chapter  9
21 Pages

Striving for linguistic and cultural assimilation in Hong Kong

Based on my 35 years of experience with learning Cantonese, this chapter suggests strategies for learning accurate pronunciation (including tones and intonation) and grammar, as well as strategies for entering Cantonese-speaking social networks. These strategies are presented in a way that specifically addresses how learners can maintain and strengthen their motivation. The reason for the focus on motivation is that, on the one hand, some research has indicated that motivation is more positively correlated with language learning success than any other factor, and on the other hand, other research has shown that learners of Cantonese report being highly demotivated by both linguistic and social factors, preventing most of them from ever getting beyond beginner level. Knowing how to approach and address the more difficult aspects of the language itself should help learners maintain, and possibly even increase, their intrinsic motivation to learn it. The social issues that demotivate learners relate to what learners see as native-Cantonese speakers’ unwillingness to speak Cantonese with them, or, even worse, laughing at their attempts to speak Cantonese. The suggestions for addressing these issues involve actively seeking out Cantonese-speaking social networks and reinterpreting the causes of laughter.