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Master all the tones with this song, in addition, learn to count too!

I’ve read on many expat and Cantonese forum posts people who are new to Hong Kong are asking for Cantonese teachers and private tutors. Even those that are asking for language exchange partners.

At a novice level you do not need a tutor or teacher! Yes that’s right, you don’t need a tutor to teach you how to speak Cantonese. A tutor at the beginning stage is simply a waste of money. Over the last many years living in Hong Kong, I’ve met around 15 or so westerners who all came with the intention to learn Cantonese. They were all psyched up and ready to get good without any actual study. After 4 years they cannot speak more than a few broken sentences, and that is simply to buy their cha-siu fan.

You also cannot just find any random native speaker to teach you Cantonese! Anyone who claims they can tutor or exchange Cantonese is conning you of your time and money! What you need to do is learn proper language learning methods. If you have time, go to Google and search for “krashen”, “comprehensible input” and perhaps “steve kaufmann”.

There is no short cut to learning Cantonese, other than lots of boring repetitive listening, and learning lots of words. Cantonese DOES HAVE grammar, but not in the same way as French might have. I once had a discussion with an ex-colleague from Germany who basically argued that Cantonese has no grammar and you could randomly string words together in any order. He spent more time learning *about* Cantonese than actually learning it!

Many people are convinced they can only learn from a classroom, and only learn by speaking to a native. You can be more efficient if you buy a book that has lots of dialogues, jyutping/yale, and mp3 audio. You simply need to map words to definition (I prefer to learn each word by translating into English first) and then repeating the audio 100-200 times or until you can basically memorise what you heard. Make targets or milestones by learning 200 new words per week! I used to learn 500 words per week back in my intensive study days several years ago. Also be consistent and stop being lazy!

You must learn a romanisation method (yale or jyutping) and know the tones. Otherwise, you will sound clumsy and not be able to properly look up new words in the online cantonese dictionary. Remember, learning new words is critical to getting fluent!

But I must have a tutor because I was brainwashed to believe a teacher is a must?

The cost for a Cantonese tutor is HKD$100/hour (1-on-1 private lessons) and that is someone who knows the 6 tones. You don’t need to pay more than this price and more expensive doesn’t make it any better. If you absolutely insist you need a tutor, have your tutor create dialogues for you by writing out 1 minute stories that teach you new vocab (10-15 new words per dialogue), go over all the vocab by telling you the meaning in English (or whatever your mother tongue is) and record the MP3. When your 1-2 hour lessons are finished, spend 4-5 hours per day listening to these dialogues over and over until you are sick of them! Repeat this every day (even holidays)!

But I’m not like you, I don’t have 4-5 hours per day as I’ve got a life and I have 100 other excuses….

Don’t be a wimp and stop making excuses. I spent 1 hour on the train/bus in the morning listening to my audio, 1 hour during lunch, 1 hour on the bus/train back home after work, 2 hours before bed etc etc…. that’s already 5 hours per day! Add an extra few hours while shopping, buying groceries, eating, going to the toilet, walking, jogging, at the gym!

Now you can see you can easily get 7-8 hours per day. Successful people don’t make excuses for why they cannot, they find ways of achieving things by doing whatever it takes to get there!

I came across a free site cantoneseclass101.com, they provide free mp3 and transcripts for many many lessons in beginner, intermediate, and advanced. I think, however, they could remove the 10 second English trailer on each MP3 which becomes annoying when looping the audio on your mp3 player.

Edit: Oh wait… It’s not really free… They entice you to upgrade to a basic account $4/month to extend your access to get the full archive of lessons. However, you could always grab everything and not continue the following month.

I actually bought this book online a year ago from America. Learnt tons of swear words, slang, daily conversation words, rude sayings and tons of informal words. I’m also told the book is up to date and doesn’t contain out of date phrasing. Contains Chinese characters and Yale Pinyin. Much of the content isn’t even slang, very common and useful. Not really a Dictionary of Cantonese Slang, but rather a Dictionary of Cantonese with over 500 pages and 195megs!


Dictionary of Cantonese Slang

… yes I know I have an accent and made some tone mistakes, but hey, I don’t actively learn it anymore nor practice much :)

EDIT: I deleted the link from facebook because someone said they couldn’t understand 1 word I said :-( What a blow to my confidence!

The above video introduces how to type Cantonese. The method I use is Jyutping from http://cpime.hk - it will allow you type easily type all those fancy 啲 and 嘅 characters directly from Windows.

Published: July 22, 2010

HONG KONG — I had always presumed that speaking to your child in your native tongue was the most natural thing in the world. Apparently not everyone thinks so.

When we held a birthday party for our two-year-old daughter several months ago, I had a bit of a shock.

The first sign came when a four-year-old Chinese boy looked annoyed and frustrated when I asked in Cantonese what snacks he would like from the table.

“No, no, no!” he yelled in English. His mother promptly translated what I said into English.

This baffled me. The boy was born and bred here in Hong Kong, and his parents are both native speakers of the dominant Cantonese dialect, but they speak to their children only in their less-than-perfect English.

It turned out they have a simple reason: They want their children to get into a prestigious international school.

They worry that if their children speak Cantonese at home they will not learn enough English to pass the interview.

The mother is delighted with her achievement. Her son has been accepted by an international kindergarten and her younger girl’s first words were all in English.

I quickly realized that she wasn’t the only one who thought like this. I noticed that several other parents at the birthday party were also speaking broken English to their children.

“I will show you how does it work,” said one father in heavily-accented English, showing a toy train to his 19-month-old son.

He admitted with slight embarrassment that his English pronunciation and grammar were not great, and trying to communicate with his toddler in a language he himself is struggling with has led to problems.

“One day I was trying to tell him this is how you button your shirt,” he said, switching into Cantonese. “But then I couldn’t say it in English, so I had to ring up a friend and ask.”

I asked: Doesn’t he think it is better to talk to his toddler in the language he is most at ease in?

“I think you’ve lived abroad for too long — you don’t understand what parents here have to think about,” the boy’s mother said. “Competition for international schools is fierce. If we don’t make sure he speaks English now, he won’t pass the interview.”

I looked at her very cute toddler, who was busy chasing a ball on the floor, and felt a bit sad.

The boy is not yet two, and he was still babbling away in baby words. Yet in this competitive world, it is considered better for him to be exposed only to English, a language that his parents are not confident speaking but one they believe is more valuable than their native tongue.

More and more, ambitious parents in Hong Kong are giving their children a head-start in English by putting them into English-speaking play groups, kindergartens and international schools. At these elite institutions, Mandarin Chinese is sometimes taught as a second language.

As for the local Cantonese dialect, who cares?

I am saddened. What will happen to those age-old nursery rhymes our grandmothers taught us, the songs we sang at kindergarten, those Tang-dynasty poems that every preschool child was taught to recite?

And surely the classic tales of the “Twenty-four pious sons” — the stories that the Chinese have used to teach their children about the Confucian virtue of filial piety since the 14th century — can’t have the same cultural resonance when translated into English.

Besides, Cantonese carries echoes of ancient Chinese that no longer exist in the official Mandarin. It is a lively language full of colorful expressions.

It is our heritage, and if we don’t pass it on, who will?

When these children are not taught to speak the language of their ancestors, a connection with their native culture is bound to be lost.

And when they grow up, how will they see themselves? Will they still have a sense of belonging to Chinese culture? Will this society’s future elites be international in outlook, yet somehow rootless in culture?

Perhaps I’m being alarmist, but I wonder whether there will be a day when we in Hong Kong come to regret the decline of our language. By that time, it may be too late.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/23/opinion/23iht-edyu.html?_r=1&_r

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