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Funny conversation with another expat

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  1. #1

    Funny conversation with another expat

    I had lunch with our external solicitor the other day a snobby Brit of East European extract and while making small talk she pointed out she was an Oxford grad fluent in French. I then said I have been to Paris two dozen times and only managed to say a few phrases but even sincerely doing my best never seem to score any points so I revert to English like when I want to buy a pack of Marlboros or an espresso. She then looked at me and preached how not to expect locals to speak English for my benefit blah blah blah. I then said doing my best to stay pleasant and remarked, "well since you have been living in HK for something like 10 years I guess your Cantonese is just about fluent." How much Chinese can you speak or do you communicate with the locals in French I thought? Lunch didn't drag on after that.

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  2. #2

    Exclamation Learning Cantonese? An impossible task for me!!

    Well, I have been here 41+ years, and SWMBO, long ago, gave up trying to get more than a few Cantonese words into my vocabulary !

    Mind you, I did "commit to memory" a few "bad" words - but they were never taught me by my spouse!

    Almost 1.5 score years ago, when we sent our English only speaking daughter to a nursery school, she was the only English speaking kid there for a few weeks - and I, having told my wife that I'd learn Cantonese at the same time as my daughter - well, it didn't happen !

    The very same replay happened with my daughter's daughter - 2.6 years old : off to "Mighty Oaks" pre-nursery school in Kennedy Town, speaking only English - now she speaks English &
    Cantonese <--- and I still don't !

    Granddaughter often interjects with "Speak ENGLISH" when my family jabbers away in Cantonese - & she realises that I don't understand what is being said !





  3. #3

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    ...and the funny bit?

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  4. #4

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    I think where there's a will, there's a way.

    If there is an incentive to learn - whether that's for business, love, family - it becomes a lot easier and you are more determined to do it.

    You my still need some structured learning and you may never be fluent, but if you were surrounded by French speakers all the time, or your friend was always surrounded by Cantonese speakers, i am sure you would both pick it up (or be forced to study it more seriously).


  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stoob:
    ...and the funny bit?
    .. is that some white folks don't get the ... fuggedaboutit
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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by UK/HKboy:
    I think where there's a will, there's a way.

    If there is an incentive to learn - whether that's for business, love, family - it becomes a lot easier and you are more determined to do it.

    You my still need some structured learning and you may never be fluent, but if you were surrounded by French speakers all the time, or your friend was always surrounded by Cantonese speakers, i am sure you would both pick it up (or be forced to study it more seriously).
    Ehhrmm... no! I am surrounded by Cantonese speakers at work and at home every day... yet Cantonese just cannot find a nice little cozy place in my brain...

    French would be a no-brainer, if I was exposed that intense though.

  7. #7

    The thing about expats and learning Cantonese is that at least expats are willing to mention and admit that they don't understand and have no aptitude in it. Chinese people, on the other hand, even if they blatantly have a sub-level grasp of English, vocab, grammar and spelling etc. will still boast that they are fluent and speak fluent RP. English.

    I have reached this conclusion post-many years of teaching English and dealing with people who profess to teach and speak fluent English.


  8. #8

    The person who can lay claim to perfect, FLUENT English is Eason Chan.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTNHj4OLFgM


  9. #9

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    yes your lunch partner seems clueless.
    i will say this, though: French and Cantonese are the two languages I've worked the hardest to learn. And the French are *much* more appreciative of foreigners learning their language than HKers are. And this was predominantly with Parisians, who aren't exactly the most welcoming subset of French people.
    They were patient with my French when I was learning, they complimented my attempts (which means nothing, but they meant well). I asked for a mug of water at a cafe once, the barman took out a mug and a glass, and pointed at them: "une tasse, un verre. une tasse, un verre." As in, here's your water and I'm throwing in a vocab lesson too.
    HK folks, they hear me speak cantonese, half the time they either laugh ('oh, we laugh because it's our way of being nice!' - ok, so i can laugh at your English?) or they translate what I just said rather than just replying.

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  10. #10

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    I think one of the major obstacles when it comes to learning Cantonese is that there is just so little room for error in terms of pronunciation. You need to get the tones, the vowel sound length and the overall syllable pronunciation pretty close to perfect in order to be properly understood (beyond anything more than the absolute basics like m goi etc). Whereas in many other languages (such as French etc) there is a lot more room for error, different accents, and simply using the wrong intonation won't completely change what you're trying to say. It's not that people aren't willing to give you a chance, its just that they really cannot understand you until you obtain decent pronunciation. Once you get to this point, people will be extremely encouraging and appreciative and I think you'll find a whole new world opens up in terms of life in HK. Unfortunately however, it takes a lot of practice with the accompanying blank stares and snickering in order to get beyond the "nobody understands me" phase.

    juanalias likes this.

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