In my previous post on 16 January called Hong Kong Makeup Your Mind! English, Mandarin, or Cantonese…Aiya!, I outlined my challenges with languages in Hong Kong. Since then, there have been a few developments and updates on this thorn in my side.
I had an appointment with the Director of the program, she was very friendly and a staunch feminist (of course). I was able to get behind her thinking on why the program admitted me, knowing that most courses are taught in Cantonese. The official position of the program was they thought I spoke fluent Mandarin and therefore assumed that I would understand Cantonese. If you know or have studied the Chinese family of languages or dialects, Mandarin and Cantonese are so different, I would compare them to English and French. China is a very large country around the size of the European Union. Mandarin, a Northern dialect spoken around the Beijing area, is very different from Cantonese, a Southern dialect spoken around the Hong Kong-Guandong area. It is incredibly difficult for me to sit in a three-hour class concentrating on understanding the language, rather than what the content of the lecture is.
Frustrated that the program made a huge erroneous leap of an assumption (I mean come on, it is like assuming I would know French if I knew English!), I protested that we find a resolution for my situation. The program director and I found a few courses (related to my areas of interest) taught in English in the Journalism and Communications department. She also setup a self-study course for me in Anthropology (another one of my interest areas).
My situation has improved vastly since. I am now in 1 course completely taught in English (professor is from NYC!), 2 courses that are taught in Mandarin, and 1 course that is bi-lingual (Mandarin and English). I can breath a sigh of relieve — I understand the course content and can actively participate in class discussions. My classmate loaned me two Learning Cantonese books and I’m reading daily and I am also working to improve my Mandarin.
Moral of the post: Everything works out if you are willing to be flexible!!