Very Short Update

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Hi everyone, as you obviously can tell, I haven’t updated this website in a quite long time. Aside from the Cantonese project that I have been trying to start up and get to work (my apologies for those who I have stated I wish to collaborate with and I have not been able to contact much with), I also have been having many personal matters that must be taken care of first. As a result… well it’s quite obvious that nothing’s been getting done right? I do appreciate whatever support I have been getting and I hope to get back onto this as soon as possible.

Until then, 下次再見!

P.S. No, I’m not leaving, I’ll work on things soon =/ bear with me in the meantime my friends!

You want me to walk? Or did you want me to run?

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Pedestrian Crossing Sign

Wait... Run? Walk? What?

I cannot say I am 100% fluent in both Mandarin and Cantonese (in fact, I can’t say I’m 100% fluent in English either, I have no way to gauge where my fluency is), but I can vouch that I am pretty well adept at all three languages to a certain degree. I find it often that I would want to help people native to one of those three languages learn another one since I have the ability to, why not? (Maybe I should start charging… but who’s to say I have the qualifications to do that? I’m just being a good Samaritan, a cultural ambassador to an extent, and an interpreter to a degree). There were a couple of friends I had from Mainland China who were not Cantonese. One of them however did know Cantonese to a small certain degree. Now, naturally their native language was definitely not English and Mandarin was their native (or one of) their native languages. In teaching them some bits and pieces of English, I learned several things about Cantonese and Mandarin that I didn’t know before, aside from the obvious fact that my Mandarin needs improvement, here’s what I learned. Hopefully this comes in hands for you guys reading out there. Oh and yes, this serves as a Cantonese lesson too! Continue reading

Regional differences in Cantonese vocabulary

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Pop or soda? Trash can or rubbish bin? Lexical differences in the names of daily objects exist in regional varieties of Cantonese, just like in English.

Most regional differences develop from tradition. Guangdong Cantonese uses vocabulary that most closely resembles Mandarin, while Hong Kong Cantonese uses another set of terms. Here are some examples:

Air-conditioning 空調 (hung1 tiu4) = 冷氣 (laang3 hei3)
Refrigerator 冰箱 (bing1 seung1) = 雪櫃 (syut3 gwai6)
Paper-clip 回形針 (wui4 ying4 jam1) = 萬字夾 (maan6 ji6 gaap3)
Drinking straw 吸管 (kap1 gun2) = 飲筒 (yam2 tung2)

Furthermore, English spoken during the British colonial years greatly influenced the language used by Hong Kong people. Many Hong Kong Cantonese terms are loan words from English, without any particular meaning when broken down word by word.

Bus 公交車 (gung1 gaau1 che1) = 巴士 (ba1 si2)
Taxi 出租車 (cheut1 jou1 che1) = 的士 (dik1 si2)
Strawberry 草莓 (chou2 mui4) = 士多啤梨 (si6 do1 be1 lei2) Continue reading

Something Just for Fun – A Rant

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I’m sure you all have read the previous post where I discussed a small Cantonese lesson with some irony in it. Well, that’s not the only thing that gets to my head between Cantonese and Mandarin! First of all you have to remember that I come from a Cantonese background without any influence of Mandarin. Let me introduce to you two Chinese characters:

樽/罇 (C: jeun1, M: zun1) Yes I realize there are two variants of this character, I will stick to just the first one because it comes up first when I’m typing and I’m pretty lazy.

瓶 (C: ping4, M: ping1)

If you guys know what these characters mean, then I want to you first forget all about it and just listen to me for now (just temporarily, no brainwashing involved). Think back to pre-1900s, there were no such things as plastic bottles. ‘Bottles’ as we know them today were not always the same. The world for bottle referred to “a rigid container with a neck that is narrower than the body and a ‘mouth’”.

Now, fast forward into the future, the world now has these entities know as “bottles” that you see which are typically your plastic bottles! China, catching up to the modern world at the time, imports this entity… what do you call it?! Cantonese: Let’s call it a 樽! 樽s were jars, goblets, used to hold liquids and drinking, and other things iconic of a bottle! Mandarin: Let’s call it a 瓶子! 瓶s were pitchers, vases, jugs, and other things iconic of a bottle!

Wait… Mak what’s the issue here? Let’s give you a hypothetical that essentially happened.

Person: Hey bring that 瓶子 of water.
Me: What? A VASE of water? You mean the BOTTLE? aka 樽?!
*insert 20 minutes of “why is this happening” Continue reading

Something Just for Laughs

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I didn’t think this would be funny but it’s something I found interesting. I was watching a Hong Kong drama and we all know that in each of these dramas, the subtitles were in Standard Chinese rather than Standard Cantonese (they also come in English now!). Well, it’s not surprising that the subtitles translate the dialogue from Cantonese to Mandarin. Fair enough right? So there was this one scene that a police offer stops a driver and tells him to step out of the car. She said (in Cantonese).

即刻落車 (C: jik1 haak1 lok6 che1)

Where 即刻 (C: jik1 haak1) means immediately, 落 (C: lok6) means “to go down, or come down”, and 車 (C: che1) means car. Now Mandarin doesn’t use these characters, they use 馬上 (M: ma3 shang4) for immediately and 下 (M: xia4) for “to go down, or come down”. Therefore your translation which came out in the subs became this.

馬上下車 (M: ma3 shang4 xia4 che1)

Wait, wait, wait, who out there knows Mandarin? 馬上 also literally means “on a horse” because “being on a horse” means “immediately”. So basically you just said “on the horse, off the car!” and that translates to “step out of the car immediately”. Wow, I found that ironic. I think it’d be funnier if the police officer told the guy to get off of a horse, then it’d be:

馬上下馬 (M: ma3 shang4 xia4 ma3)

Currently I’m working on a large Cantonese project with some supporters, I need all the help and brainpower I need. Hopefully this comes to fruition. In the meantime, here was your minor Cantonese lesson! Continue reading

Cantonese Rage

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Not mine but I definitely can relate. As a side question, who doesn’t think that tones are the most difficult part of learning a Chinese language? That’s perhaps one of many misconceptions I’d like to dispel about Cantonese. Also, this opens up discussion about the utility of Cantonese, especially for foreigners. Some would say it’s better to stick to English, and keep your knowledge of Cantonese to that of understanding when they talk abou you! Some would say Chinese girls don’t find it as foreign-exotic if you’re too good at Chinese. Experience, thoughts, complaints?

Cantonese Poetry – 落雨大,水浸街

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Rain~~~! 落雨啊!

Thanks to my good friend Jeff from Jeffinous Tang Poetry I have this following CANTONESE poem. Yes you heard it right, it’s a Cantonese poem; in fact this is one of those songs you would sing as a little kid in Cantonese. I’d say it’s similar to how you would recite things such as “I’m a little teapot, short and stout” or “Rain rain go away” or “Ring around the rosie”. This poem, or nursery rhyme if you want to call it that, is singing about what happens when it rains. So picture looking outside your window right now with the rain and try to embody this poem. You’d do the same with an English or Mandarin poem wouldn’t you? Without further ado, here is the poem that I personally translated and romanized in Yale for you guys.

落雨大,水浸街,
lok6 yu5 daai6, seui2 jam3 gaai1
It’s raining hard, the streets are flooded

阿哥擔柴上街賣,
a3 go1 daam1 chaai4 seung5 gaai1 maai6
Big brother’s taking firewood up the street to sell Continue reading

Qingming Festival Along With Useful Terms

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Ancesteral Graves in China

This article will be written a bit earlier than the intended day, but it will serve the same purpose of informing you.

One of the main festivals in Chinese Culture which encompasses Cantonese culture as well is the Qingming Festival (Ching1 Ming4 Jit3 清明節). For those of you who don’t know, this is a Traditional Chinese holiday centered around those of one’s ancestors. According to the Traditional Chinese Lunar Calendar where a couple of other holidays are judged similarly. Every year this holiday is determined by the 15th day from the Spring Equinox. This year it takes place on April 5th, which happens to next Tuesday. Continue reading