Even though I’ve lost my teacher, I still thought my Cantonese was pretty stable, lying somewhere between upper beginner and lower intermediate, but
it turns out my mother in law is the ultimate leveller of expectations.
Obviously, I can’t understand 75% of what she says, she’s
too anxious and
uses vocab way beyond my level, but last week, when I saw Kwok fu Shing on TV I turned to her, confident I could direct the conversation to a place I could have vocab for, and asked if she liked him.
I got the first part of her answer,
she thought he was okay, quite handsome
but then her answer kept going and going and going and I heard some words I knew, like Mainland China, Kwun Tong, basic verbs etc. but overall I was pretty lost.
Why was she talking about Kwun Tong?
Did Kwok Fu Shing grow up there?
Why was she doing a firehose action with her hands?
I asked her to go again, slowly, and this time I got a few more words, like his brother, Many years ago, but I still didn’t get it, and then my wife translated and said:
’20 years ago, armed thieves from the Mainland came to HK with AK-47s to rob jewellery stores and banks. Kwok Fu Shing’s brother ran a jewellery shop in Kwun Tong, it got robbed, he chased the robbers and got mowed down by one of them.’
When I looked at the whole story laid out on my computer screen I can see the vocab gaps that make it hard for me to tell that story myself, but I’m annoyed that I wasn’t able to get words I already know, like gold.
The problem is: gold is gum and gum is various other words in Cantonese, depending on the tone used.
My mother in law’s fire hose action didn’t help, though she did explain that what she was doing was the proper way to fire an AK-47, so I fucked that one up too.
listening to long stories you don’t understand is a good way to learn new words
as long as someone translates it for you afterwards
I desperately need a new teacher.