Learning Cantonese Is A Challenge

I love this city. It’s crowded. It’s congested. People charge through here with little or no disregard for anyone – but that is the surface. It’s also one level – mostly the non-native and non-Cantonese speaker.

Cantonese can sound aggressive and even harsh. There is a fighting sound to it. There is also beauty. In my first few years, I’ve wondered the city in head phones. My ears filled with a podcast I’m half listening to or with songs I’ve heard way too many times and again not really thinking too.

I’ve started a course through HKU Space – the continuing education division of the University of Hong Kong. It’s 13 weeks and only touching the bare basics

It’s hard. We learn a romanized version of the language called the Yale System. Memorizing hundreds of thousands of traditional characters is challenging but not worth the time and effort when all I want to do is to talk to the clerk at the wet market.

There are the tones. The school teaches us five when there are nine or more. When reading romanized there is a tendency to read them in English not in Cantonese. There is the ending sounds for sentences which is more common with an ‘a’ sound than the ‘la’ sound. Then there are the hard sounds like ‘ng’ which is part of the pronoun of I. It sounds like part of the word ‘singer’ but not. It’s hard and tiring but there is relief.

When you over hear co-workers and can notice words and sounds. They are speaking a mile a minute but wait I heard an I or was that a number or were they telling them to sit down?

The greatest benefit is telling the one you love how much you love them in their language. How you want to learn and explore their world because of how amazing they are.

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