Sunday, November 4, 2018

11/4/18 ALESN Cantonese I Class summary and notes -- sorry for delay...FOR 10/29 CLASS

ALESN Cantonese I Class summary and notes -- sorry for delay...LONG EMAIL -- THANKS FOR READING...

Sun, Nov 4, 2018 at 11:45 AM

Hi Gang,

This past week, we quickly reviewed the recapitulation of our mistaken identity dialogue on page 3, and then we covered the basics of our 6 tones that I am going to be teaching of standard Cantonese Chinese. I briefly explained the additional 7th tone, the high falling tone, and when and how that is used, as well as how I intend to work it into our course, pronouncing each high falling tone as a high level tone to make your lives easier. It is easier for you to learn and begin to use 6 tones than 7, right? I explained how Hung, our Saturday teacher, who was snoozing in the back of the classroom during your lesson, regularly speaks with 8 tones, because he often adds a falling mid tone inflection to certain words that, if I were to look them up in a Cantonese dictionary or phrasebook, would be notated with a straight, flat mid level tone or 3 tone.

As an aside, some of you may have heard outlandish claims that Cantonese is the hardest language to speak because it has 11 tones or 13 tones or whatever bullshit these people are spouting. I didn't want to confuse anyone, but we are going to cover what is called stop tones by some scholars, which occur when certain Cantonese syllables ending in a p, t or k consonant are cut short. Some scholars and others have referred to syllables ending in p, t, and k on any of the 6 Cantonese tones as being up to 6 separate tones, because the syllables are shorter and sound slightly differently inflected. In actuality, they have the same pitch material as any longer syllable voiced on any of the 6 tones I am going to teach you -- so 6 tones is indeed enough for all of us to speak perfectly understandable and accurate modern Cantonese, just like your favorite TVB actor or actress.

We didn't cover many pages in the book last class, but we did go over and over AND OVER the 6 tones, with much drawing on the board as I voiced examples and you all repeated after me. This is where recording your lessons would come in handy. I am not sure how many people were recording their lessons on cellphones, etc., but shame on you for any of the students who didn't record your lessons and yet who are struggling with tones. I am giving you everything you need to succeed with this language. What you choose to do with what I give you...well, that is another story.

We will continue covering this material tomorrow in class, moving on to the basic syllables of Cantonese either at the end of class tomorrow or the following Monday. I know this is slow going. The beginning stages of every language are slow and tedious, but never boring if your heart is in the right place and your motivations are true enough to carry you through. Please remember this if you get discouraged at any time. I wasn't able to email earlier last week with any homework, but I assume you all realize that if I don't tell you, it simply means that your homework is to review the material we covered during our last class, right?


Finally, I will be copying and pasting all of the emails I have sent you all so far this fall AND GOING FORWARD for the rest of the year, into my blog that I maintained for my ALESN classes last year. I will redo the home page accordingly, so people will know that the blog is back on. I don't know that I will be adding new audio or video content or links this year like I did last year, but soon all of the information will be there for my current students in a logical, searchable, reverse chronological order standard to most blogs. The website address for the blog is . It is an active blog and you can click on the link right now. I hope to upload all of your recent class emails sometime today or tomorrow. They will show up as blog entries for whatever day I upload them, which is why I will reference the original email date in the title of the blog entry.

Beginning in the next few weeks, I will be offering private tutoring for beginning Cantonese and Mandarin students specifically focusing on proper pronunciation and tones while reading from either Yale Romanization or Jyut Ping Romanization for Cantonese, or from Pinyin for Mandarin. If anyone is interested, please let me know. I am in the process of determining my rates and lesson location logistics. I will also be offering Skype lessons if commuting is an issue for anyone. I had one private student via Skype and email last year who lived in Cleveland, who found me via my blog, which was pretty cool. I corresponded with him and had 3 or 4 marathon email/web lessons over a period of maybe 4-5 months. It was a rewarding experience for both of us. I got to help him with some research I did for him on specific uses of certain Cantonese final particles (which we have not covered yet) and I benefited not only because he paid me for the lessons, but because I learned almost as much as my student from the research that I did for him. It was this experience that made me want to offer private tutoring as an option for my ALESN students and for anyone else going forward.

All lessons will be 1-2 hours long and will of course focus on any relevant chapter lesson material and dialogues, vocabulary from the textbook, etc. -- if I am tutoring an ALESN student. The niche focus of my tutoring services will be accurate pronunciation of the syllables and tones of basic Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese within a window of what is acceptable and comprehensible to a native speaker who doesn't know you, who is in a hurry, who doesn't care about you at all, and yet will be able to understand you the first or second time you say something, so that the student can communicate effectively whatever you are trying to communicate.

I want to be clear that I am not fluent in either Cantonese or Mandarin, and I have never claimed to be. I pronounce both dialects with a thick white person accent, and I still have A LOT to learn vocabulary-wise...BUT, when I go to Hong Kong and China and I open my mouth, real, understandable, functional basic Cantonese and Mandarin sounds come out. There is no need for charades, and if I don't know how to say something, I am able to ask in Cantonese or Mandarin how to say the thing that I don't know the words for...and then the conversation continues. I am usually understood the very first time I speak, by people who don't know me, who are in a hurry, who don't give a shit about my life or what I am trying to ask them or talk about.

I would like to help each and everyone of you get to that point -- either in class, or with some private help if one hour a week isn't cutting it for you. Some of you will get there on your own because you have a great ear, a lot of time, a solid study ethic, and a deep, emotionalized motivation -- as we have mentioned several times now. Other students will need more help or even hand holding. I am not very good at hand holding in class at ALESN, which is why some current and former students think I am an asshole. Hand holding at ALESN is not something I have time or patience for, given the very limited windows of time we have together once a week for a limited number of weeks each academic year. THIS is why I am starting to do private tutoring for students who genuinely want to be able to speak Chinese but whose current pronunciation is, for lack of a better word, "bad." One on one tutoring allows for a lot of hand holding, if that is what a given student needs.

As the weeks or months go by, if any of you feel like you need extra help with pronouncing the fundamental syllabic and tonal building blocks of basic Cantonese or Mandarin -- the legos of Chinese -- please consider hiring me as your tutor. Thanks in advance.

See you all tomorrow,

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