Monday, October 23, 2017

Cantonese II Class Summary, Insights, Homework for Saturday, October 21

Hi Everyone,

We had another small but successful class this past Saturday. After a slightly late start of 8-10 minutes, we jumped right in.

We reviewed the vocabulary for Lesson 16 (the first lesson in our FSI Cantonese Basic Course Volume 2 textbook) and then reviewed the dialogue in the Recapitulation section at the beginning of the chapter. First I read the dialogue out loud and then we had everyone repeat after me, making sure that we all understood the vocabulary and sentence structures.

Following my review of the dialogue, we covered the grammar notes for this chapter from pages 4 through the bottom of page 10. This took a while and before we knew it, class was over and it was time to go home.

Grammar points that we covered included:
  1. Past and "non-past" [present and future] verb forms, comparing things that we did or didn't do YESTERDAY (or we asked about whether these things were done yesterday) vs. things that we will or won't do TOMORROW (or we asked whether we would do these things tomorrow). Please refer to the charts on pages 4 and 5 for the distinctions that we drew between certain types of verbs such as sihk6 (to eat) and yauh5 (to have). Time does not permit me to repeat the lesson material here, but we covered multiple examples and everyone seemed to understand what the book was going for in its various explanations of these distinctions. Please review this material if it presented any challenges for you during class.
  2. Next we covered page 6, "past reference with uninflected verb to express general activity." We saw in the examples at the top of the page that if preceded by a time phrase that occurred in the past (yesterday or "formerly," for example), we did not need to use jo2, the standard past tense marker for Cantonese verbs.
  3. Continuing from page 2 to the top of page 3, we saw a distinction between verb + jo2 and verb + gwo3 for actions that occured in the past; the jo2 application in this case was the equivalent of our "-ed" at the end of a verb in English; whereas the use of gwo3 in this case implied whether someone had or had not experienced doing this verb before, at some time in the past. An additional example of this use of gwo3 occurs all the time in Cantonese textbooks from the 60s and 70s, where the authors seem to think that most Westerners or Americans had never tasted Chinese food before. Of course, this is an absurd concept for us today in Chinatown in NYC, but apparently this was a real thing in 1968 or 1970, when a Chinese teacher could ask a non-Chinese person with a straight face and complete innocence whether that non-Chinese person had ever tasted Chinese food before.
  4. I asked you all to read the rest of the English language text section on pages 6 and 7 yourselves, because we did not have time to cover this material in class. Since the book does a good job of explaining the language theory here, there is no reason for me to cover this stuff when time does not permit.
  5. On page 8, we covered the 2 different-meaning but similar-appearing usages of the verb phrase + laih4 construction used in this lesson: the first expressing the idea that someone has gone away, done something and returned, and then we are asking where they have been (with the understanding that they were gone but have returned prior to our questioning). The second usage was in situations where a response to a question contradicts the expectations of the person asking the question, such as: "Did you go to the movies yesterday?" "No -- I stayed at home all day and played Mahjong laih4."
  6. We briefly covered the vocabulary item daih6 di1 yeh5 (short for daih6 yi1 di1 yeh5) -- another of such and such noun, or the concept of "other things" or "something else."
  7. Finally, we went over the appropriate responses to a "You didn't do such and such, did you?" rhetorical question (or question asking about not doing something), most often using the aah4 sentence final particle. We saw that if someone asks in Chinese, "Your house doesn't have a phone, does it?", the correct response in Cantonese would be in effect, "Yes, it doesn't." This is different from English, where we are taught to say, "No, it doesn't." Conversely, if our house did have a phone, we would reply, "No, it does," which may be closer to how we might respond in English, depending on the speaker.
We will review this last grammar point at the beginning of next week's class and then finish the final Lesson 16 grammar point regarding the auxiliary or helping verb seung2, meaning to want to, or to wish to do another verb (pages 10-11). This is contrasted with the original meaning of the character when not followed by another verb: to think of something, i.e. "It occurred to me that..." 

Following this, we will spend the rest of class next week doing a selection of the substitution drills from pages 12 through 19. It is my hope that we will finish lesson 16 (the first lesson in our book) next Saturday and be ready to begin lesson 17 during the following class.

Please remember that I will not be able to teach on November 4, so our 4th class will be held the following Saturday, November 11. 

It is possible or perhaps even likely, depending on continued enrollment and whether Hung decides to switch to this same textbook for his 2:30 pm Saturday Cantonese 2 class, that November 11 may be our last class -- which means that this will have been a 4-week workshop instead of a year-long course. Let's see what happens...


Everyone did well with the material. My one insight is just that our class seemed to fly by this past Saturday. Part of it might be that I had been at the school sinne 12:15 pm and by 5:30 or 6, I was a bit burnt out; but part of it might also simply have been that there was a lot of material to cover here and we only had 50-55 minutes to go over everything.


For homework this week, please preview pages 12 - 19 in your textbook, which we will cover parts of next week. This will help us to speed through the material next Saturday, only stopping when students have specific questions about any of the grammar concepts.

Please also look at the "Say it in Cantonese" section on pages 20-21, where you are asked to translate from English into Cantonese based on the vocabulary and grammar of the lesson that we have been covering. I want to try to go over this as well next week, because these exercises are always helpful to all levels of speakers.

Thanks again and see everyone next Saturday.

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