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should i learn cantonese if i wont to live in hong kong?

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  1. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by YNCK:
    I don't understand some points of view here... When I was at university or in a sport team I felt really lonely since I was the only foreigner and, even though people will make the effort to speak English to you, they will always speak Cantonese with each others. If you want to have local friends, it's not so fun to hang out with them and ask "what did he say?" every two minutes when everyone is laughing to a joke.
    That's heart breaking. Reminds me of a 10 year old Australian girl participate in trampoline only to be left by herself unattended while the other local children were given attention. She was practically playing by herself the whole 2hrs since no local children noticed/cared/able to speak to her. Not a particularly good environment for the girl where her childhood will grow up like this.
    Last edited by Creative83; 29-02-2012 at 03:21 AM.

  2. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by YNCK:
    I don't understand some points of view here... When I was at university or in a sport team I felt really lonely since I was the only foreigner and, even though people will make the effort to speak English to you, they will always speak Cantonese with each others. If you want to have local friends, it's not so fun to hang out with them and ask "what did he say?" every two minutes when everyone is laughing to a joke.
    You can have local friends who speak English. We do - many of them. We have even been on holiday together with them. I find that in any society one tends to socialize more with people of the same socio-economic strata. So when in Australia I'd probably not be hanging out with bus-drivers and waitresses (there are exceptions obviously) so here too I'm more likely to hang out with more educated people and those are the ones who've lived abroad and/or who learnt English. (Having said that, I hike with a guy whose a bus driver here and he speaks good English; and also with a guy who drives fuel trucks at the airport, and his English is not great but we have made the effort on some longer hikes and manage). You can communicate with anyone if you actually try! The person I play scrabble with is a HK local, speaks perfect English and can beat me easily at scrabble!

  3. #23

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    I starting taking lessons once a week 7 years ago, and today i can speak passable cantonese and read about 700 characters. At first people get a kick out of it, watching you try to speak, then people are amazed as you pick up fluency, and then when you get even more fluent people start giving you odd looks. Westerners who speak really fluently are pretty rare, and someone described it to me like "seeing a dog suddenly speak english perfectly". Apparently, some people are uncomfortable when you can understand every word and know detailed slang/cultural references. Especially some workmates will watch what they say around me.

    In summary, I wouldn't say the language has really improved quality of life all that much. It helps to speed stuff up, and makes certain tasks easier, but in the end im still just a gweilo.

    One thing to note, some people are quite put off when you just start blabbering right off the bat in canto. The reason they are offended is they feel you immediately assumed they could speak no english. So I hardly initiate canto anymore until communication really breaks down in english. Then i slowly start in to get things moving. Also, if people know you speak canto, then be prepared to answer 150 questions about your life story, how you came to hong kong, blah blah.

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  4. #24

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    Liebling thanks for the insights! I'm in the process to just start learning cantonese, good to know what I have to look forward to in 7 years

    So, in hindsight, would you rather have learned to speak mandarin?


  5. #25

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    I learned Mandarin before I came to HK, and am very glad I learned Cantonese afterwards as the effort in learning really paid of itself, and the use of Mandarin is extremely limited here in daily life and I use it barely if not at all. The last time I used Mandarin here was when translating between a Mainlander and staff in a 7-11.

    Just like others on this thread have noted speaking Cantonese really opens you up the another side of HK that go by invisibly to many expats. Without criticisizing for example MovingIn's comments in this thread are a very good example of this. When speaking Cantonese locals will open much more to you then they would even if they spoke English well. You will be more aware of local issues, cultures, habits, people,...

    Last edited by Gatts; 06-03-2012 at 01:11 PM.
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  6. #26

    If you don't speak Cantonese then you won't really know what you are missing out on, because you are missing out on it....
    For example, I wish I could read, as I'd love to be able to read the local news written in 'the local way' etc or read what the locals have to say on an equivalent forum.
    I guess it ultimately depends on what you want from Hong Kong and how much you want to know about Hong Kong, rather than your corner/bubble of it.

    I love and and hate being able to overhear people's conversations, most of the time it is boring but sometimes it is pretty funny like the other day I overheard a couple discussing the offers on sale in Watson, they were deciding on what brand of toothpaste to buy because one came with a bottle of soy sauce and the other came with a can of SPAM !
    They went for the spam in the end. It really made me laugh anyway!

    Last edited by SiuMaiTaiTai; 06-03-2012 at 01:24 PM.
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  7. #27

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    After working in hk for many years and taking business trips to china, I decided I do not want to live or work in the mainland for any length of time. As such, I have no desire at all to learn mandarin. Actually, I am surprised how much mandarin you can understand when learning cantonese, a lot of basic things like food and common items have similar pronunciations.

    For the average working joe, I think with a good talent for languages you could learn cantonese in 5 years of study. If not much talent for language, it would take 10 years. Anything less than this is not realistic expectations and may lead to frustration/quitting.


  8. #28

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    OK, then 10 years for me


  9. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Liebling:
    Westerners who speak really fluently are pretty rare, and someone described it to me like "seeing a dog suddenly speak english perfectly".
    Sounds like it's not a very nice comparison - hopefully it doesn't mean "they" see "us" as dogs? I can imitate a dog's bark pretty well though .

  10. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Castlevania:
    Sounds like it's not a very nice comparison - hopefully it doesn't mean "they" see "us" as dogs? I can imitate a dog's bark pretty well though .
    Not at all. It just means that it is very odd to see, like seeing a dog speak english would be strange because its so unexpected..nothing insulting.

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