I live in Hong Kong and I am seeing an increasing trend of Chinese parents only speaking broken English to their children.

Obviously the parents think English equals Money, so they try to create some dodgy fake English only environment for their kids to help give them some head start or advantage.

Perhaps I’m too extreme, but to me it just falls short of a form of child abuse.

Its actually none of my business, but does anyone else feel sickened by this?

The other day I went to MacDonald’s and ordered the usual Double Cheese Burger and Strawberry Milkshake. The 40 or so year old man took down the order and spoke Cantonese. Though after that he proceeded to say in English “Your Cantonese is bad, don’t speak it”. This suddenly shocked me and probably it is the first time in years to have someone say this to me taking me back to the very early days.

I suddenly blasted attacks in Cantonese which actually made me just as bad as he was. I lied and told the manager he said 死鬼佬 sei2 gwai2 lou2, all I wanted was the burger and he discriminated against me etc.

Now I’m feeling depressed and unhappy about what I have achieved. I used to think I was pretty good, but after watching other non-Chinese Cantonese speakers such as Michael below; I realise my vocabulary is way too elementary. Even though I can understand what’s on TV without much problems at all now, I listened to Michael’s speech and immediately needed to look up 10 sentences or phrases. If this was a real conversation, I would be incredibly annoying to the speaker for not understanding.

So seriously this year, its time to pick up my game and learn Cantonese. I’ll put up an MP3 of my current Cantonese within the next day or so. What I can say now is that I promise to master Cantonese no matter what it takes!

Michael has excellent Cantonese and has studied for 13 years in Canada. He also has advanced writing skills too - http://faailok.spaces.live.com/ which is even more impressive.


Download - 01:00min

Produced by: 馬太太
Transcribed by: 鄺慧明

上個月一艘烏克蘭嘅大型補給船同一艘中國貨船相撞之後沉沒,除咗七個船員獲救之外,十八個船員失蹤。
soeng6 go3 jyut6 jat1 sau2 wu1 hak1 laan4 ge3 daai6 jing4 bou2 kap1 syun4 tung4 jat1 sau2 zung1 gwok3 fo3 syun4 soeng1 zong6 zi1 hau6 cam4 mut6, ceoi4 zo2 cat1 go3 syun4 jyun4 wok6 gau3 zi1 ngoi6, sap6 baat3 go3 syun4 jyun4 sat1 zung1.

Last month, a large Ukrainian supply boat sunk after a crash with a Chinese cargo boat, apart from seven sailors who were rescued, eighteen sailors disappeared.

補給船沉沒嘅一個星期以來,消防蛙人一共進行咗五十五次嘅水底搜索,進入船艙搜救。
bou2 kap1 syun4 cam4 mut6 ge3 jat1 go3 sing1 kei4 ji5 loi4, siu1 fong4 waa1 jan4 jat1 gung6 zeon3 hang4 zo2 ng5 sap6 ng5 ci3 ge3 seoi2 dai2 sau2 sok3, zeon3 jap6 syun4 cong1 sau2 gau3.

Over a week after the supply boat sank, firefighter-divers undertook 55 underwater searches, and entered the boat’s cabin.

但係因為現場水流太急,加上海底能見度非常之低,增加咗搜救嘅難度。
daan6 hai6 jan1 wai6 jin6 coeng4 seoi2 lau4 taai3 gap1, gaa1 soeng6 hoi2 dai2 nang4 gin3 dou6 fei1 soeng4 zi1 dai1, zang1 gaa1 zo2 sau2 gau3 ge3 naan4 dou6.

But because the current was too strong at the location, and in addition, underwater visibility was extremely low, that increased the difficulty of the recovery.

消防蛙人停止海底搜索行動之後,由四十個潛水員接力進行打撈嘅工作。
siu1 fong4 waa1 jan4 ting4 zi2 hoi2 dai2 sau2 sok3 hang4 dung6 zi1 hau6, jau4 sei3 sap6 go3 cim4 seoi2 jyun4 zip3 lik6 zeon3 hang4 daa2 laau4 ge3 gung1 zok3.

After firefighter-divers ceased their underwater search, forty divers alternated in undertaking the recovery work.

由於海底海水混濁,視野不清,又有急流,令到打撈工作甚為艱巨。
jau4 jyu1 hoi2 dai2 hoi2 seoi2 wan6 zuk6, si6 je5 bat1 cing1, jau6 jau5 gap1 lau4, ling6 dou3 daa2 laau4 gung1 zok3 sam6 wai4 gaan1 geoi6.

Due to the turbidity of the water, underwater visibility was unclear, and the strong currents, this made the recovery work extremely difficult.

琴日補給船終於畀打撈出水面,目前仍然有十一個船員下落不明。
kam4 jat6 bou2 kap1 syun4 zung1 jyu1 bei2 daa2 laau4 ceot1 seoi2 min6, muk6 cin4 jing4 jin4 jau6 sap6 jat1 go3 syun4 jyun4 haa6 lok6 bat1 ming4.

Yesterday the supply boat was finally brought to the surface; currently there are still eleven sailors who have not been located.

Over 2 years I’ve read thousands of forum posts on people’s experiences in learning languages and methods they’ve used to improve their spoken skills. Many people have given various suggestions which I’ve tried. The number one advice is to simply listen and imitate what you hear. Now this method not only doesn’t work for me, it actually hinders me.

Imitating new words without analysing its tones and romanization actually hinders my pronuncation. I tried once-upon-a-time to simply listen and copy, and ended up speaking some rubbish bastardised dribble that people can’t understand. What I thought I heard actually ends up being totally opposite to what the real tone and romanization were. Maybe I get it right then and there, but the next day I can’t remember how the words sounded like. If I proactively study a word I get better results, I’ll explain why…

EVERY word I learn goes through this process:

1) Learn words by Listening: Perhaps via watching Television, my wife telling me a new word, I ask how to say a new word.

2) Get its meaning: I hate people teaching me a new word in Cantonese. I honestly never remember or understand the explanations. Either the explanations contain 3-4 new words or the meaning isn’t clear for me which I will then never remember. I prefer direct Cantonese to English translations for every word! The times when there is no suitable English word, I prefer an English explanation. This is where it becomes tricky… many people have given me ridiculous English meanings which I needed to correct by using the Cantodict dictionary. I have learnt every word purely by doing a translation into English. This does not mean I think in English or translate everything I hear into English. Only new words I learn I prefer to be acquired via English as the meaning is much clearer and I remember far better. The other way is to provide a Cantonese synonym which I’ve already learnt and produces the same results.

3) Get the tones and Jyutping: I use the Cantodict dictionary in which I guess the 拼音 ping3 jam1 or have a native speaker type the characters which I then look up the correct tones and romanization. I’m also lucky because my wife knows all the tones in Cantonese and I can easily ask her what a particular word’s tone is.

4) Get a few pratical examples: I hate learning a word and then using it incorrectly, so I ask my wife or forum members to provide a few examples.

5) Use the words: I sometimes have sane conversations with myself to improve fluency of new words, but I also purposely throw in new words in every conversation where applicable so to build its automaticity. Then I’ll try them out with my wife or colleagues.

This is how I’ve learnt ~10,000 Cantonese words and I can think 100% in Cantonese! I hope this helps those that email me asking.


Download - 00:55min

香港嘅天文台有十種天氣警告同埋信號,
Hoeng1 gong2 ge3 tin1 man4 toi4 jau5 sap6 zung2 tin1 hei3 ging2 gou3 tung4 maai4 seon3 hou6,
Hong Kong’s Observatory has 10 weather warnings and signals,

其中之一 種係寒冷天氣警告.
Kei4 zung1 zi1 jat1 zung2 hai6 hon4 laang5 tin1 hei3 ging2 gou3.
One of them is cold weather warning.

當天文台發出呢個警告嘅時候,
Dung1 tin1 man4 toi4 faat3 ceot1 ni1 go3 ging2 gou3 ge3 si4 hau6
When the Observatory issues this warning,

即係表示香港市區氣溫將會顯著下降或者已經下降到十二度或者以下,
Zik1 hai6 biu2 si6 hoeng1 gong2 si5 keoi1 hei3 wan1 zoeng1 wui5 hin2 zyu6 haa6 gong3 waak6 ze2 ji6 ging1 haa6 gong3 dou3 sap6 ji6 dou6 waak6 ze2 ji5 haa6,
That means the temperature in the city will obviously decrease or already have decreased below 12 degrees,

而且跟住個幾日天氣可能仍然持續寒冷。
Ji4 ce2 gan1 zyu6 go3 gei2 jat6 tin1 hei3 ho2 nang4 jing4 jin4 ci4 zuk6 hon4 laang5.
Also the following day’s weather will continue to be cold.

當寒冷天氣警告生效嘅時候,
Dong1 hon4 laang5 tin1 hei3 ging2 gou3 sang1 haau6 ge3 si4 hau6,
When the signal becomes effective,

部份嘅社區中心會係傍晚嘅時候開放比露宿者同埋其他有需要嘅人士作為臨時避寒中心。
Bou6 fan6 ge3 se5 keoi1 zung1 sam1 wui5 hai2 pong4 maan6 ge3 si4 hau6 hoi1 fong3 bei2 lou6 suk1 ze2 tung4 maai4 kei4 taa1 jau5 seoi1 jiu3 ge3 jan4 si6 zok3 wai4 lam4 si4 bei6 hon4 zung1 sam1.
Some of the community centres will in the evening be open for homeless and other people in need as temporary shelter.

中心入面會提供毛氈、床褥、熱水同埋食物等等。
Zung1 sam1 jap6 min6 wui5 tai4 gung1 mou4 zin1, cong4 juk6*2, jit6 seoi2 tung4 maai4 sik6 mat6 dang2 dang2.
The centre will provide a blanket, a mattress, hot water and food etc.

I felt burnt out after nearly 2 years of non-stop studying of Cantonese that I took the last month and a bit off from proactive studying to simply just using what I’ve got and slowly improve on what I already know.

It appears my colleagues are now using Cantonese with me all the time now, and they said my tones are 80-90% correct all the time which I’m happy with.

My writing is slowly getting better but still like a year 1 student. This will be my main focus for 2008…. I will start level 2 of the writing course I’ve started in Wan Chai in a couple of days.

I will also start on actively using Cantophilia and Marcelo’s blog (links can be found on the side menu) which provide excellent resource material.

I will get my wife to record more MP3s but at a more advance level.

Even though I understand a lot and can speak semi-smoothly, I want to build up my level so its more natural and smooth.

I was interviewed a week or so ago by Gary Choi of SBS Radio Australian Cantonese Radio station in Cantonese as part of the Happy Paradise Children’s Program.

Please let me know how I sound now? Remember this wasn’t scripted and I didn’t know the questions before answering.

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