The Mission

A little while ago I said I was thinking of doing a three month polyglot-style mission.

Well, I’m not going to.

Instead, I’m going to do a Khatzumoto-style disappear-permenantly-to-another-country mission.  Here it is:

  • Within the next year (i.e. 365 days) I will have found work in a Cantonese-speaking area (most likely Hong Kong) and will have flown over there
  • By that time, I will be fluent in spoken Cantonese
  • I will also be able to read Chinese well (the 3000 most common characters would be a sensible benchmark)

My definition of “fluent” is “can comfortably hold conversations on a variety of topics at full speed”.  Realistically, I don’t think I’m million miles away – I think my main problem at the moment is likely to be vocabulary (all that grammar work paid off!)  I will be concentrating on speaking over the next six months.

As far as reading is concerned, I need to do quite a lot of work – this will take up the second half of my year.  I can already read quite a lot (thanks largely to Chinese subtitles) – again, it’s donkey work from here on to learn the less common characters.  Naturally, 1) being able to speak and 2) having learnt to write all the characters before, this shouldn’t be an impossible challenge.

I think/hope this should give me a really good shot at being able to work in Hong Kong.  The main obstacles are likely to be (as always) getting distracted with things like Japanese and Mandarin and social obligations.  I’m already well ahead in my mission, of course – I’ve clocked up a fair number of hours already (although not enough for fluency, clearly), so we’ll see how it goes.

EDIT: I (my friends) have done a little digging since this morning – if I’m fluent in Cantonese and can read Chinese, I’ll have just enough points to be eligible for a visa!  Hooray!  The other way would just be to work for another year and get by with English, but that would be a sucky way to get into Hong Kong.


22 thoughts on “The Mission

  1. Wow, that sounds very ambitious. I’m sure it’s achievable, but expect a lot of work and a lot of frustration. I spent the last year working on my vocabulary, and now I’m ready to improve my speaking practice.

    I still spend at least 20-30 minutes a day reviewing flashcards, but I’m no longer trying to learn 200-300 new words a month.

    I would say that reaching about 4,000 – 5,000 words was when I started to feel more and more comfortable having converations. That’s when I started to hear what I comprehended instead of being overwhelmed by what I didn’t. What I would call “conversant” and possibly the beginning of “proficient”, I still think I’m a long way from “fluent”.

    As far as job searches or apartment searches, here is a HK blog/forum you might not have seen. They have a lot of job advice on their forum. They used to be quite active but they seem to have hibernated the past half-year:

    • Yup, all prepped for the frustration – I did a preliminary round of job-hunting with not very much success, so I think that’s probably going to be the hardest part. I think I’m probably at about 300 new words per month, although I’m not sure how many I know – maybe around 3000? Long way to go yet.

      Cheers for the link – there’s some good stuff on there. I’d not really considered apartment hunting, but I guess it’s necessary…

  2. 好,沒問題。你要再跟我聯係,我就幫你:只有用中文跟你講話。如果你需要復習粵語,你也可以跟我講廣東話。雖然我的中文也不太好,從現在開始我就當你是一個香港人。祝你幸運老友!

  3. I love the determination, mate. And I don’t doubt for a second that you’ll pull it off.

    Also, the “points system” is pretty fascinating. I checked out the page and the minimum points thing… seems pretty reasonable, actually. How exactly do they go about determining proficiency? I assume there’s some JLPT-style test for Cantonese or something?

    • I can but try! I also thought the points system was quite fair – I already have 60 points for a degree and age, and I’ll have another 20 for work experience by September next year… I take it there’s something similar for Japan?

      I think there’s a proficiency test I read about a little while ago, but I can’t remember exactly what it was (and it might have been for Mandarin come to think of it). I think/hope it’s probably enough though just to ring them up and speak good Cantonese to persuade them though.

      • I think Japan is slightly different, though maybe not any easier or harder to deal with. As for my visa, they required no language skills (a plus for those who don’t speak Japanese), but they do essentially require you to have a job before you get here.

        That’s why so many do the eikaiwa route… it gets you over here with a visa with little trouble. After that you can bounce and try to find another job.

        There are, most certainly, other ways to go about it, though.

        • I may yet wind up doing a TEFL course yet… I can see it’d be easier to apply for jobs if you’re already in the country. Less fun to do it that way though, and I don’t know how much need HK has for English teachers (probably something I should research, actually).

          Guess I’ll just have to see how job hunting goes. (I’m kinda hoping I’ll be able to be referred to a company by one of my friends).

    • Well, if someone was offering a quant or physics-related post then sure 😉

      Actually, I didn’t enjoy my physics degree all that much – I got the highest marks in the year for most of the written reports and projects, but when it came to exams that were basically all applied maths, I didn’t do so well…

      So thinking about it, yes, I probably should be planning on doing something with physics – no exams, no problem 😉

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