Infinite Cantonese Box

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This week there was a family dinner [limited Cantonese from me, some new food vocab, ho mei this, ho mei that etc.]

A trip to the post office [smooth cos I led the convo]

Chapter 2 of Horrorlandia

Cowboy Bebop vocab

Buying veg at the market

Couple of infinite boxes


There’s a point in language learning when you start to regress.

Either fatigue about saying the same thing over and over or a cascading loss of confidence.

Suddenly, your sentences are short and you’re unsure of half of them. Am I saying it right? Is the sentence structure natural?

This could all be in my head.


Here are my notes from one of my exchanges this week [a guy from a city in Guangdong that I always forget the name of…on the south-western side…]

I’ll pick out the bits I think are interesting:

阿拉伯文化 [Arabic Culture]

In Chinese, a lot of foreign places and things are written out phonetically. In this case, the first 3 characters [阿拉伯] sound like Ngah Lai Bah, which means Arabic.

Sometimes it’s easy to guess what the place is [if someone says it in Cantonese] and other times it’s like hearing a completely different word.

E.g. 紐約 sounds like Ngau Yurt; can you guess which city it is?

What about 巴西 [bah sai]?

Or a fictional character called 福爾摩斯 [fut yee mor see]?

There should be no way you can guess the last one as it doesn’t sound a thing like the English version, in fact, it might not be phonetically translated at all.


副產品 [by-product]

Obviously I didn’t know this word before today’s exchange…a lot of these notes are just transcriptions of what the exchange guy told me…but the beautiful thing about Chinese is that some characters stick out and make it easier to guess the overall meaning of the word.

In this case 品 is just 3 boxes and is usually added to another character to mean a product of that type.

E.g. 產品 [general product], 甜品 [dessert] 作品 [creative works], 品品品品品品品品品品品 [production line]

Other Chinese words can be guessed if you just reduce whatever concept you’re trying to translate into its basic components.

This is how you get 真人版 for live action version [of Cowboy Bebop]. Literally translated, it’s Real Person Version.

Or 真實性 for verisimilitude! [Real essence/character]

Sometimes words are just direct translations too, like 沙蟲 [sand worm].


你看不看得下去? [Can you watch it?]

By watch, it basically means endure, as in can you watch this thing without throwing the remote at the TV?

Also 看 in spoken Cantonese is said as tai and 下 is changed to lok.

I’m not sure how to add the little slashes to represent the tones but in speaking it’s best to just copy what people say and you’ll get it right after enough times hearing it.

So to break it down:

你 is you

看得 is can watch

看不看得 makes it a question, can you watch [stg]?

And 下去 is a grammar point that I still never really know when to use.


If you’re wondering about the Star Trek DS9 sentence, it says DS9 didn’t rip off Babylon 5 cos one has a black captain and the other has Bruce Something.

Bruce Boxlighter?

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