Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cantonese I ALESN Monday, December 11, 2017 Class Summary, Insights, Homework

My apologies to Allison that there wasn't really anything for her to do tonight! I will try to involve you more in the drills next week...


Tonight, we began by reviewing the basic grammar / sentence structure of a Cantonese sentence:


Remember that "WHEN" stands for some time phrase (now, yesterday, 2 weeks from now on a Tuesday, etc.) and will only appear in one of the 2 locations, hence it is in parentheses. Usually, in Cantonese, this will appear right after the subject before anything else in the sentence, but occasionally it occurs at the beginning of the sentence for emphasis. 

REMEMBER THAT WHEN WILL NEVER APPEAR AT THE END OF A SENTENCE, AS IT DOES IN ENGLISH (English's "I will go to the store tomorrow" MUST in Cantonese ALWAYS either be "I tomorrow go to the store" or "Tomorrow, I go to the store."

We discussed that not every sentence will have all of these components, but that this is where each must go if they do exist in a given sentence, in order for that sentence to be grammatically correct and with proper SYNTAX in Cantonese. The most simple, complete, grammatically correct Cantonese sentences will only involve a subject (WHO) and a verb (WHAT HAPPENS). 

For example: Neih5 hou2. You good, or Hello.

Even questions, with their various question FINAL PARTICLES, follow this same basic structure:

Neih5 hou2 ma3? Where Neih5 is the subject and hou2 ma3 is the verb phrase (are good/well or not?).

We spent a bit of time reviewing the concept of equivalency and parallel structure/ parallel word order for any Cantonese question and its most logical corresponding answer. I explained that many beginning students get confused or panic and are at a loss for words when faced with even the most basic Cantonese question early on in their studies.  

Oh my god -- how do I answer this?!

Well, there is no reason to be panicked or confused; all you need to do is:
  1. Take the exact word order and sentence structure of the question.
  2. Make sure you understand the vocabulary of the question, so you know what is being asked of you.
  3. Isolate the question word, remove it from the sentence, and replace it with the answer word or words, being sure to keep everything else in the question the same.
  4. Remove any question sentence final particle and replace it with the appropriate answer sentence final particle, if applicable.
  5. Change any pronouns as appropriate. (If I ask YOU a question about yourself, you will reply, "I blah blah blah").
I then showed how the example question and answer regarding what someone's last name is, at the top of page 43, is a perfect and simple example of this principle. Don't worry if you are confused; we are going to be covering this basic Cantonese sentence structure and word order over and over again for the rest of the year, as well as the concept of equivalency and parallel structure/word order between questions and their answers for the rest of the year as well.

We then covered GE3 as a noun forming boundword. I reviewed the first usage of GE3 that we have all seen so far in our course: Ngoh5 GE3 (MINE). In its first usage that we have learned, ge3 is a "POSSESSIVE-IZER" -- not a correct grammar term, for sure, but one that clearly explains what it does. The first usage of ge3 is ownership, or what we think of in English as "apostrophe s" ('s).

I mentioned my online tutoring student in Minnesota earlier this year and his fascination with ge3 and ga3 as possessives, noun forming boundwords and sentence final particles. Though wayyyy beyond the scope of lesson 2 in our textbook, my research on ge3 and ga3 for my tutoring student earlier this year yielded some very interesting results, which I am happy to share later on in this blog if someone asks...

Per the book, we discussed that the sentence (question) final particle GA3 = GE3 + A3. I asked both Allison and Hung, who was eating his dinner in the back of the classroom, whether they have also heard uses of "GE3 A3" instead of GA3. As I have mentioned, every rule in Cantonese seems to have exceptions. Though we are properly taught that GE3 + A3 when forming a question that will elicit a GE3 sentence final particle (noun forming boundword) response becomes GA3, I mentioned that I have seen at least once in another textbook written by a real authentic Cantonese speaking Chinese person, a GE3 A3 question. I will try to find this and will update this blog entry if/when I do.

We reviewed mat1 yeh5, me1 yeh5, mi1 yeh5, and me1 --> 2 (where the tone starts 1 and slurs to some kind of 2 tone at the end of the word). This latter is the flippant Cantonese equivalent of the "Whaddya want?!" voiced by the rude bartender in Cecilie's Cantocourse video 1 and by the rude waitress in Cecilie's video 2, both previously assigned as homework for your class.

Then, onto the DRILLS that we covered in class:
  1. p. 44 Transformation Drill 1: making a positive statement negative by adding MH4.
  2. p. 44 Substitution Drill 2: substituting different country or city names for where someone is from.
  3. p. 45 Mixed Substitution Drill 3: first changing the pronoun and then changing the country or city where that person is from.
  4. p. 45 Expansion Drill 4: saying that some person is not [insert name here], but I am.
  5. p. 46 Transformation Drill 5: Turning a statement about ME into a question about YOU (a question that someone would ask me to get the response of my initial statement). This last one is the most important drill that we covered during this class, in which we reverse engineered statements into the most logical question that one would ask to get an answer in the form of the initial statement. Notice that the statement and its related question of course display complete and perfect equivalency and parallel structure/ parallel word order.
At this point, near the end of class, I asked if people enjoyed the drills, especially since 2 of the students had expressed to me after our previous class that they were really looking forward to doing the drills in class. I was encouraged to hear that everyone either enjoyed the drills and felt they were valuable at this stage of your learning process, or perhaps some of you declined to comment if you did not enjoy the drills.

I mentioned that in my opinion, one of the best ways to learn Chinese as a beginner is to do substitution and expansion drills on as many basic sentence structures as possible, incorporating as much new vocabulary as possible when making new sentences or variations of previous sentences as provided by the textbook.

I digressed for a few minutes and mentioned my own current Cantonese and Mandarin studies with GLOSSIKA, an audio and textbook resource, as I work to learn some intermediate/advanced vocabulary and sentence structures for myself in both languages/dialects. Glossika as a learning system relies on this same basic sentence building method for its approach to creating fluency in a foreign language. I mentioned the Glossika Mass Sentence Method, which I recommend to all students once you get past the initial hurdle of a level one Chinese course such as ours:


Anela asked a question about haih6 mh4 haih6?  vs. haih6 ma3? We discussed that the first structure is more "colloquial" (how everyday speakers would ask a yes or no "to be" question), and that the ma3 usage is more written or "formal" Cantonese, as might be spoken by TV newscasters, weather reporters, radio DJs, politicians, or anyone reading Mandarin aloud and pronouncing it as Cantonese. Certainly, you might see this in writing in a Hong Kong newspaper, but I believe that most native speakers would use haih5 mh4 haih5 in everyday speech. As Anela suggested, it certainly sounds "more Cantonesey."

We will pick up next time with Response Drill 6 on the top of page 47.

Please review drills on pages 44-46. Preview drills on pages 47-53, which we will cover next time. 

Review the vocabulary and dialogue for lesson 2, and then DO the "Say It In Cantonese" exercise on page 53, translating from English into Cantonese. Please write down your answers and bring them to class next Monday.  

Make sure you do the entire exercise, which continues on page 54 with 2 short dialogues based on the vocabulary we have covered so far, which you are asked to translate from English into Cantonese.
Finally, if you have time, please watch Cecilie's third video from her Cantocourse Youtube channel, called "In A Whorehouse." As you can imagine, this one is not really for kids. Let me reassure my students, though, that this is a PG rated video -- no nudity, just slightly vulgar humor, but no bad words that I remember.

Basically, the video takes advantage of the Cantonese slang for seeing a prostitute, which literally translates to "ordering chicken" (at a restaurant). The main point of this video is the verb SEUHNG5, to want to do another verb, which we will eventually learn in our textbook in an upcoming lesson:

See everyone next Monday.

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