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I hate when people tell me “your Cantonese is very good” but say it in English. Finally, all my built up frustration over the years can be explained by this video…

A while back, someone on the Cantonese learning forum described:

There are two Hong Kong’s.

Hong Kong (香港,香講) and Hong (m) Kong (香唔港, 香唔講).

“Heung Gong” (香港,香講) is “the HK that speaks to you in Cantonese”. You’ll make friends and speak Cantonese with them. Heung Gong (HK) people mostly live in Kowloon, the New Territories, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

“Heung (m) Gong” (香唔港, 香唔講) or H(m)K is the HK that won’t speak in Cantonese to you.

Heung (m) Gong (HmK), is mainly located in certain parts of Central and in the offices of foreign capital firms. HmK’ers generally speak Cantonese among themselves. You’ll hear them joke, smile, laugh, greet and talk in Cantonese. But not to you.

They’ll speak “about” Cantonese in English. But not “in” Cantonese to you. To everyone else, yes, but not to you.

Some when they speak “in” English “about” Cantonese, will claim they’re speaking “in” Cantonese. You’ll notice it after a few experiences. Don’t get fooled.

“Heung Gong” (香講) people will accept you, speak Cantonese to you and welcome you. It’s heaven. Many can’t speak English and have no interest in English at all. They’ll talk “in” Cantonese. There’s no problem, no insults, no exclusion.


I came across an article (少數族裔不懂中文搵工難 - siu2 sou3 zuk6 jeoi6 bat1 dung2 zung1 man4 wan2 gung1 naan4) in Yahoo about Ethnic Minorities finding it difficult to find work in Hong Kong. The article describes a young man Mohammad, which I previously met briefly last month.

He tells the story that he can speak fluent Cantonese but cannot read or write. He only studied to Form 5 and constantly gets rejected for jobs when he writes a Pakistani name and gets phone calls when he writes a Chinese name. Also when people call him up, they recognise that he has an accent and rejects him because he is not Chinese.

I met a group of ethnic minorities who want the government to cater for their poor language needs so that they can enter the civil service without needing to pass Chinese. They claim that they get discriminated because they can’t pass the Chinese test. I met a person who claimed he couldn’t get a promotion in the civil service because of non-existent Chinese reading skills. Its 11 years since 1997 and instead of learning to read Chinese, he’d rather complain for 11 years that the Government discriminated him. On the other hand, he said he would need 7 years to learn written Chinese properly. To me, its pretty obvious if he didn’t spend 11 years complaining that he couldn’t get promoted for poor Chinese, he could have already mastered Chinese and been promoted.

Regarding this article, Mohammad quit his previous job because he wanted to take leave to act in a documentary about race discrimination. When his boss didn’t allow him to, he decided to quit. This is the real world, and obviously he doesn’t have his priorities straight. I couldn’t imagine asking my boss for random leave so I could act in a TVB series. One has a commitment to their job and why would it be any different for Mohammad, just because he wants to act in a race discrimination video.

Many Chinese people get rejected for jobs all the time. Even I know many who don’t get phone calls either. Even I applied for work and been rejected, I don’t believe its discrimination because I’m a Westerner. For Mohammad who is a Form 5 Graduate, demand for jobs would be quite competitive in today’s economic market. I’m sure there is a huge pool of job seekers who can speak and write both Chinese and English. So it makes more sense for Mohammad to find his own competitive advantage. I’m sure not many employers would want to hire sub-par employees.

I don’t deny there isn’t discrimination in Hong Kong as I’ve been a victim of it in Australia and Hong Kong. Though I think that one should only blame themselves for their own language limitations. I see many job postings relating to my previous/current experiences on JobsDB, which I believe I could do well. However, due to having Written and Spoken Chinese requirements, I know that I am not suitable. Instead of complaining that I was discriminated because of my foreign name, I took out my copy-book and practiced several pages of Chinese.

I am very happy that last saturday I met John Wakefield (莊域飛) in Sha Tin. John and his wife were super nice and I learnt a lot about his life, Cantonese and other aspects of life.

My wife agreed that John now speaks like a 100% Native Hong Kong person. Pretty happy that I could speak Cantonese with them for a few hours without problems. I was a little ashamed of being so far behind John in Cantonese accent and accuracy, however, it motivated me to do my best and improve on my accent and pronunciation. John explained “fossilization”, where one will reach a point in ability and not improve any further no matter how long one speaks a language. Such as my father who speaks fluent but far from native English, even though living in Australia for 40 years.

John pointed out that everyone has their own talent or skill. While I have an impressive vocabulary in Cantonese, John has an impeccable talent for accent accuracy.

John Wakefield

For those who don’t know who John is, I have listed a few impressive videos of him speakng Cantonese when he was my age.

Iranian American Speaking Fluent Chinese (both Cantonese and Mandarin) Started learning Chinese at 19 and now speaks perfect Chinese in both Cantonese and Mandarin, and what’s more incredible he has never been to China or Hong Kong.

I think he is naturally gifted in languages and speaking in general. He didn’t even have one “ummm” or “ahhh” in his entire video. Even in English I cannot speak for this period of time without needing to think or hesitate to some extent.

Today I presented a 2 hour presentation in 100% Cantonese, even the technical vocabulary to a Mainland outsourcing company. I had to study tons of technical computer vocabulary before the meeting and get fluent in professional sounding Cantonese like (鑒於上述我所講嘅原因 / gaam3 jyu1 soeng6 seot6 ngo5 so2 gong2 ge3 jyun4 jan1 / in light of the above mentioned reasons).

Today’s meeting went for 5 hours and I could understand nearly everything without needing to second guess or think. I guess I can say my progress after today’s meeting can be considered huge and quite amazing (not being up myself in anyway). One year ago I don’t think I could handle today’s meeting at all. I also found that I sounded pretty clear if I spoke slowly and articulate all my compounds.

What I had to get used to was to have English Powerpoint slides, but speak in Cantonese. Still I have a long way to go as I lack tons of professional and advanced sentence structures, but I’ll keep learning until people will mistake me for a native.

Download - 00:28min

Produced & Transcribed by: 馬太太
Translated by: 馬先生

lau5 am3 faa1 ming4 jau6 jat1 cyun1
There’s a Light at the end of the tunnel

ni1 geoi3 gu2 si1, ji4 gaa1 sing4 wai6 zo2 gwong2 faan6 lau4 cyun4 ge3 sing4 jyu5,
This old verse has now become a wide spread idiom,

di1 jan4 jung6 lau5 am3 faa1 ming4 ni1 sei3 go3 zi6 bei2 jyu6 hai2 kwan3 naan4 zi1 zung1 jyu6 dou3*2 zyun2 gei1.
People use these 4 characters to imply there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, in that difficulties will make a turn for the better.

keoi5 ge3 kai2 si6 hai6 waa6:
Their enlightenment is:

seoi1 jin4 ji4 gaa1 ge3 cyu2 ging2 waak6 ze2 zou6 gan2 ge3 ni1 gin6 si6 hai6 kwan3 naan4 cung4 cung4,
Although the current situation or something you are currently doing is very difficult,

daan6 hai6 zi2 jiu3 nei5 m4 teoi3 suk1, m4 wai3 geoi6 ge3 waa6,
as long as you don’t shrink back, and not scared,

hai2 kwan3 naan4 zi1 zung1 zoeng1 wui5 jyu6 dou3*2 zyun2 gei1 ge3.
in difficult situations, it will make a turn for the better.

Hope you can understand… just talking out of my head without any rehearsal. I know I sound very foreign, but at least I tried.

I don’t normally watch Pearl, however, I unintentionally came across a great video of Greg Smith who has lived in Hong Kong for 2 decades. After watching it on TV, I downloaded it from RTHK website, and then uploaded to Youtube for your enjoyment. Coincidentally, I think he looks like 大山 a famous Beijing Westerner.

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