Last edited by Creative83; 29-02-2012 at 03:21 AM.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.