Haha! Once again I have Internet access even when I’m not at work. (For the last three months the place I was staying in didn’t have Internet access at all… this is partly why there have been so few posts on here.)
But anyway, this is pretty significant because now I’m ‘netted up again I can use CantoDict. Whilst at home. Which spells good things for Cantonese progress. Because, to be honest, there were only so many things I could do without the web.
But I hasten to point out that even being without the www at home was no barrier to making some progress. Obviously it gave me time to work through my grammars (the ones wot I reviewed recently). “But that’s no fun, just endlessly going through a textbook” I hear you cry.
You’re right. It is no fun.
And so I devised ways of making the most of the web even when I was without it. Should you ever find yourself in a similar situation, I’ve come up with a concise recipe for Cantonese (or whatever) success. You will need:
- One computer
- One Firefox
- A shed-load of add-ons
- An occasional Internet connection (e.g. at a friend’s house or workplace)
- Forward planning
First up is a Firefox add-on called Download Helper. This lets you save videos from Youtube (and other video streaming sites) to your computer. (I don’t know or care about the legalities of doing this; however, every time you watch something on Youtube it’s downloaded to your hard drive anyway, so if nothing else it’s a way of saving bandwidth if you keep watching the same videos.) Surf for and download as many videos in Cantonese as you can – the more the better. Songs, sketches, random people talking to one another – whatever.
Next, you need an add-on called Read It Later. This lets you save web pages in text format. This means you can download text in Chinese/Cantonese for perusal at home without complicated copy-pastaing. Find lyrics to songs you want to learn. Use Read It Later to download them. (Note: for some reason, some sites wound up with garbled text when viewed offline; especially if you want lyrics, Mojim.com is the place to go.)
You’ll also need to be a-grabbing yourself CantoFish. Remember, we can’t access CantoDict offline; however, you can use CantoFish to produce definitions and readings of words from the webpages you just downloaded. Happily this does work offline.
So now, armed with an instant offline dictionary, song lyrics and songs, you can spend your Internetless hours happily learning songs, or reading articles, or doing cool stuff in Cantonese.
The obvious disadvantage to this method is that you still can’t pick apart dramas or films since transcriptions never exist and your dictionary only works on web-pages, but it’s still better than nothing.
In other news: as far as job hunting’s going, I’ve got a potential lead in Hong Kong (working with kids :D) and a string of leads in Shanghai (I have an awesome and well-connected Shanghainese friend). It’s a shame my Hong Kong friends aren’t so well-connected (damn university students!). As far as the mission goes, if I got a job in Shanghai I’d be happy – I think it could be a suitable springboard for Hong Kong or Guangdong or Macau. Plus, I can now speak a non-trivial amount of Mandarin, even if I can’t read those pesky Simplified Characters. We shall see.
This leads me to the awesomeness of my Traditional character reading ability. Just kidding, it’s not awesome (yet), but it’s appreciably better than before – there are fewer and fewer characters I don’t recognise. In five months or so I’m going to Heisig the Taiwanese grades 1-8 (~3500 characters) since kanji knowledge isn’t as helpful as I first hoped or assumed. I just want to spend a month or so consolidating and adding to what I already know. Also on the subject of characters, I can now type anything quickly using Cangjie (for Linux – the Windows version is vastly inferior). It wasn’t easy to learn, but it wasn’t impossible either… with the right method. This means I can now transcribe drama subtitles, so looking up and figuring out what people are saying is easier.
Anyway, this has turned into a total ramble (this is what happens when I exercise… proverbial brain fluids start gushing forth) so I think that’s a wrap. Next challenge: major vocabulary building using HK dramas as fodder. Until next time!
 On its own, anyway.
 In addition to the add-ons below, I’d also recommend Adblock Plus (no ads, anywhere on the web, including the Tube of Yous) and NoScript (stops you accidentally downloading nasties from dubious websites if used properly).
 Disclaimer: I only downloaded the videos of songs I already had mp3s of, simply because they (the videos) had scrolling subtitles which made following them easier. Plus they’re more fun to watch/sing along to.