Question 20

One query makes reference to page 27 of “Taming the Tiger” to point out that Tony Anthony can apparently understand what the boys from Shanghai are saying even though Mandarin is spoken in Shanghai, and yet Tony Anthony claims to speak Cantonese. How is this?

We asked Tony to explain this to me and he shared the following: In the 1970’s, Shanghainese was the language generally used in Shanghai.  Mandarin became more dominant in the 1990’s when the use of Shanghainese was discouraged in schools. He recorded that the boys from Shanghai seemed to visit the family in Canton frequently, “In the coming years, the Shanghai boys were careful to stay away from me” (see page 28).  When they came to visit their family in Canton, the language they used was Cantonese.  The family elders, like the man Tony refers to as ‘Grandfather’, only used Cantonese and demanded every member of their family address them in that language. Rather than Mandarin, the boys used Cantonese when they came to the village; the language with which Tony was gaining familiarity.