Couldn’t Choose an Easier Language, Could We?

I am trying to learn at least the basics (hello, goodbye, thank you, etc) in Cantonese.  I appreciate when people try English for me, but it is up to me to adapt to their culture and language.  Now my problem ends up being Japanese is the default in my brain.

I have practiced and stared at the Cantonese.  When it comes time to use it, I blank and pull up Japanese.  It is maddening.

You see, our original plan had been Japan and only Japan.  It wasn’t until this past spring we opened up our search to Hong Kong and Singapore.  I hadn’t really gotten too much this past year.  Most rejections came about in response to having three kids.  They are correct, supporting three kids and a husband on one income would be pretty impossible.  Hong Kong has proven to be much more plausible.  At least on paper it is.  We will see how I feel about that in 6 months.  

So back to the language thing.  I’ve never been very good at language.  I took three years of French in high school.  I can’t speak it really, but I can make out meaning when reading.  I can even understand some spoken if done slowly.  

Now take a language like Cantonese.  French at least had germanic roots.  Cantonese does not.  It is actually harder than Mandarin, I think.  While the written language is the same, the spoken language is completely different.  There are like 8 tones to Cantonese as opposed to 4 tones in Mandarin.  

The upside to learning some of the kanji in Japanese is that they generally have the same translation to English.  Sh that has helped.  

The bottom line?  Don’t come to another country expecting people to accommodate you, but also consider the difficulties of learning the local language.  While it is easier here because the lingering British influences, there are many place those influences have not hung on as well. 

It’s interesting because the kids are going to learn Mandarin instead of Cantonese.  The explanation I was given is because the IB requires a language study not in mother tongue.  For most of these kids, Cantonese is their mother tongue.  The school offers Mandarin to everyone.  In the DP, they now offer Spanish.  It would be nice if there were more choices.  I guess we will see how the kids do with Chinese.

I am hoping to learn as much as I can.  We’ll have to see how it goes.

Categories: Hong Kong

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