Verb aspects are a thing that annoys many learners of Russian, Polish etc. Most learning resources just told me the basics of what they mean, but not how they function in practice.

This is a series where I, as an intermediate Polish learner, attempt to explain some grammatical features common to most Slavic languages in a simple, jargon-free and applicable way. I will be using Polish as my examples but I hope my notes will help learners of other languages too.

The perfective and imperfective verb-pairs took me a long time to figure out, but here’s what they are, in a nutshell:

The perfective aspect of verbs mean one thing: the thing is DONE. FINISHED. ONE ACTION.

The imperfective aspect of verbs can have two meanings:
1. the PROCESS of the action. Starting to do it, but not finishing it yet.
2. doing a thing REPEATEDLY.

Taking Polish as an example: zrobić – to have done; robić – to be in the process of doing OR to do repeatedly, regularly.

Now when to use which is something you need to get a feel for, but I’ll list some general principles I discovered. (I’ll be leaving the formation of the verb forms for another post.)

Continue reading

Inject Jyutping is a new Chrome extension that simply does what it says: it adds Jyutping romanisation onto Cantonese texts you see on the internet. This comes in the form of Ruby characters, i.e. small pronunciation guides on top of characters, which are common in all languages that use Chinese characters except Cantonese—until now.

This extension is so simple that you can already see the result in the image above, so this will be more of a recommendation than a review. I love it so much because it does one simple thing so well, but can be immensely helpful towards learners. It’s exactly what I aim to do for the transcriptions in our upcoming Cantonese podcast for intermediate-advanced learners.

Since it’s a Chrome extension, don’t forget that the new Microsoft Edge can use it as well.

How it works

It’s just one button. Literally. Click it, and you get jyutping plastered all over whatever Chinese text that happens to be on your screen.

Continue reading

Sinitic languages family tree.

Since the turn of the 20th century, languages in southern China suffered a downturn that extended from high society to the lower classes. When leaders that spoke southern languages began to extol the northern language Mandarin, they quickly propelled the entire society to follow suit.

Our story begins in 1895, when the Qing government lost the First Sino-Japanese War. It was perceived by the rulers as utter humiliation to lose to a nation that once kowtowed to the empire.

Since then, Chinese people increasingly studied abroad in Japan and Western countries, in hopes of bringing home foreign knowledge and know-how.

One of the ideas imported from the West was racialism (racism)—not the ensuing discrimination, but the fundamental idea of dividing human beings into ‘races’.

Continue reading

Hong Kong protest scene

When I started writing the first part of this post, I didn’t anticipate that I would be writing a part two. Yet here I am, because the sheer longevity of the movement (following the legacy of the Umbrella Movement) has created a jargon of its own.

First, let’s delve into the differences within the pro-democratic faction. Because if you thought protesters were all as united as they seem, you’re in for a bit of surprise…

Deep divisions

Last time, I talked about the two main factions, yellow (pro-democracy) and blue (pro-China). But divisions within the anti-government faction runs deep, and have been so for years.

To approximately describe an individual’s position on the political spectrum, the same way you say ‘moderate left’ or ‘far right’, we use nuances in the colour. 淺黃 cin2 wong4 (light yellow) would describe someone who opposes the authoritarian government, but holds values such as nonviolent protest and peaceful resolution, for example. 深黃 sam1 wong4 (deep yellow) would refer to someone supporting anything from violent protest to independence.

Continue reading