In preparation for my internship in Hong Kong, I’ve devoted the past couple weeks to learning basic Cantonese. A very useful resource I’ve found at my local library is Dr. Paul Pimsleur’s Speak & Understand Essential Cantonese. It’s a self-instructional set of five cassette tapes that gradually introduce everyday words and asks the listener to repeat and respond to the recorded voices. FYI: Dr. Pimsleur got his Ph.D. in French from Columbia University.
So far I’ve learned useful sentences like “I don’t speak Cantonese well” and “Where do you want to eat?” Nothing too sophisticated. Since Hong Kong people cannot discern by appearances that I’m not from the area and since, at this rudimentary stage, I speak Cantonese in a slow, staccato rhythm, I will most likely end up sounding retarded. Which is okay, because slow is better than mute.
Fortunately, the good doctor doesn’t only teach his students how to communicate essential bodily needs like eating, drinking, and defecating, he also instructs them to woo the Canton ladies in their native tongue. I’m sure I’ll be using this line a lot:
Since Cantonese is a tonal language, like Mandarin, Dr. Pimsleur tells us to mimic as closely as we can the voice of the example speaker. So I’m trying my darndest to sound like an 80-year-old Cantonese man.
For his female pupils, Dr. Pimsleur gives them detailed instructions on how to turn down advances made by sketchy 80-year-old Cantonese men: