Thursday, December 14, 2006

Unique Challenges

Studying Cantonese has turned up some unique challenges. I decided to start with "No Sweat Cantonese". It is not as structured or complete as some other books out there, but it offered more practical info that I could use right away like ordering food, asking/giving directions, and using money/making purchases. The biggest challenge for me so far is that the romanization system being used for the characters is kinda clunky. Just looking at the romanization won't always give you the correct pronounciation. How would you pronounce 'neuih'? That means the cd is absolutely essential for the novice. Just having the book won't give you the right pronounciation so you need the cd. When listening to the cd, it is sometimes hard to 'transcribe' the pronounciation and nuances in your head since there is no alphabet you can relate it to. All you have is a romanization system that tries to put you within spitting distance of the correct pronounciation but not always succeeding. This goes for all Cantonese textbooks, not just "No Sweat Cantonese". In comparison, Korean and Japanese both have an alphabet with comparably simpler phenomes than Cantonese. Even Japanese uses hiragana to accurately portray the sound of kanji-based words. Because of the simplicity of the Korean and Japanese sound systems and their use of an 'alphabet', it is quite easy to review with just a book or just a cd. Cantonese has some unusual sounds coupled with the use of tones. Therefore, you need the book and the cd at the same time always in order to match the meaning, character, and pronounciation correctly. You can't do one without the other. That puts me at a slight disadvantage since I like to listen to the cd while I'm out jogging or on the MTR. Also, I won't be able to just pull out the book to look over some words. Once I (hopefully) get better and am more familiar with the sounds and tones, this will no longer be an issue, but in the here and now, I'm just a novice and this is proving to be a pain.

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