Is it hard to learn spoken Cantonese?

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  1. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by jaykay:
    It's difficult but not impossible. You do however have to look at different areas of HK to correctly assess the locals reactions. Where I live there are several expat Cantonese speakers so they are not seen as so much of a novelty and certainly all conversation is in Canto. However going into other areas the reactions are different and range from amazement to panic at having to try and understand a westerner to the "well he must be a policeman".
    its funny you mentioned the policeman thing, i get that question occasionally.

    if you are neighbours then after a while the novelty does wear off. my next door neighbours parents (who are elderly and dont speak english) will natter at me in cantonese quite easily, even so far as to recruit me on one occasion. a water pipe burst suddenly and my elderly neighbor bumped into me at the elevator, and wanted me to accompany her while we scolded the management office. the office staff was on the phone instantly trying to fix the pipe when he realized the old lady was going to sic the canto speaking gweilo on him! we shared a laugh after that.

  2. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Liebling:
    1. the wide use of slang - there is so much slang in cantonese it takes years to become exposed to it.

    2. the fact that written characters are pronounced differently than when they are spoken - this makes learning to read and write hard.
    As a learned speaker of Canto (studied in University) allow me for some comments.

    1. Actually the wide number of slang is not so different then the english slang vocabulary, it's just a matter of exposure which is more limited then the general exposure to english language movies/pop culture where you learn the slang.

    2. Actually no you can plain write Cantonese in characters. It's just that in general things are written in Chinese. But lots of magazines/movies/comic books are written in colloquial Cantonese, which is word for word what is said.

    Also Cantonese is not that "hard" it is however essential which language group your origin is. For a Thai/Vietnamese speaker for example Canto would not be a huge leap as it would for an English speaker. It would be equally difficult for an English speaker to learn Japanese/Thai/... then it would for Canto.

    I absolutely agree however that the biggest hurdle is to actually have conversations in Cantonese. The main problem is people speaking bad rather in broken English then actually aknowledge the fact that you can speak and understand them. Also the example given earlier where people are concentrating on your words thinking they hear english is also a daily phenomenon for me, allthough I'm very sure I spoke 100% correctly in the proper tones etc.

  3. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Liebling:
    my wife is a hong kong native, and when she accompanies me, the rules are also different. if i ask a question in cantonese, people will turn to my wife and answer instead of talking directly to me (because they find it more comfortable), even if she is standing behind me.
    this happens to me ALL THE TIME! it bugs me to no end... there have actually been times, when my husband has pointed out to the person in question that I was the one they should be speaking to....

  4. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gatts:
    As a learned speaker of Canto (studied in University) allow me for some comments.

    1. Actually the wide number of slang is not so different then the english slang vocabulary, it's just a matter of exposure which is more limited then the general exposure to english language movies/pop culture where you learn the slang.

    2. Actually no you can plain write Cantonese in characters. It's just that in general things are written in Chinese. But lots of magazines/movies/comic books are written in colloquial Cantonese, which is word for word what is said.

    Also Cantonese is not that "hard" it is however essential which language group your origin is. For a Thai/Vietnamese speaker for example Canto would not be a huge leap as it would for an English speaker. It would be equally difficult for an English speaker to learn Japanese/Thai/... then it would for Canto.

    I absolutely agree however that the biggest hurdle is to actually have conversations in Cantonese. The main problem is people speaking bad rather in broken English then actually aknowledge the fact that you can speak and understand them. Also the example given earlier where people are concentrating on your words thinking they hear english is also a daily phenomenon for me, allthough I'm very sure I spoke 100% correctly in the proper tones etc.
    yes i know its possible to write down exactly as spoken, but as its so common to see the written forms, could you really read well without learning them?

    for example:

    i often see 不知道, but i would not pronounced it like this. i would instead say 唔知道. when reading words off a page, often there is an automatic translation from one character to another when you speak, as im sure you know. im just clarifying my point, as this does not exist in english.

    as for the cantonese being "hard", this is an entirely subjective point. i can only speak on my own experiences, from having english as a first language, then learning spanish, then cantonese. i cant attest how a thai or vietnamese would rate the difficulty of learning cantonese, or how difficult japanese would be for me, until i try and learn it.

  5. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by carang:
    this happens to me ALL THE TIME! it bugs me to no end... there have actually been times, when my husband has pointed out to the person in question that I was the one they should be speaking to....
    dont let this bother you, it will save your blood pressure. i asked my teacher why hong kong people were so uncomfortable speaking to foreigners, and she said its ingrained in the culture for many thousands of years to mistrust hairy cow-eyed devil barbarians like me. she said it in jest, but you can't go against thousands of years of conditioning. if you think about it, there is only a tiny portion of foreigners who learn to speak cantonese with any proficiency, so its understandable how they can feel ridiculous to find themselves speaking to one.

  6. #16

    I can help you,PM me plz


  7. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Liebling:
    ...to mistrust hairy cow-eyed devil barbarians like me.
    You forgot to include 'baby-eating'.