Reviewing the blog so far from Hong Kong, it seems like we do little else but eat and drink, but there is obviously so much more here , new experiences come upon you by the minute and the East-West cultural differences are constant.
I like languages and always try to learn a little when I visit somewhere new. Cantonese and English are the two official languages of Hong Kong, but Mandarin Chinese is now becoming increasingly spoken. Cantonese is quite a difficult language to learn as we have no real words in common as we have with Latin based languages or Germanic languages. Furthermore, Cantonese is a tonal language which means that the meaning of the word changes when it is pronounced differently.
There are six tones in Cantonese, according to some authorities:high level, low-mid to high, mid level, low-mid to low, low to low-mid and low level. With me so far? So the word “fan” can mean flour, energetic, share, divide, grave, to teach and fragrant depending on the tone used.
Some of these sounds should be easier for English young people who seemed to have acquired an almost irrestible desire to use rising tones at the end of words now! Another relatively common sound in Cantonese is the “ng” sound at the beginning of some words, and even a word itself (ng is five) , this again should be easy for some of us: ng-er-land!!
Despite the diffrences between Cantonese and Mandarin ( and other Chinese languages and dialects) apparently Chinese in written form is understood by all. For most of us, the obstacles of a completely unfamiliar, sing song spoken language are enough to deter, without getting involved in a written language that has over 80,000 characters!!
So far I have acquired the ability to say hello and goodbye, please and thank you, tell a cab driver our HK address and ask for the bill in a restaurant (unsurprisingly) but beyond that…
By way of a little intellectual challenge, we decided to try to recognise and learn some Chinese characters. To start with, we learned the characters for Hong Kong itself, then exit or way out, road, street and star ( for the Ferry). The way we did it is to memorise a somewhat childish but memorable story around the characters. For instance , Hong is a ladder with a Chinese hat on and Kong is the profile of a growling bear.
Way out or Exit is a Christmas tree next to a square and Road is a radiator with rabbits ears sat on a chaise longue with two bits on the side. It sounds crazy but it really seems to work. So far we have about ten, so only another 79,990 to go. Then someone tells me that some Cantonese words have no characters………..
To sum up the rest of our day in a paragraph: took the bus to Aberdeen on the south coast (Miles Platting by the sea), a rapid exit to the beaches and market at Stanley, then the bus home over the Peak passing some of the most expensive homes on the planet. Ate at the Pawn again as a prelude to a couple of hours at the race meeting at Happy Valley. The South China Morning Post’s tipsters left us slightly ahead.
Oh and Marple Bridge made the BBC news: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-13244263