Learning more Cantonese, after Pimsleur
November 17, 2008 10:49 PM   Subscribe

What materials should I keep an eye out for in my quest to study Cantonese? I'm currently working my way through the Pimsleur Cantonese audio course, and I don't know what I should check out after that ends.

I've recently moved to CA's San Gabriel Valley (Monterey Park, to be exact) and will be here for the next two years. I'd really like to take this opportunity to pick up the language, which is widely spoken here. So far, I've been practicing my off-key tones in the restaurants and grocery stores I go to, and adjusting the tones through trial and error.

Mandarin is spoken here too, but I don't come across it as much - and I haven't had a problem finding Mandarin learning materials. Cantonese learning materials, however, seem to be harder to come by. Or maybe I just haven't been looking in the right places, or with the right keywords.

And before the suggestion to take classes comes up: There aren't any Cantonese classes being offered by the schools in the area. Even if there are private lessons, I can't spare the money ... yet. In the meantime, I'm just practicing my limited Cantonese during my daily errands.
posted by Xere to Writing & Language (3 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Not followed it myself (couple of short courses in Cantonese many years ago and then always lived in Mandarin speaking areas) but there's this blog.
posted by Abiezer at 5:38 AM on November 18, 2008

I don't know about your town, but I live in Brookline, MA, which is a near-suburb of Boston. We have a lot of russian, hebrew, mandarin and spanish speakers in town. The library has a program which will match language learners learning language X but fluent in language Y, with other language learners in the opposite situation to get together to practice. Mostly, I think, it's native Spanish or Mandarin speakers learning English, or English speakers learning one of those languages. If you have a large Cantonese community, you could hardly do better than something like that.

I know that I have studied many languages, pretty much all spectacularly unsuccessfully. The only exception is Esperanto. This may be because Esperanto is very regular and easy to learn, but I also think it's because for several years I've been meeting each week at my EO club, and spending an hour or two chatting. We don't talk about anything very grand. We complain about politics, or our wives, or our jobs, and talk about books. But the constant practice at simple things has been very helpful, I think.

That's what I'd do if I had the time, but I'd do it in Mandarin. That's just me, though.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 7:35 AM on November 18, 2008

I am on a similar quest to learn Cantonese (my family speaks it; I don't). Though I'm not yet done with the Pimsleur, I've been searching for other resources for the future. You're not wrong; Cantonese materials are hard to find even though it's the most widely spoken Chinese dialect in the U.S. This is probably because it's almost exclusively a spoken dialect.

Anyway, if you've gone through all 30 lessons of the Pimsleur, these might be too easy for you, but here's what I've found, in case it helps:

Links to Radio Free Asia, Cantonese TV

Themed Cantonese lessons (in print) with sound files and explanations

Vocab and reference sheets (by topic) with characters, pronunciation, and sound files


Audio links to vocab words, arranged by category

Other suggestions:
- Go for dim sum and practice your Cantonese there; you'll learn a lot of random food names and phrases (which, sadly, are the only ones I know).

- As vilcxjo_BLANKA suggests, see if you can find a language partner to converse with--even if schools in the area don't offer Cantonese classes, you might be able to find someone through a bulletin board post if there's a large Cantonese-speaking population.

- If you have satellite, subscribe to the Hong Kong news station or other Cantonese-language stations. (My family used to do this through DirectTV; I think it's called the "Jade" package.) You'll be able to watch movies, weird game shows, news, and very corny serial soaps, all of which will help you work on your comprehension.

- Find a Chinese-language bookstore; often they carry materials for learning Cantonese that are imported, and which you can't find in an American bookstore. I've picked up several books on grammar--tones, measure words, etc.--in similar bookstores in San Francisco.

- Cantopop, while not everyone's musical cup of tea, tends to be easy to understand, highly repetitive, and catchy. Good for practicing comprehension and pronunciation (sing along!). You can probably find tons of it near you.

- Similarly, you could learn to like gung fu movies, especially the old Jackie Chan ones. They're usually in Cantonese with English subtitles, which makes them good for learning. If you're more of an art-house person, try Wong Kar Wai.

Hope some of those ideas are helpful. And can I say how happy I am to hear that someone wants to learn Cantonese? Mandarin is for wusses!
posted by Ms. Informed at 12:04 PM on November 18, 2008

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