Brendan here. I am your white Cantonese I teacher for the Monday night ALESN class this year. I want to welcome everyone and thank you for signing up for my class. This will be the 5th year that I am teaching Beginning Cantonese for ALESN at Chinatown's MS131 via the YMCA Beacon program. Yay...
Below is a long email introducing myself, letting you know what to expect from my class, and telling you about our textbook that we will be using this year. Thanks in advance for reading...
- I am very casual in my appearance and attitude, but make no mistake: I take language learning very seriously and expect you to pay attention, participate in class, AND MAKE CONSISTENT WEEKLY EFFORTS EITHER TO STUDY CANTONESE ON YOUR OWN OR WITH FRIENDS/FAMILY MEMBERS -- or, if you are already at a "higher" level and are taking my class to "tie together your loose ends," I expect you to take some time each week ON YOUR OWN TO ACTUALLY SPEAK CANTONESE -- WITH FRIENDS, FAMILY OR AT RESTAURANTS, STORES, ETC. We will discuss various approaches in class that might work for different levels of students this coming year...
- I moved to NYC in 1998 to pursue a career as a professional singer, songwriter and recording engineer/producer. I moved away from that field 7 or 8 years ago, but I am very happy to say that I am back to singing and hopefully other musical pursuits as of this past summer. I mention this because I will constantly cite various examples throughout the course from my own music education and ear training / sight-singing studies in order to illustrate and suggest ways you can improve and cement your pronunciation AND TONES -- particularly for new students who have never tried to speak a Chinese language / dialect before.
- I learned to speak Cantonese and Mandarin solely from classes at ALESN, supplemented with hundreds of hours of my own self-study plus several 1 month-long language and culture "immersion" trips to Hong Kong and China, which I am happy to talk about if people are interested. I also made efforts early on to speak Cantonese and Mandarin every week with local NYC store and restaurant owners -- even when my pronunciation was horrible! The important thing is that I made the process FUN -- and I issued myself challenges early on to see just how good I could get, and how quickly I could reach that level of "goodness." I am going to help you all to become COMFORTABLE WITH THE IDEA OF BEING UNCOMFORTABLE -- because early on, language learning is a very awkward and ugly process...if you are doing it right.
- I took our founder Tony Parisi's Cantonese I class two years in a row approximately 7 and 6 years ago, at which time I was encouraged to speak my limited, often "bad" Cantonese at local Chinatown restaurants, stores, etc. AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. This was an excellent approach for me because I am a white guy without a Chinese girlfriend or family members, so I needed to make some strong personal efforts early on to expose myself to conversational situations in Cantonese -- and even more importantly to bombard myself with as much LISTENING to spoken Cantonese by real people as possible each week. I did the same thing for myself later on when I started to learn Mandarin at ALESN 4 years ago, and I am going to encourage all of you to do this throughout the coming academic year.
- We will talk a lot about study habits and ways that you can maximize your learning potential via listening to mp3s on your smartphone while riding the subway to and from work, on lunch breaks, etc. Beginning students often read a lot of books and learn a lot of grammar and syntax early on, which is a great thing, BUT if you can't pronounce Cantonese accurately enough to be understood at the most basic level by native speakers, you will need to change your approach to make that happen. I will help you with this throughout the coming year, to the best of my ability.
- A NOTE FOR NEW STUDENTS/ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS: YOU WILL NOT LEARN TO SPEAK CANTONESE THROUGH PASSIVE ABSORPTION OR "OSMOSIS." IF YOU ARE NOT PLANNING TO DEVOTE A SIGNIFICANT PORTION OF YOUR OWN PERSONAL SPARE TIME TO LEARNING CANTONESE OUTSIDE OF CLASS, THEN YOU WILL NEED TO PLEASE RELINQUISH YOUR SPOT IN MY CLASS TO ONE OF THE PEOPLE CURRENTLY ON THE WAIT LIST. THANKS IN ADVANCE FOR NOT WASTING EITHER OF OUR TIME(S).
- Finally, very important to know about me: I am a big believer in "tough love." I WILL HELP ANY AND ALL OF YOU WITH ANYTHING AS LONG AS YOU MAKE AN HONEST ATTEMPT TO TAKE THE TIME AND TRY TO FIGURE IT OUT FOR YOURSELF FIRST. ALESN is offering this class to you FOR FREE, and in exchange you are expected to put in some time and work to make the learning process happen for each of you. I AM NOT GOING TO BABYSIT OR HOLD ANYONE'S HAND IN THIS CLASS -- UNLESS YOU ARE A 9 YEAR-OLD CHILD ATTENDING CLASS WITH YOUR PARENT(S) AND YOU NEED MY HELP. If I offer you a link in the future for free learning material downloads, for example, DO NOT ask me to download the stuff for you, burn it to CD, listen to it for you, study for you, and then follow you into the restroom and tidy up after you when you are done. Each of you has to put in some basic effort in my class. Please try your best to read all lesson materials and emails BEFORE asking me to do things for you that anyone living in NYC in 2016 should be able to do for themselves in their daily lives -- such as downloading a file or doing a basic Google search for a website that I might direct you to in class. THANKS IN ADVANCE!!!
I will NOT be teaching Chinese characters in Cantonese I, but you are all welcome to register for our Saturday afternoon Chinese character reading and writing lessons, if slots are available.