RiL Podcast #000: Why a Podcast?

If you watched my polyglot video, you might recall that I was planning to launch a podcast.

The idea sprang up in my mind back in late July, when I was on a plane, bidding my hometown farewell. Well, after two months of planning, brainstorming, and testing, I can finally proudly announce that the first episode is almost ready!

From the initial idea to getting two friends to host it together, it took a lot of discussion to figure out the direction we’d like to take, and the kind of show we would like to create for you. The rough idea is to delve into a language-related topic in each episode, or possibly give a brief introduction to a certain language.

But the core question is, why are we creating a podcast?

Let’s cut to the chase: I’m planning to kill two birds with one stone.

1. Shedding light on linguistic issues

I discovered the online polyglot community back in 2015/16. Polyglot means a person who speaks many languages, but the term has expanded to include people around the world who love languages and learning them. They’re very welcoming to anyone passionate about languages, even if they’re just starting out.

I soon discovered that many of these polyglots had a blog, a YouTube channel, and/or a podcast, where they share their views and experience, discuss language-related concepts, or give advice to self-learners who need it.

The thing that stuck out to me was that because this is a very global community, these polyglot influencers, regardless of where they’re from, all conduct their influencing in English, and only use their foreign languages to show off once in a while.

Hongkongers aren’t terrible at English, but we’re not all as capable, like Scandinavians, of using English like a mother tongue. Besides, why does ‘polyglottery’ have to start with English? There are probably thousands of Cantonese speakers who are less interested in anglophone culture than Japanese or Korean culture. They might need advice on how to learn those languages themselves, but can’t consult these maestros because of the language barrier.

When it comes to language-related knowledge, many Hongkongers might be interested in topics such as the Sinitic languages, while foreign podcasts on Linguistics often focus on whatever has been happening in the English-speaking world, or at most certain topics related to European languages.

That’s why I decided that the Cantonese language deserves its own language podcast. Out of the 80 million speakers, as the rising number of learners, I’m sure someone is interested in checking us out.

What’s more, me and the other hosts have a wide variety of interests, from music to science and social sciences. Since language permeates daily life, we can cover a large number of topics, not to mention the possibility of having guests on.

2. Cantonese learning materials

I recall someone saying that you cherish your mother tongue more when you’re far from home. Even though Cantonese is far from extinction, it’s still true that it being actively suppressed by governments. Some people are working to expand the possibilities of this language, or to encourage its use in daily life.

Meanwhile, I’ve always been the outward-facing kind of citizen: I’m deeply interested in cultures around the world, and have lived abroad in multiple countries. That’s why I thought that it would be a better idea to advocate for Cantonese internationally than locally. Even if I can’t get more foreigners to learn Cantonese (there are actually more than you think!), at least I can try to get it recognised more widely as a language.

As materials like words.hk and hambaanglaang sprang up, I regretted not having contributed more while I was in Hong Kong. Somehow, I ended up working on Cantonese Conversations after my exchange year, creating authentic materials for intermediate-advanced learners. I was acquainted with the production process by working on Canto-English translation and proofreading jyutping.

Now that I’ve graduated from Oxford, I had an urge to do the same thing again. As an autodidactic language learner for the past few years, I know the importance of mass input in the intermediate level, in order to train the brain in the language and absorb vocabulary and structures. And as Olly, the creator Cantonese Conversations, told me, there is a lack of such materials for Cantonese.

And that’s very obvious. Publishers around the world that recognise the importance of Cantonese are few and far between, even though there are almost as many native speakers as German, and won’t actively publish textbooks and materials like for Mandarin or European languages. When you watch a Hong Kong TV series, the subtitles are in Mandarin, and serious learners often have to try and transcribe the content themselves, or pay someone to do it. Language learners also read and listen to audiobooks a lot, but audiobooks aren’t really a thing in Hong Kong, and even if they were, the written versions would also be in Mandarin.

You know what I’m trying to say. I want to try and fill this huge gap using my podcast. Even though it’s centred around languages, but like I said, it could cover a wide range of topics, so I hope it will interest learners enough for them to listen and read more. I even hope this will one day inspire more people to do the same. I am personally committed to transcribing each episode, in order to help learners follow along and learn new words.

The show notes will be on the Cantonese side of the blog; the first 10 minutes of the transcript will be available for free here on the English site, while the rest will be made available for Patreon members.

In short, stay tuned to this blog, my YouTube channel, or my Facebook/Instagram pages. It’s here sooner than you think.