Flipping from Cantonese to Mandarin to English…

In china business, hong kong business by Michael Michelini14 Comments

Currently in a car heading back to Hong Kong from Dongguan, China. Thinking back to when I was living full time in Shenzhen, even though I was in south China, the city of Shenzhen is primarily Mandarin – which is the nationally recognized language of the People’s republic of China. It is actually one of the criteria on my checklist when I first moved to China…as I would rather spend time surrounding myself with Mandarin Chinese speaking people than Cantonese.

The photo on the right is my new friends at the Five Islands ecommerce center…from left to right: Pak, Yuan, and Philip. They all prefer to speak together in Cantonese, and my time at lunch and dinner is listening to them speaking in that only- guangdong province language we call Cantonese.

Cantonese is still the primary language in Hong Kong, and in many southern China cities of Guangdong such as Guangzhou. Doing business now between Dongguan and Hong Kong, I am often submerged in the language of Cantonese….flipping to Mandarin, flipping to English.

Now I really wish I dedicated more time to learning mandarin while in Shenzhen from end of 2007 to mid 2010…I feel it will be a bit more difficult to learn Mandarin, or at least take more effort as I am getting Cantonese mixtures and dialects thrown in all over the place in my daily conversations.

My friend Larry talks about how Cantonese is a dying language, he is living in Guangzhou, which is actually the most prominent city in Guangdong for Cantonese (in my opinion) and Larry has been picking up the language this year actually.

Definitely keeps things interesting…..adds to my preference of living a life of chaos rather then predictability and order….
Learning Mandarin Chinese is on my list of resolutions for 2011….I have to follow through with that…..

But where, and how should I do that when I am traveling back and forth between Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Dongguan, with a sprinkle of trips to the Philippines every few months? How to balance that?

I personally have always learned by WRITING down when I am studying….some of us learn by listening, some by seeing, but my personally most effective way is to write it down on paper….once I write something, maybe its the stroke of the pen that helps me solidify it in my mind.

I’m told I should chinesepod or get a tutor a few times a week, any ideas from you guys?

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  1. Maybe I can teach you Mandarin, and you can teach me English. But we’re too far apart. I mean, you can find a people who want to learn English, then you can teach eath other. Or you can download a Chinese language learning software, whether in the car, or in a restaurant, or at home, can learn.

    1. Author

      thanks Connie,
      many people always say to me “you teach me English, I teach you Chinese”….but really I do not think that is so effective.

      I think it needs a structure, and one way learning, not 2 way learning…

      maybe this “exchange” can work for friends to SUPPORT while they are in class or learning on their own, but by itself its not effective.

      Yes, i think i may use chinesepod…..never give up, right

  2. maybe you are right,i think so. now i am sthudy japanese in soumoon school.Every Wednsday and Friday after work,i go to shenzhen book store by bus. yes,just like you said”never give up”!

  3. mike: at beginning. maybe you can watch simple chinese movie/TV show with english title. repeat it.
    just like us to learn english in that way.
    when i learn how to speak cantonese before. just follow …it’s cantonese TV show and funny.it’s very helpful.

    1. Author

      thanks Lucy,
      well I don’t want to focus on Cantonese too much…….more on Mandarin. Though I am in canton and in Hong Kong these days, I think the future is Mandarin.

      What do u recommend for mandarin?

      1. i remeber one TV show that named ” cui si ban de gu shi”it’s mandarin and very funny. maybe you can see it.

    1. Wai lai xi fu, ben di lang is mostly in Cantonese.

        1. It’s a pity I don’t speak Cantonese, but I can understand some Cantonese by listening.

  4. Maybe can practise Chinese with coworkers during the breaks at szteam?

    1. Author

      sure, but lets try not to make it Chinese Corner, ok? hehe, keep it business focused….

      but yes, try to force me to use mandarin

      1. Surely not make it a Chinese Corner, but maybe we can make it bilingual corner, Chinese say English and Foreigners say Mandarin at the break?

        1. Author

          maybe a side project for those interested………..szteam needs focus Katherine……… 😛 my opinion anyway

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