As part of his goal of continuing his education and getting into a social work program, Mel has been preparing applications to several universities. No word yet on his acceptance, but this week he got one step closer.

Because English isn't his native tongue, He had to write a the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to prove he will be able to complete the course work. He took the test a couple of weeks ago and he got back his results.

Turns out he's pretty much on par with native Anglophones!

His test results were very convincing. He scored 96%! Way to go! He didn't have problems in any of the four areas – writing, reading, vocabulary, and verbal – and in fact, his results are well above those required by any Canadian or U.S. schools. which means he can now apply to the English-language university of his choice.

Then again, I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise given that he's generally more comfortable speaking English now than his native Cantonese. He's managed to become truly bilingual.

Which raises an interesting question for me. It's obviously possible for a Cantonese speaker to learn English, but how hard is it for an anglophone to learn Cantonese? They're such different styles of language. I'm wondering which is easier to learn?

Well, I'm gonna find out. I've started using the Pimsleur method to study Cantonese. It involves listening to and repeating common words and phrases to build up a vocabulary. I tried it at my computer about a year ago and, while I was able to grasp the first lesson, I couldn't make the time to dedicate to this endeavour. So it kind of fell off my to do list.

Enter the ipod!

I realized I was missing an opportunity. I listen to loads of podcasts and audio books while walking to and from work – why not try to learn a new language?

Sure I have to repeat foreign words to myself along the way – out loud because Cantonese is an tone-based language and you really need to get the inflection right – and people will probably look at me funny, but so what? So far, the lessons have really been sticking. I'm taking it slow and doing each lesson until I can keep the words straight in my mind. And I'm hoping that, if this goes well, I'll look into taking a basic Cantonese course through the Ottawa Carleton District School Board.

I realize that Mel is speaking English on a daily basis, so he gets loads of practice. it's gonna take a sharp ear and some serious practice with him for me to learn Cantonese well. But I have a strong motivation. Mel's parents will be visiting in September. I hope by then I'll have a good enough understanding to be able to grasp some of their conversations.

When we were in Malaysia in 2005, it was really tricky to even grasp what subject they were on, let alone understand the details. Except for Mel sometimes throwing out an anglicism here and there, I probably wouldn't have been able to understand a thing. And hell, if they're gonna be my inlaws, I can at least make an effort.

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3 responses »

  1. margotinto says:

    That's awesome! I bet Mel scored better than many anglophones would.
    Good luck on learning Cantonese, and using your iPod is a great idea, especially if you are listening to it every day anyway. And no one is going to bother you if you are speaking to yourself in Cantonese, they'll probably be thinking to themselves. "ooooooo, I bet that guy's learning a new language…I should do that."

  2. Or they'll assume I'm on a bluetooth phone talking to someone. I often see people with bluetooth phones and initially think they're just crazies talking to themselves before I realize they might have a phone.Soon we'll all have phones implanted in our teeth like Andrea Martin in the deleted scenes from Hedwig.

  3. margotinto says:

    BEST DELETED SCENE EVER. And ya, people will think you're on bluetooth. Getalife and I used to try to guess whether people coming down Yonge Street talking to themselves were crazy or Bluetoothing, and it was about a 50/50 split.

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