Saturday, November 17, 2007

Learning multiple languages 自相矛盾

A couple of people have asked me about the languages I am learning, because I occaisionally mention Cantonese and Japanese. Well to be honese the Japanese was fun but it is currently on hold. I think I was enticed by the wonderful feeling I was getting as I started to understand basic Mandarin and wanted to extend that into another language. However it now feel that to truly master Mandarin (at least to the extent of my ambition) I need to give it the main focus of my free time. I hope to maintain the first steps I have made in Japanese to return to it at a later date.

Maybe when you get to an intermediate level in a language the dynamics change and the things you have to do to improve change also. It seems very tempting to start an new language from scratch and get the familiar buzz from those early milestones achived. For me though this can only retard my progress in Mandarin.

Now having said all that I am going to confess to still pursuing Cantonese, this is at a slower pace than Mandarin studies and a different style. I have many reasons. Which I will explain in a later post, but in summary it is commonly spoken by many overseas Chinese, it forces me to stay true to my original beliefs of starting from spoken language (learn to read what you already know and don't directly associate sound to hanzi), it eventually puts me in the same position as many Chinese people (able to speak Mandarin and at least one other Chinese language), and lastly it is fun.

The main problem is that there are not the same resources for Cantonese, so after completing the Pimsleur course, I am hoping I can bootstrap from Mandarin (films with subs. and soundtracks for both Mandarin and Cantonese speakers etc.). Also jump in the deepend and use resources like those supplied by Marcelo, for example I know this Chengyu very well in Mandarin and here I have text and audio in Cantonese.


Marcelo said...

aHi Chris! I think I'm kind of in a similar situation you are in.Before going to Hong Kong I studied Mandarin for 1 year.When I arrived in Hong Kong,at first, I was planning to study both languages at the same time. How naive! Then I realized I would have to chose one of them and, since I was in a Cantonese speaking environment, I decided to stick with Cantonese.Nevertheless, some day I will get back to Mandarin, I'm just waiting to achieve an intermediate/advanced level in Cantonese.But somehow I feel that my listening skills in Mandarin have improved a bit, even though I have spent no time whatsoever trying to develop them. It probably has to do with the fact that both languages are related.BTW, if I may suggest you some books for Cantonese, there are 2 which I've been using and are quite good : Teach Your Self Cantonese and Intermediate Cantonese - Themes for listening and speaking.


Edwin said...

What a coincident! I have just started a Cantonese language blog. I have not officially announced it yet since I am still loading up the contents. But I might as well just let you know.

Chris said...

Nice blog Edwin, I think blogs like this and the ones by Marcelo and Milan are extremely valuable.