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2010 – The Year Of The Canto

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Perhaps you’ve made some new year resolutions this year, and broken them already. Here is one that won’t hurt, but on the contrary will enrich you no end for the decades to come: Decide that this is the year in which you’ll learn Cantonese!

Today I had a student who told me full of pride that she had told a taxi driver where to go in Cantonese and: (Here she made a surprised face) He went there!

Well, why wouldn’t he? She talked to him in his own language and he understood it. What’s so strange about that?

As a Cantonese teacher, I’ve found the biggest obstacle facing most of my students is this: They don’t really think they can actually learn this language. Years of conditioning with people (Chinese) telling them: It’s too difficult for you, you can never learn it, you should learn Mandarin instead etc. have more power over their thinking than me, a person they pay to instruct them, saying: It’s just a language. If I can learn it, anybody can learn it.
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It’s a strange thing. If you’re taking tennis lessons from someone, you won’t keep saying to your tennis instructor: But everybody tells me I should learn the piano instead! Tennis is too difficult for me. Are there any good books I can learn tennis from instead, or possibly chess?
No, you grab the racket and try to do what the instructor tells you. And after a few weeks, you can play tennis.

And then you practise for a few months until you become a good tennis player. You take every opportunity to play tennis, to the point where you actually play tennis with other people!

Cantonese is just a language. Anybody can learn it, provided they have the two things necessary: A head and … yeah. That’s the only thing you need. A head with ears and a mouth. Eyes help, but ears and mouth are essential. So why not give it a go? You live in Hong Kong, you want to communicate with locals in their own language – make 2010 your big I learnt Cantonese so screw you, naysayers! year.

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(The photos above are all of people who a few months ago couldn’t speak a word of Cantonese but who now can. They just went ahead and did it.)

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