About me

Hi there! I’m Israel Lai, a -year-old Hongkonger, composer by day and language learner by night. I discovered my passion of more languages when I took German as a minor at university; now, apart from learning and teaching foreign languages as a hobby, I am a staunch supporter of the Cantonese movement, and I’ve taken part mainly as a Cantonese-English translator in projects like Cantonese Conversations, Easy Cantonese, Cantonese Movie Dialogue Corpus, and the words.hk dictionary. I’m also a Chinese-English translator at Die Musikzeitung.

More recently, I started and now host the language and linguistics podcast 絮言.狂想, with the aim of discussing language topics that are closer to our Cantonese listeners, and creating listening materials for Cantonese learners. To support the operation of the show, or to read each episode’s full transcript, come visit us on Patreon!

On this blog you will read about my travel experiences as I begin to explore the world on my own, as well as the insights I gain through my successful (and unsuccessful) language learning adventures. I hope you’ll have a good read and perhaps even get inspired! If you’d like to provide feedback or ask a question, please feel free to leave a comment or send me a message through the Contact Me page.

I’ve also started a section with the fancy punny name Bel Canton, with the aim of introducing and explaining up-to-date Cantonese language with Hong Kong-specific cultural elements to learners of the language. If you see some symbols that you don’t understand, check out my “legend”!

As a promoter of learning Cantonese, I also tutor and coach students through one-to-one online classes. Besides, using my experience learning these languages, I teach many of them to beginners and intermediate learners. Shoot me a message if you would like to get expert help with Cantonese, or learn from my experience!

Languages I’ve studied

It’s always hard to say whether you ‘speak’ a language or not, but here is a list of languages I’ve ever learnt. Languages in bold are what I would say I ‘speak’.

CantoneseMy native language.
EnglishMy quasi-native language. I’d say I can handle all situations in English, especially in academic environments where my English actually beats my Chinese.
MandarinCan communicate fluently, though I keep making pronunciation errors due to lack of practice.
FrenchCan read Harry Potter.
GermanI consider myself fluent in daily conversations.
JapaneseCan barely communicate in daily situations because I’ve put it aside for a year or so.
DutchJust for fun, pretty basic.
RussianI was trying Glossika before I threw myself into Germany…I tried talking to a Russian, and it turns out my speaking ability exceed my expectations, while my listening ability was close to zero.
SwedishBasically fluent, and got a certificate a few years back to study in Swedish, but rusty.
PolishMy current true love. Trying to get to an advanced level!
ItalianAced a couple of courses in university, but they wouldn’t open more.
KazakhI dabbled, but it didn’t last long.
Taiwanese HokkienJust coz it’s fun, but ended up on a higher level than I planned to. It’s rather refreshing to learn a language related to my native tongue.
Hawai’ianLiterally just for fun.
IcelandicI enjoyed it for a few months, but lost steam when my trip to Iceland was cancelled due to coronavirus.
LatinI studied the basics of it while my partner took a summer course in university.
HebrewBasic conversational level.
British Sign LanguageI started it during lockdown out of boredom, and now I’m going to a university class. I’ll let you know how it goes!
WelshMy current project!
TurkishAccidentally fell in love with the language, oops…