Brendan here -- I will be your guide this year as we learn to speak some basic Cantonese Chinese.
is either my 6th or 7th year teaching this class for ALESN. I actually
learned Cantonese from scratch myself in the ALESN program. Other than
additional self study and some language trades with friends and
immersion travel in Hong Kong over the past few years, I have never
studied Cantonese anywhere else.
supposed to study at the Chinese University of Hong Kong this fall,
but my plans changed and I have put my studies on hold for the time
. CUHK has the number one Cantonese language studies program in the
world for non native speakers. I placed into level 3 out of 5 in their
curriculum purely based on what I have learned at ALESN and on my own.
Level 5 is career specific Cantonese -- like Cantonese for lawyers or
I AM NOT TELLING YOU THIS TO BRAG; I am merely hinting at the potential quality of your language learning experience here at ALESN
-- if each of you puts in the appropriate amount of time and effort
outside of class by supplementing your school time with self study,
watching movies and Youtube videos, speaking with friends or relatives,
listening to audio resources on your mp3 players around town, and in
general TEACHING YOURSELVES this language during your spare time. The
most successful among you this year will show some degree of obsession with
your learning process, and the top students in class will fall in love
with the process of learning a new language. I speak from experience,
and I am happy to share my experiences with you all this coming year.
my plans changed, I was also going to apply to graduate schools to
pursue a PhD in Applied Linguistics (how language is taught and
learned). I have some very definite opinions about effective ways to
learn to speak Cantonese, and I am happy to share these with you
throughout the course.
Our main focus this year for those who have never spoken Cantonese before is going to be one thing and one thing only:
PRONUNCIATION OF ALL CANTONESE SYLLABLES AND TONES IN REAL TIME AS YOU
SPEAK OR ATTEMPT TO SPEAK THE MATERIALS THAT WE WILL LEARN IN CLASS.
have had hundreds of students over the years fail miserably while
attempting to learn Cantonese or Mandarin (or God forbid both at the
same time, especially if they were not ethnically Chinese with a family
"support system" already in place to help reinforce class materials),
simply because they could not step out of their English speaking shoes
and approach the sounds, rhythms, and intonation of Chinese as A BRAND
NEW EXPERIENCE AND A BRAND NEW WAY OF MAKING SOUNDS TO COMMUNICATE WITH
OTHER PEOPLE -- different from anything related to American English (or
French or Spanish or whatever their first language might have been).
YOU MUST FIRST AND FOREMOST LEARN TO PRONOUNCE CANTONESE SYLLABLES PROPERLY IN REAL TIME
WITH THE CORRECT INTONATION.
If you only learn one thing this year, it MUST MUST MUST be this:
to read romanized Cantonese (spelled out in English language letters)
and pronounce it properly when speaking it (however slowly) in real time
so that a native speaker who doesn't know you and who doesn't know what
you are trying to say will understand what you have said EVEN IF YOU YOURSELF HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU JUST SAID.
goal, you and I, is NOT to have you speak Cantonese like a native,
unless you are an ABC looking to take your childhood exposure to the
language and firm it up with some grammar structures and deeper
knowledge of the basic workings of the language (which we will
definitely cover this year). Rather, my goal for you is the same as my
absolute beginner goal that I had for myself 7 or 8 years ago when I had
no idea what Cantonese even sounded like:
want to help each of you put aside your preconceived notions of how
words and syllables and sentences and statements and questions are
"supposed to" sound in English or your native language and to just LEARN
THE SOUNDS AND CHANGES IN PITCH LEVELS SPECIFIC TO CANTONESE CHINESE --
so that you will be able to open your mouth and be understood by a
real-life native speaker of the language -- period. You want to be able
to ask someone where the bathroom is and have them understand you immediately, without charades and without having to repeat yourself 3 or 4 times.
You want to be understood before you pee on yourself -- plain and simple.
This should be your #1 goal when learning Cantonese at ALESN this year:
WILL PRONOUNCE EACH SYLLABLE PROPERLY WITH THE PROPER TONE SO THAT YOU
CAN COMMUNICATE YOUR INTENTION TO A NATIVE SPEAKER AND BE UNDERSTOOD -- EVEN IF YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THAT NATIVE SPEAKER MIGHT HAVE SAID TO YOU IN RESPONSE.
back to my initial statement: I have seen hundreds of failed students
quit studying this language at ALESN over the years because they never
made it their number one absolute top priority in this class to learn to
pronounce the syllables and tones of this new language correctly.
is nothing goofier or more assinine than a beginner language learner
pronouncing the new language exactly like his or her first language!
Please, please, please, commit to yourself that you will always follow this mantra:
CANTONESE DOESN'T SOUND ANYTHING LIKE ANY LANGUAGE I HAVE EVER SPOKEN BEFORE (even other Chinese dialects!)
AND I WILL DO WHATEVER I NEED TO DO TO ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT -- AND TO
EITHER LEARN TO SPEAK THIS LANGUAGE IN A WAY THAT REAL CHINESE PEOPLE
WILL UNDERSTAND ME OR I WILL QUIT AND TAKE A COOKING CLASS.
Here is a download link for the Cantonese
textbook that I will be teaching from this year, so you can see what I
intend to cover and how the textbook is laid out. The book is taught in
ROMANIZED CANTONESE (no Chinese Characters),
which allows us to focus on pronunciation and tones, especially for
speakers of other dialects of Chinese:
It is often referred to as "FSI Cantonese" or "Foreign Service Institute Cantonese
Basic Course," and was created by the US Government in the mid to late 1960s to
help foreign diplomats and military personnel learn to speak Cantonese while being stationed in Hong Kong:
Volume 2 is more advanced, for you to study on your own after completing my class.
clicked on both the PDF
and the first mp3 to verify that they work in both streaming mode and
as right click downloads. This is probably the best / quickest free
source online and the PDF looks like a good quality scan. The first mp3
is also very clear to listen to. This is a public domain textbook, which
means that any and all versions that you might find online should be
downloadable for free without restriction. DO NOT PAY FOR AN E-VERSION OF THIS BOOK.
can also provide some links for various physical copies that can be
purchased on Amazon if any of you would like an actual book to hold in
your hands. I will be teaching from what I consider to be the best
physical edition of this textbook paper quality-wise and I am happy to
show everyone in class. I have owned several different editions of this
book over the years.
Post a Comment
If you leave me a spam comment, it will immediately be removed. I will never EVER leave your comment in place on my blog. It will be permanently deleted in minutes.