December 9, 2007

Poor Language Skills

The following audio clip is extracted from a Cantonese radio show in Canada. In this episode, Mr Wang Tingzhi (王亭之) ranted about the Proper Pronunciation Movement and of course, its leading figure, Dr Richard Ho (何文滙).

The clip starts from around 14 minutes and 18 seconds into the program. Mr Wong talked about today in Hong Kong, some employers are refusing to hire young people who have adopted the 'weird' sounds. Hong Kong is supposed to be a place where people should speak 3 languages (or 2 and a half as some people put it): Cantonese, English, and Mandarin. But now, the young generation is no good at any of them.

Transcript / Jyutping / Translation

gam2 so2 ji5 ne1 ji4 gaa1 zan1 hai6
So now really,

hoeng1 gong2 di1 hau6 saang1 zai2 ne1
The young people in Hong Kong,

ji4 gaa1 gong2 lok6 go3 cing4 jing4 hou2 caam2
Now we talk about it, the situation is really bad

go3 zung1 man2 m4 tung1
Their Chinese is no good

m4 gau3 daai6 luk6 jan4 se2 bo3
They cannot write as good as the Mainlanders

m4 gau3 toi4 waan1 se2 wo3
They cannot write as good as the Taiwanese

jing1 man2 jyun4 loi4 zung6 lok6 hau6 gwo3 soeng6 hoi2, bak1 ging1, gwong2 zau1
Their English is actually poorer than those from Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou

ceng2 go3 daai6 luk6 go2 di1 lok6 lei4
If we hire a Mainlander,

jyun4 loi4 se2 jing1 man2 lek1 gwo3 keoi5 dei6
He can actually write English better than them

gwok3 jyu5 m4 sik1 gong2 laa1
They cannot speak Mandarin

aai3, gang3 gaa1 tim1 laa1
(sigh) Absolutely not

gam2 ji4 gaa1 lin4 gong2 gwong2 zau1 waa2
So now when they speak Cantonese,

dou1 gong2 dou3 ling6 jan4 faan2 gam2
They irritate other people

gaau2 dou3 faan6 wun2 dou1 mou5 maai4
Ending up in losing their jobs (rice bows)


dada said...

>> 英文原來仲落後過上海,北京,廣州

It should be 重 and not 仲.

Edwin said...

Thanks, dada. Updated.

米蘭 said...

I love this MP3 and transcript!

Learnt a few new words and grammar structures. I think the content was accurate to what I have experienced in Hong Kong so far.

I've noticed Cantonese is getting poorer, Mandarin has always been poor, and English is disturbing 20+ years people spend learning.

Then I see typical Chinese families speak to their Children ONLY in *broken* English and no Cantonese, quite sad actually.

Edwin said...

Interesting. Why would they speak to their children in English instead of Cantonese? If they want to teach them English, wouldn't their Filipino nannies do a better job?

Talking about that, I have a feeling that the next generation of HK people will speak English with a Filipino accent.

wabbit said...

Edwin, you speak on the assumption that most families in HK can afford a maid. It is many parents' wishes to increase their childrens' advantages, and in absence (or reluctance of paying for) lessons. I myself am a perfect example of this. But then I guess I am one of the lucky ones.

Anonymous said...

It's very natural that they can't write Mandarin as well as mainlanders, since it's the native language of most mainlanders, but not that of Hongkongers. This problem would sort itself out if people could just write in their native language instead.

For the same reason, they can't speak Mandarin as well as the Chinese or Taiwanese.

It's a shame, however, that the English of Hongkongers isn't better than it is. As a former English colony, that's an advantage they can exploit, as India and Singapore does. It's absolutely not true, however, that the Chinese are any better here.

And as to not speaking their mother tongue well enough, that's just rubbish. I'm waiting to listen to this show tomorrow, but there are two things I can see him referring to. Either it's the sound changes Cantonese is going through. Not liking them is entirely subjective and there's nothing wrong with a language evolving. Nobody thinks today that it's wrong not to pronounce the 'k' in "knight" (or the 'g', for that matter), even though it was once the correct way to say it. Pronunciation changes.

The other thing might be the "code switching", but it's the same thing there, loan words occur naturally in all languages. Cantonese and Mandarin are already chock full of loan words from Altaic, Hmong-Miao, Austronesian and Japonic languages. Nobody thinks it's wrong to call a dog 狗 instead of 犬, even though 狗 is a loan word. So why would it be strange to call it "dog"? Words are loaned into languages all the time. It's completely natural. Heck, English is more French than Germanic and nobody seems to think that's a big problem.

Anyway, thanks for sharing this! I'll listen to it tomorrow!