Cantonese versus Mandarin

Mandarin is easier (4 tones instead of 9), spoken by 10 times more people, but for me Cantonese wins because… um… I’m in Hong Kong. So guess what people are not speaking here: Mandarin.

Everyone speaks English in HK, so I don’t need to know Canto for any practical reason. I’m just curious about things I overhear all day. I guess I’m approaching it like a new hobby. (I mean, I can already say “sek TSI la-lay“, so why stop now?)

Gentle discouragement. A few weeks ago I was asking Rico about a few very-simple Chinese symbols I’d seen, and Bennett pipes up, “You know, there are tens of thousands of Chinese symbols.” Great, Bennett… thanks. And?! I don’t care about 50,000 symbols; just these 4 I’m asking Rico about, so stfu.

Then Sunday when I met Jessica, she politely told me that learning Chinese was “quite ambitious”. I explained that it wasn’t my goal to dazzle the Hong Kong Parliament with my command of Cantonese and insights on local zoning laws, but rather to know twelve words instead of ten. Or to maybe learn to say, “Chip, did you steal my pen, you scallywag?!”

Don’t worry, I wasn’t that defensive-sounding. I just don’t understand this gentle warning against learning some Cantonese. It goes beyond just these two instances; this phenomenon is mentioned a bit in the free Canto-Englo podcast I listen to, Naked Cantonese.

I wouldn’t be met with this gentle discouragement if it were something like… jogging. If I wanted to throw on some running shoes and jog around the block, I wouldn’t hear about how physically demanding a marathon is. It’s just a short, simple jog and these are just a few short, simple bits of Canto.

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