Learning the wah

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Following on from our recent article, a good set of books to help you are the set by Sidney Lau. There are five volumes : Elementary Cantonese Vol I & II, Intermediate Cantonese Vol I & II, and Advanced Cantonese.

I like them because they give you lots of rules and constructions to help you get the word order right. Most other courses seem to focus on vocabulary without talking about grammar, but I like to get some help in seeing how to fit the vocabulary together.

I bought a copy around ten years ago, and thought they had gone out of print, but saw them in Swindon Bookshop last week. The only downside is that they were written in the 1960s by the government, so you'll want to be talking to native speakers as well, or you will end up sounding like a newly arrived colonial administrator from the 60s. Some examples of the dialogue that date the book :

A : Now there are too many teddy boys and teddy girls; some of them are robbing, some snatching, some stealing, and some fighting. I wonder if there are any ways in which we can handle them properly.
B : There are juvenile delinquents and hippies in every country. But with regard to this problem, there is no solution anywhere.

According to the servant, there is no rat in the kitchen.

A : Can medicine be sent by post ?
B : I've asked the staff of some dispensaries. They said that except for poison, hemp, and LSD, any medicine can be sent by post.

He knows how to make plastic flowers.

You can find other suggestions for learning Cantonese at : Cantonese Sheik

Regards, MrB

Re:Learning the wah

Once you get up to an advanced level I high recommend "current colloquial cantonese" by Cream Lee Yin Ping. Outstanding and very up to date


Thanks for the tip, flyingchair.

You're effectively demonstrating a lesson that's got to be learned if you're new to this part of the world: just because someone has a very silly name, such as 'Cream Lee', it does not mean you should fail to take that person seriously!

Anyway, I need to get back to studying the wah, given that my daughter ready to start talking, and I don't want her to be able to slip stuff past me. I'll look for this one.

Mr Tall