Friday, August 06, 2004

Cantonglish vs Singlish

HKSAR 's biliterate (English and Chinese)and trilingual (English, Cantonese and Putonghua) language policy 两文三语 has caused confusion among the Hong Kong people.

There are many Hong Kong Chinese who can speak VERY Good english and there are many more who speak Very BAD English. There are so many forms of English spoken by non native speakers - english spoken by Philippinos, thais, malaysians, singaporeans etc. I don't think it is fair to laugh at Singlish or Cantonglish. Why can't we accept English as spoken by non native english speakers as "World English"? (There is "World Music") instead of making snooty comparisons with British or American or Australia or any White English?

Of cos my amor patriae HK friends often argued with me whenever I commented that the Lingua Franca of HK is not English but Cantonglish or Engtonese. For example, students copy "node-see" (notes) , attend "Tiew Tor" (Tutotial) and borrow books from the "Mad Lie" (Medical Library) and they get mad when the "Pwin Tah"(printer) is jammed.

HK has cleverly cantonised the english words.

Cantonese is the dominant "language" used in HK. Cantonese is even used as an instructional language in schools up to the university. Students are taught to navigate on web pages by kicking - Please "kick" (click) the mau-see (mouse) and "kick" this link. A plan is a pan. The pan falls mainly on the pan. Cantonese is also used in the Legislative Council, media and government.

I am not criticising the use of cantoglish. In fact, I love it! Efficient and creative bilingualism. The comic and wit of spoken and written Cantonese is uniquely HK.

The use of contraction and truncation of cantonese terms is equally facinating!

腩粗走油走青,奶茶走糖,油菜全走 (beef brisket with mee pok, leave out the oil and spring onions; milk tea, no sugar please. Steam veg, no oil, no osyter sauce and no whatever you are about to add to my plate of veg)

里汁叉鸡跟意粉,跟署菜 (curry sauce on spaghetti with char siew and chicken, and potato with veg )

旧中银 (old Bank of China Building)

机铁 (Airport Express MTR station)

。。。

See you LAY TAH!

[Post 27/1997]

3 Comments:

Blogger Ivan Chew said...

I suspect you won't get as much fun out of reading the Cantonglish if you've never heard a Hong Konger's accent. Here are some Singapore slangs (those I use quite often):
1) "Wah Lau!" - equivalent to "What the Hell?". In the Hokkien dialect, it literally means "My Father". I have no idea what have fathers got to do with it.

2) "See how first" - short for "Let me see how it goes first". Example:
My wife: "Are we going out tomorrow?"
Me: "See how first."
Invariably, my wife would respond, "Why must you see Mr. How in order to decide if we are going out or not?" [get it?]
So now, if my wife asks something like, "Are we going shopping tomorrow?", I'd reply, "Let me make an appointment with Mr. How. Then I'll let you know."

3) "Where got?" - i.e. Denial.
Depending on the context, it could mean things like "Whatever do you mean?" or "No, I don't have it." or "No, I most certainly did not fart!". You get the idea. Very versatile.

August 10, 2004 at 12:28 AM  
Blogger Legendary Pink Dot said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

August 10, 2004 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Legendary Pink Dot said...

I think I get the drift. I see it this way- The cantonese speakers in HK use code switching i.e. anglocising cantonese words and cantonesing english words. The singaporeans simply commit first degree grammarslaughter. [Please do not take offence. Singaporeans and HK people do and can speak and write good English too.] It is just my uneducated observation. For the record, an amoeba on the planet Saturn probably writes and speaks better English than I do.

My gweilo brother was told by this old lady at an antiue shop: "You pay tomorrow. Today you take go first". She was allowing him to take the chair home, and to pay her the next day. Of cos, dear Phil replied to the kind lady, "Thank you, I'll take go first" in linen crisp Queen's English.

August 10, 2004 at 10:57 AM  

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