even use the word.

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/nowornever/i-did-it-for-love-1.5359746/q-a-why-cantonese-is-my-love-language-1.5361905

I actually didn't really know all this...until now. But I could describe numerous dysfunctional communication problems between parent and children in my family.  You also read this in various books.

 

In Cantonese, we're shy to express feelings in the first place. That might be part of the reason why the culture doesn't really say the words "I love you." To give you an idea, when my Grandma is trying to say that she loves us very much she'll say, "I kiss you a lot! I kiss you a whole lot!"

In Cantonese culture, love is really an action. You show love in the way that you serve each other food or pour tea. It's more important in Cantonese culture to express love through actions and little acts of service and gifts rather than to say it with words.

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34 minutes ago, shootingstar said:

I speak a dialect of Cantonese...it is a village dialect from a district outside of Hong Kong. But same thing.. no word in that directly says "I love you".  It is a dialect that is dying and more associated with immigrant Chinese from 1800s to 1950s from that district.  Mandarin is govn't mandated dialect taught in mainland China since Mao came into power 1950's. 

 

No wonder there are SO MANY problems in bilingual families in Canada and U.S. My parents would half laughingly say "love" in English. I think they were embarrassed to even use the word.

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/nowornever/i-did-it-for-love-1.5359746/q-a-why-cantonese-is-my-love-language-1.5361905

I actually didn't really know all this...until now. But I could describe numerous dysfunctional communication problems between parent and children in my family.  You also read this in various books.

 

In Cantonese, we're shy to express feelings in the first place. That might be part of the reason why the culture doesn't really say the words "I love you." To give you an idea, when my Grandma is trying to say that she loves us very much she'll say, "I kiss you a lot! I kiss you a whole lot!"

In Cantonese culture, love is really an action. You show love in the way that you serve each other food or pour tea. It's more important in Cantonese culture to express love through actions and little acts of service and gifts rather than to say it with words.

No wonder there are SO MANY problems in bilingual families in Canada and U.S. My parents would half laughingly say "love" in English. I think they were embarrassed to even use the word.
 

I get you are sharing your experiences but I think you need to clarify “bilingual” as in Chinese/Canadian.  Spanish is the second most spoken language here and the word love exists.  I also have a very similar background as yours but our language also has the word.   It may just be more of a cultural thing with Chinese & many other Asians cultures.

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18 minutes ago, ChrisL said:

 

I get you are sharing your experiences but I think you need to clarify “bilingual” as in Chinese/Canadian.  Spanish is the second most spoken language here and the word love exists.  I also have a very similar background as yours but our language also has the word.   It may just be more of a cultural thing with Chinese & many other Asians cultures.

Sorry I didn't preface with adjective Chinese-English language. 

As you can appreciate when a child learns English, then later sometimes they try to go backwards in their head to find the Chinese (or other language) equivalent.

I don't know about all other Asian cultures.  It wouldn't surprise me that some Japanese families have some similar communication dysfunctions...but maybe less language but more cultural.  There is a cultural distance in some of these cultures but really, it's familial styles of expressing love.  So a child really must learn to grow up being extra aware of "actions" vs. words. But that can be true, in unilingual English speaking families also.

It was a very significant gesture to see my father place his hand to my mother's arm.  as an example.  they were old school couple...no hugging, kissing in front of children.

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I will say that this is where immigration/cross-global migration of people outside of home cultures of centuries long...can /DOES change/benefit long-term, cultural communication styles for the most significant feelings for humans: love, sadness, etc.

Into my generation and younger, the style and openness is greater in  my family.

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9 minutes ago, shootingstar said:

Sorry I didn't preface with adjective Chinese-English language. 

As you can appreciate when a child learns English, then later sometimes they try to go backwards in their head to find the Chinese (or other language) equivalent.

I don't know about all other Asian cultures.  It wouldn't surprise me that some Japanese families have some similar communication dysfunctions...but maybe less language but more cultural.  There is a cultural distance in some of these cultures but really, it's familial styles of expressing love.  So a child really must learn to grow up being extra aware of "actions" vs. words. But that can be true, in unilingual English speaking families also.

It was a very significant gesture to see my father place his hand to my mother's arm.  as an example.  they were old school couple...no hugging, kissing in front of children.

I have had many Vietnamese friends & I have heard/seen similar experiences as yours.  I think there is some commonality with many of the Asian cultures.  My family is 1/2 Indonesian but we were culturally aligned as Dutch and speak Dutch.  I don’t know if the word love exists in the Indonesian languages.  

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23 minutes ago, ChrisL said:

I have had many Vietnamese friends & I have heard/seen similar experiences as yours.  I think there is some commonality with many of the Asian cultures.  My family is 1/2 Indonesian but we were culturally aligned as Dutch and speak Dutch.  I don’t know if the word love exists in the Indonesian languages.  

It maybe more certain word or phrase nuances /metaphors those other Asian languages, to suggest "love".

For sure, those cultures have behaviours and words to convey "respect", "faith" and "loyalty".  There is a great latitude for word variations/synonyms and actions for those 3 words.

However listening to dearie talk about his grandfather's communication style to his mother as a kid when growing up in Germany...just shows misunderstanding between parent and child can be universal.

It is very critical that if "love" is not a word, then there must consistent positive actions from parents to children, done over and over so child EVENTUALLY (that might take decades for light bulb to be switched on) understands actioning on a word consistently, gives full meaning to word.  Isn't what parenthood is all about? Or between 2 partners.

 

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Hee hee.... I would love to hear a grandma express love in that manner!  It would make me giggle with glee. 

And I think saying I love you is fine, but I also feel actions speak louder than words. I REALLY hate hearing so many people (women) ending phone conversations with, "Love you. Bye." That means absolutely nothing.  Every once in a while I will walk up behind one of my kids a wrap 'em up in a big bear hug. We laugh, but we both know it's an I love you hug.  No words necessary. 

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1 hour ago, smudge said:

Hee hee.... I would love to hear a grandma express love in that manner!  It would make me giggle with glee. 

And I think saying I love you is fine, but I also feel actions speak louder than words. I REALLY hate hearing so many people (women) ending phone conversations with, "Love you. Bye." That means absolutely nothing.  

My closest, long standing female friends with me, we do not say that to one another.  We simply hug each other.  That says it all.  We don't see other 2-4 yrs. It is actual a conscious action with my Canadian born CHinese friends vs. white. These are friends 35-40 yrs. long. There is a difference in "natural" behaviour.

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10 hours ago, shootingstar said:

ove is really an action. You show love in the way that you serve each other food or pour tea. It's more important in Cantonese culture to express love through actions and little acts of service and gifts

This is “pragma.” It’s recognized throughout the Western Hemisphere as love, also.  

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