Learning Cantonese as an additional language (CAL) or not: What the CAL learners say

Chor Shing David LI, Shuet KEUNG, Hon Fong POON, Zhichang XU

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Based on qualitative data obtained from 33 participants in four focus groups, two each in Putonghua (17) and English (16) respectively, this study shows that learners of Cantonese as an additional language (CAL) in Hong Kong experience a lot of difficulties. As a ‘dialect’, Cantonese has not been standardized and is not part of school literacy. A variety of romanization systems are used in commercially obtainable learning aid like Cantonese course books and bilingual dictionaries, which tend to diverge from romanized Cantonese in street signs and personal names. Independent learning is difficult while incidental learning is almost impossible. Cantonese tuition, often focusing on tones, is reportedly not so helpful. With six distinctive tonemes, the Cantonese tone system appears to be a major stumbling block. When spoken to in Cantonese, local speakers tend to switch to English or Putonghua. Inaccuracies in tone contours often trigger laughter, damaging CAL learners’ self-esteem and dampening their motivation to learn and speak Cantonese. Unlike sojourners, non-Chinese residents who see themselves as Hongkongers often get upset as their identity claims are questioned or even challenged by the mainstream Cantonese society. Copyright © 2016 Global Chinese.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
JournalGlobal Chinese
Volume2
Issue number1
Early online dateMar 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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learning aid
language
humor
dialect
dictionary
learning
self-esteem
Hong Kong
literacy
resident
school
experience
Group
Society

Citation

Li, D. C. S., Keung, S., Poon, H. F., & Xu, Z. C. (2016). Learning Cantonese as an additional language (CAL) or not: What the CAL learners say. Global Chinese, 2(1), 1-22.

Keywords

  • Cantonese
  • Tone language
  • Dialect
  • Attitude and motivation
  • Identity
  • 從廣東話學習者的角度看學習廣東話的需要