Tue 6 Apr 2010
I know tons of foreigners that think that if they kept listening to Cantonese, they will eventually pick it up - no matter if its the radio and it all sounds like gibberish.
I have probably done around 80% input (listening) to about 20% output (speaking). This means, you don’t speak your way to fluency…. you listen your way to fluency. You can’t output what you haven’t inputted.
In my journey to learn Cantonese as fast as possible, I have learnt the most important principle in learning languages - You need to understand the input, which is one of Stephen Krashen’s principles of 2nd language acquisition.
- Repetitive listening to content that doesn’t make sense will not mean you will eventually get it.
- Listening to incomprehensible content very loud and clear will not mean you will understand it better
- Listening to incomprehensible content super slow over and over will not make you understand it better
So how can you understand the input? Take a look at Stephen Krashen as he explains the most important factor in learning languages.
The fastest way to learn Cantonese is by
- Learning as much vocab as possible. You can’t speak what you haven’t learnt, and you can’t guess your way through conversations as you’ll just look stupid when you do the wrong thing.
- Forget the grammar. You will notice it naturally after huge input. You’ll simply notice that’s the way they do it.
- Understand what you are listening. My method is to translate each “new” word into Jyutping, then into English and listen over-and-over to the Cantonese until it becomes natural.
- Learn the tone number with every new word and memorise it. Otherwise, you’ll sound like a broken record.
To the know-it-all foreigners and to to locals that preach Cantonese has no grammar, the big news is that CANTONESE HAS GRAMMAR. Though for all learners, I suggest you don’t learn it until you are quite good. You don’t need to learn it because you’ll never speak smoothly when sentences need to be filtered through a wall of grammar rules. You’ll start figuring out that time and verbs go in certain places. You’ll notice the ending particles after you listen to them being said in context.