‘That elder brother is taller than that elder brother’
I’ve noticed more and more people are trying now to learn ‘Chinese’ – mostly Mandarin. Some of them do it because they see an opportunity for work, other are aware of Chinese people coming to their countries, opening factories etc., some do it for fun. I do it for love.
I’m from Europe, my husband is from Asia – we like it or not, English was the easiest way to communicate for us, not so good for our families. Typical family meeting looked like this:
MY PARENTS SPEAKING POLISH -> ME SPEAKING ENGLISH -> MY HUSBAND SPEAKING SHANGHAINESE -> HIS MOTHER RESPONDS TO HIM IN SHANGHAINESE -> HE RESPONDS TO ME BACK IN ENGLISH -> I TELL MY PARENTS HER ANSWER IN POLISH
Looks quite fun but not when you need to ‘talk’ like that everyday for a long time. I know that my husband will not be with me 24/7, many times I’ve had problems being alone with my mother-in-law and just showing gestures what we want. Since that time I’ve decided I will speak CANTONESE. He is a Hongkonger, just like his father, speaking to each other with that wonderful language – yes, it’s oficially used in Hong Kong so it shouldn’t be called as dialect – and so will our future child and me.
Since that time I regret my decisions 2383157935942 times, but I never give up so till today I keep on studying. I want to give you some tips and books you can use to help you with your studying of Cantonese.
- Start from Mandarin: Cantonese is quite different from Mandarin, has bigger ammount of tones, uses traditional, more complicated signs than Mandarin, spelling is different, even cantonese jyutping is different from mandarin pinyin. Knowing Mandarin will give you ‘base’ to start speaking more difficult Cantonese
- Pick books in your language at the beginning: in my country, when I first decided to speak ‘Chinese’ I could only find Mandarin books, Cantonese could be only bought in English on the Intnernet and picking my native language first was a great choice – some of the terms are very difficult and use ‘specific’ language that might be hard for a person studying language A in language B when his native language is C. Once you know the terms you can focus only on material in book rather than wondering what author wants from you
- Find ‘signs book’: don’t worry about your handwriting, most of Chinese people I met have really horrible handwriting but what really matters is the stroke order – it’s important while writing when you try to imput something on the phone, apps sense stroke order and way they are written, but as long as you make it right it will suggest you sign you want to use. Not to mention people will judge it – once you decide to learn it, learn properly. I know that it’s sometimes really difficult, but writing it for 10-20 times will make you have it in mind.
- Pick books with CDs: without hearing you won’t be able to speak Cantonese nor Mandarin, those two are based on tones and that tones can change the whole meaning, just take a look on today’s post title. Signs are totally different, but without tones you wouldn’t hear a difference. My personal choice for book is Complete Cantonese with Two Audio CDs: A Teach Yourself Guide – from beginner to itermediate, uses Yale romanization, over 400 pages for around 25 usd.
- Practice dialogs and writing: Internet now gives you a chance to have an international conversations without going out of the bed, many sites offer language exchange, don’t hestitate and try to speak and write as much as you can. The other way to make is… KARAOKE! Yes, that’s right – go karaoke. It helps you match character with a sound, it’s easy, it makes learning fun and that’s one of the method parents use to teach their children.
Watch Hong Kong movies: Hong Kong is home of many great movies, you can find anything – horrors, romantic movies, comedies, category III movies with violence and nude scenes and original HK productions have two subtitles – traditional signs and English and believe me, from my own experience it’s much easier to learn Cantonese if you’re keep on hearing the language, matching sounds with words and actions. Besides many movies with Samuel Hui, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Nicholas Tse there are many good dramas like for example The Grate Magician. If you want, check out my youtube channel: www.youtube.com/user/legendofamoonbunny – as a fan of HK cat. III movies I upload from time to time the rare one, hard to find for a gwailo/gwaimui with subtitles.
I wish a good luck, patience and motivation to speak that beautiful language. Remember that more you are into that culture, music, tv shows it will be much easier to study.
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