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Say It Right Series

Troubles of a Cantonese Speaker Learning Mandarin

Posted by lilywhytelegs May 14, 2008 in the Group General Discussion.

Hi CPoddies!

I was hoping some of you may have some insight into my Mandarin learning difficulties.

To start, let me offer a quick background as I believe it is a significant source of my problems. I was born in Hong Kong to Cantonese speaking parents. My family immigrated to Canada when I was still very young (~5 years old). We spoke Cantonese exclusively at home while I was growing up. I've come to realize that my parents can't understand nor speak Mandarin. I can read some Hanzi but not enough to read newspapers...I have no problems reading menus (I suspect this is due to my love of food...) I guessimate that I know between 500-1000 words.

I think I have two major challenges in learning Mandarin.

  1. I have a hard time remembering the tones when speaking. I think I do okay while I practice with the podcasts. However, once I'm unplugged, I tend to slide back into a mangled form of Cantonese. I'm making a greater effort to read the pinyin in the PDF's. It seems to help a bit but the going is still slow. After a few days I have to re-listen the dialogues to pick up the tones again.
  2. My brain seems to go through a multi-step translation process. During the lessons I hear/learn the Mandarin; translate to English to learn what it means; then translate to Cantonese. My brain seems to want to figure out what the Mandarin is in Cantonese. It's not helping that my Hanzi recognition ability is not great. I find that I don't do this when learning French. It just goes from French to English.

Has anyone else experienced similar challenges? Any suggestions on how to overcome these learning difficulties? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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