Monthly Archives: December 2011

Merry Christmas from Hong Kong!

I usually make great efforts to get out of town during any public holiday, especially when it’s combined with a weekend, as in the case of Christmas 2011 — perfectly lined up to allow for a 4 day weekend!  But this year I did nothing.

Well I’ve done a few things.  I’ve done my laundry, cooked a few meals at home, watched DVDs, got a haircut.  What a life.  I realized that it’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a long weekend at home, and it reminds me of “normal” life from back when I lived in NY.  There was no pressure to go anywhere, and holidays meant just relaxing — not racing off to see the sites and do adventure activities.  As much as I love to see and do, I realize it’s easy to forget that it’s ok to just sit and relax and just how good it is to catch up on slowing down.

It’s hard to remember that in HK where even locals tend to get out of town for most holidays due to the ease of travel here.  Also, when you don’t have family around, you tend not to want to stick around either (last year two of my sisters came to visit and we had a lot of fun).

This year it was me and one great friend in HK, and lazying around was all that was needed.  We have grand plans to go ice skating and see a movie.  I think that will be the most action that is needed.  Happy holidays everyone!

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Cantonese: A Language to Love

I’ve received a few comments about Cantonese lately, and thought I’d do a few posts on the subject.  One was actually in response to my post about my first speech in Cantonese.  This poster wrote, “Chinese people don’t find Cantonese more charming. Certainly not I. We mostly find Cantonese loud and obnoxious, with more resemblance to Vietnamese than Mandarin in terms of tone and pitch. This would apply to my Korean and Japanese friends as well. They all see Cantonese as “inferior”.”

I felt defensive about the comment, being someone who speaks and enjoys Cantonese very much and personally have had very different experiences (as indicated by my post!).  Plus this was a first for me that Cantonese was considered “inferior” like Vietnamese!

And then I recently saw this posted on the CUHK CLC facebook page, which I found pretty interesting.  It’s a clip from the caller question section of an NPR program featuring learned linguist John McWhorter discussing “what is a language.”

In this clip, you will hear a caller talks about how Cantonese is quite different and even considerably more enjoyable (and this is from someone who understands both Mandarin and Cantonese).  McWhorter clarifies that Cantonese is not a dialect.

I completely agree with both sentiments.  Cantonese is in its own right a language and it really is a whole lot of fun.  I think those of us who speak multiple dialects may have a better appreciation of that. And I have met people who learned Cantonese, but not Mandarin, who also love their study.

 

Working in HK: First Time Being the “Lou Baan”!

Now that I work for a long-time Hong Kong law firm, I am really getting a much truer taste of what it means to live in Hong Kong.  As a solicitor at a large firm, I naturally have a secretary assigned to me.  I asked her to help me with a mailing that I may not have prepared during her office hours, so she called another assistant to help.  When she got on the phone, she spoke in Cantonese, of course, and in describing the situation referred to me as her “lou baan”!

For those of you who don’t know, lau ban (老闆) is cantonese for boss.  Transliterally it is “old boss” (where “old” is a term of respect, just like in the Chinese for teacher).  For you Mandarin speakers, it’s lao ban, and the simplified characters are 老板.

I was kind of taken aback when I’d heard it, since I usually associated lau ban with people who were older, more in charge and senior than a law firm associate (which is almost the equivalent of a lackey, though I suppose there are always lackeys beneath the lackeys!) and always male, though I guess it technically should apply to me — and apply it did that day!

But once I recovered from the initial shock (really it didn’t take that long), I felt a bit of self-satisfaction, and thought, “Hey – I’m a lou baan!”

Now I wonder when someone is going to call me a “大佬”!