If you’re a follower of the Cantonese-centric part of my blog, you might have heard about the Cantonese Conversations project elsewhere. It is an initiative that Olly Richards and I, among others, took a while ago to create a set of Cantonese learning materials that are completely organic and natural, in order to fill the gap of listening/reading materials on the intermediate/advanced level. It is a package of video/audio recordings of native conversations, together with a written transcript, Jyutping transcription and my English translation.
It came out officially a few months back, and recently I’ve been working on putting out a revised version, particularly focusing on proofreading the Jyutping. And that got me thinking: if I assume correctly, the majority of users will be reading the Jyutping instead of the Chinese script. And there’s a troubling thing about Cantonese: not only does it lack standardisation, but it is also undergoing a number of pronunciation changes. What that means is if you listen to us native speakers, there will be multiple ways of pronouncing the same words. We hardly even notice the differences, even though they tend to sound drastically different to foreign ears.
In the Jyutping transcriptions inside the package, we aim to
represent the recording as accurately as possible,
expose the reader to different pronunciations, and
limit the number of varieties to make sure readers can still recognise them as the same word.
And quite often, these goals came into conflict, and we had to try and strike a balance. So halfway through the revision process, I thought I’d take to my own blog to explain some of the most common divergent pronunciations, so that it is still possible to recognise the words under different guises. The following pairs of sounds are often called ‘lazy sounds‘ (懶音 laan5 jam1) by native speakers. Chinese teachers will tell you one of them is right and one is wrong, while younger people would say one is newer and one is outdated. The fact is that they’re both in use, so I suggest you use either one yourself, but make sure to get acquainted with both of them. Here we go!
I can’t believe it’s been one month! The time really zoomed by. For a three-month challenge like this, I find it appropriate to give monthly updates, so here I am. Spoiler warning: the progress isn’t exactly ideal.
I’m a music student, and this month was a month full of my friends’ graduation concerts, which, for me, entailed rehearsals and concerts every day and evening. I also had to finish a musical composition within the past month. It was really hard, but I’m not going to let this become an excuse to slack off. So as I so happened to have written before, despite my plans for intensive study, I reduced my learning activities, but made sure they were consistent. It’s more important to do something every single day than do a lot on one day.
So here’s a quick run-through of my project progress!
It’s been a while since I wrote something about my own language learning hobby, rather than my more educationally minded column. And fairly recently (around a week ago), I made a decision that might sound like a big deal or a dumb idea to many, but a small change in direction to me.
I started ‘dabbling’ in Kazakh.
That doesn’t mean much to my daily life, to be honest. Since I’ve pretty much been feeling on holiday for a year, I’ve long had a ‘main’ language I’m working on, then some others I ‘toy’ with. Before this, I was maintaining a 50-day streak in Hebrew on Duolingo. I also listened to 5 days of Glossika GSR in Lithuanian, just because I’d bought the package during a sale. In short? My other toys are going bye-bye for now.
Before I talk about ‘dabbling’, let me reveal my reasons for trying out this language, and you’ll easily see the fun of dabbling in any language. Beware: all my reasons for learning any language are incredibly specific to myself.
Update: due to the release of Glossika AI, which replaces the now-defunct Glossika packages, this review is now outdated. A review of the new system has just been published.
Well I was preparing to begin writing in my new section on Chinese, but an important incident changed my mind: I’ve just completed the entire Glossika GMS course in Polish, all 3000 of the sentences! So, in addition to sharing my sense of achievement and joy on my blog, I’ve decided to also write a brief review on what I thought about and what I got out of this course, seeing as it isn’t one of the most well-known method out there, and there aren’t that many reviews from people having completed it either. So let’s delve in – and allow me to start by introducing the method, in case you haven’t heard of it.
What is Glossika?
Even though you can get a comprehensive introduction to the product on their site, I’ll briefly summarise it from what I know. Glossika, founded by the amazing polyglot and linguist (read more if you don’t know the difference) Michael Campbell, is based on input – a lot of it. The basic idea is to drill a set of 3000 sentences into your mind, in 3 ‘fluency levels’ from simple to complex, each containing 1000 sentences, and the brain will gradually figure out the language.
I said it’s the ‘basic’ idea because the method does not demand you to follow any strict pathway. On the contrary, it’s probably among the most flexible learning materials out there! When you buy it, you get a ton of files. First is a PDF for each level, complete with translation, romanisation (etc, depending on the language), phonetic transcription (more on that later), a complete index and some additional professional advice. These sentences form the basis of the entire course. I got the English to Polish package, so each sentence comes with the English version, the Polish translation, simplified spelling (to ease certain learners into the scary-looking Polish spelling, I suppose) and IPA, as in the sample below.
Sample sentence from Glossika English-Polish, Fluency 3.
Having stepped into independent language studies for a while now, I’m starting to rethink this question. Nowadays with the rise of the online polyglot community, click into any language learning blog and they’ll tell you to turn your back on ‘traditional’ learning methods and learn by speaking, a lot. This sets up some sort of dichohtomy and tells you that if you failed using ‘traditional’ methods, then you gotta go the other way and speak. Probably because language studies in school worked perfectly for me (I gotta say, I still cannot comprehend how bad it could be in foreign school systems, even after reading so much about it), I never felt strongly about this dichotomy nor a necessity to choose. As a relatively introverted person, I even feel naturally a bit inclined against the latter: socalising and interacting people drains my energy. That led me to contemplate on the issue: how does speaking to people help me, particularly in an early stage? They say speaking is one of the basic skills in a language, but I always like to break things down even further. Continue reading