Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Speaking Cantonese: a case study.

So today I spoke Cantonese to some of the children. It was pretty interesting to note the children's responses upon listening to the teacher speaking a 'minority language'.

There is a four year old female child, Vee, whom I swear whose Cantonese is better than mine. She's been in the centre since the beginning of the year, and she only speaks Cantonese still.

Due to this, she sometimes randomly tells me things that she doesn't tell other staff.

I.e., her mom bought her a new car seat, or her friend might have gone to the supermarket, and her dad also eats Mandarin oranges. All in Cantonese.

Sometimes she uses words that I don't even know, like today. LOL.I couldn't really ask her to translate it to english though. LOL.

Anyways, I find that responses range from:

- children who speak limited Cantonese, are delighted, and actually respond back in broken Cantonese. This was from a 3.5 yr old male child of mixed anglo-saxon and chinese background, who primarily spoke english at home, but whose grandmother spoke Cantonese.

Primarily this was from the group who were Chinese but spoke English at home, but still had someone speaking some Cantonese.

I find that the children from this group tend to be delighted to speak Cantonese, when another person does, and will try their utmost best to reply in their limited grasp (i.e 'broken Cantonese') of the minority language.

- children from purely Cantonese background. The 4 yr old male child, D. responded in English. However, as I continued in Cantonese, he actually reverted back to responding in Cantonese after a few minutes.

This group tends to start out speaking their home language, and as their fluency in the mainstream language picks up, their use of the home language decreases.

I would believe that children from this particular group tended to be more sensitive to speaking in the 'main stream' language as they always spoke the minority language at home.

- children who spoke only Mandarin, or non chinese background.

For this group, the most they do would look and stare intently. Sometimes they would ask 'teacher, what are you saying?', or 'what language are you speaking, teacher?'

Anyways for the record, I speak Cantonese, and my Mandarin skills are adequate enough to have a short conversation. I speak, read and write English, & Bahasa Malaysia, and a fair bit of Korean.

Sent from my Nokia phone.

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