Cantonese 1


Cantonese I

Mondays 6 – 7:15 pm

Instructor: Brendan

This is an absolute beginner, from scratch, “This is Cantonese” intro language class. I think this will be my 5th year teaching this class for ALESN. I welcome new students as well as returning students, but I need any returning students to understand that I will be brutally hard on you this year and encourage you to quit my class if you cannot already speak acceptable basic Cantonese as a result of taking whichever ALESN Cantonese classes you may have taken in the past. This class will be fun, but difficult, and I am not going to hold anyone’s hand this year.

Unlike past years, my focus as a teacher this year will be accurate pronunciation and tones at the cost of all else. My single-minded goal for everything that I teach this year will be to have my students all eventually speak intelligible Cantonese, OR QUIT MY CLASS BECAUSE YOU DETERMINE THAT YOU CANNOT PUT IN ADEQUATE TIME OR EFFORT TO DO SO. By this, I mean that if you take this class and succeed in accomplishing this goal, you will be able to initiate and participate in brief conversations with native speakers who do not already know you, and you will be understood at a very basic level when saying hello, or introducing yourself, or asking for the time, or asking where the bathroom is located. If you put in the time and effort, you will also be able to understand a small portion of the Cantonese spoken back to you before and after you speak.

I intend to proceed at a slightly faster pace than last year. My goal is to cover the first 10 lessons of our 15 lesson textbook. Last year, I covered 7 full lessons and just started the 8th when the year ended.

Here is a download link for the Cantonese textbook that I will be teaching from this year, so you can see what I intend to cover and how the textbook is laid out. The book is taught in ROMANIZED CANTONESE (no Chinese Characters), which allows us to focus on pronunciation and tones, especially for speakers of other dialects of Chinese:

The textbook is called Cantonese Basic Course by Elizabeth Latimer Boyle or E Boyle. It is often referred to as “FSI Cantonese” or “Foreign Service Institute Cantonese Basic Course,” and was created by the US Government in the mid to late 1960s to help foreign diplomats and military personnel learn to speak Cantonese while being stationed in Hong Kong:

Students can click the left icon for Volume 1, which will be our specific textbook. Volume 2 is more advanced, for you to study on your own after completing my class.

I clicked on both the PDF and the first mp3 to verify that they work in both streaming mode and as right click downloads. This is probably the best / quickest free source online and the PDF looks like a good quality scan. The first mp3 is also very clear to listen to. This is a public domain textbook, which means that any and all versions that you might find online should be downloadable for free without restriction. DO NOT PAY FOR AN E-VERSION OF THIS BOOK.

If you are a fan of reading real books like me, there are multiple versions of this title available for purchase on Amazon. I recommend the Hippocrene reprinted edition, which is standard trade paperback size, has excellent binding and print quality, and looks the best as a physical book. You may also find the original US Government green covered textbooks on Amazon; these are fine, but tend to fall apart due to age (circa 1970). Most of my students last year either used tablets or printed the textbook and put it in a binder, which they brought to class. If you are accepted to this class via the initial registration process as opposed to being placed on our waitlist, please print or bring the first lesson with you to the first class, because I will be starting right away, and I will not be distributing copies in class.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to teaching you this year!