Interview now online at Adam Sheik’s Cantonese site

Filed in Press

There's an online text-format interview focussing on my experience with Cantonese over at Adam Sheik's Chinese (Cantonese) Help Sheets. Some of you learning Cantonese might find it interesting.

For the record, it is probably the most accurate of any of the interviews I've done because I wrote the answers and Adam didn't reword or edit them. Most reporters incorrectly recall details of the interview or bend the interview content with the intent to make it more interesting to their audience. Consequently, based solely on my own experience, you should always read interviews with at least a little scepticism. I have had a couple of interviews which were very accurate in their reporting but most veer off one way or another.

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32 Responses to “Interview now online at Adam Sheik’s Cantonese site”
  1. Anthony Y. says:

    Great Interview! I really enjoy seeing you act. (TVB!!)

  2. 蝦米 says:

    篇訪問好詳細, 所以我暫時只能看一半因為我要工作了,國榮你覺得學中文容易嗎? 但其實你在香港都有一段頗長日子, 又有一位好太太, 她能全天候教你中文/廣東話, 這些際遇其實真是好奇妙的, 你說你讀醫時因為可能升不到班而決定到香港發展, 這需要勇氣啊, 因為不竟要離開自己家鄉嘛! 我好想有這個勇氣, 可惜我就算有這個勇氣也未必會遇到像你太太一樣好的人吧! 真的好羡慕你啊!

  3. William says:

    u do provide more inspiration for me. i'm learning out of speak cantonese 1960 with parker pei ho fun. Not doing too badly, but its early days. I'd like to be learning for 2-3 years solid before I try to find employment in HK. I'm not concentrating on writing at the moment. I find the tones slow me up though, i'll know what i want to say but will slow down when thinking what tone is it in. Becuase of the soundalikes.

  4. /dam Sheik says:

    "Most reporters incorrectly recall details of the interview"

    As I have no qualifications as a journalist I'm more than happy to leave people's words alone, and not change their meaning - so no job for me in the media then! :-)

    Thanks again for taking the time to provide such detailed answers.

  5. 14K Guy says:

    Thanks for taking time to provide answers to the questions in the very informative interview on Adams site. It was most kind of you to give your time.

  6. 14K Guy says:

    Thanks for taking time to provide answers to the questions in the very informative interview on Adams site. Not only was it kind of you to give up some time to do it, your advice will be of use to many who are trying to learn Cantonese.

    14K

  7. 河國榮 says:

    thank you people for the comments. I have no problem helping out good guys and Adam is obviously one of them.

    by the way, 14K Guy, you should perhaps not come to Hong Kong. with a name like that, you'll probably get locked up ;-)

  8. Frankie from Boston says:

    Yes a wonderful interview, incidentally I started learning Cantonese the same way(thru singing), and I thought I was the only one. :P Keep up the good work Gregory!!!

    Frankie

  9. 14K Guy says:

    Am already here Gregory and have been for a long time!

  10. Wilson says:

    Hi Greg

    I recently read one of the your interview with a Hong Kong Magazine and found that you are an aussie. I was very surprise. Every time I watched you on the TVB drama, I thought you are a Bristish born in HK. You are very amazing. I really respect you because your contribution to all the TVB drama. You are acting very professional.

    Keep up the good work!
    Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi!

    Wilson
    Melbourne

  11. Peri Asta says:

    :) 女人唔易做 is on now.
    I just saw you on TV today!

    Indeed you've been so glaring to me since the first time I saw you. (maybe that's a long time ago :P) you know, a foreigner speaking in funny but accurate cantonese. i remembered your name once i knew that. (and i'm only 18 now...)

    hey anyway, support you always! =)

  12. Anni says:

    Hi Greg,

    I found the interview very interesting, especially hints on learning Canto ;)
    I'm planning to move to HK myself, so I'm "fighting" the language now :D

    Anni

  13. Kayin says:

    Greg! Come here for a big cuddle! You're so great because you're not racist at all and you even show an interest in Chinese (okay, make that "have shown"). I remember once I was in the school library and I was talking to my friend in Cantonese when one of the librarians came over and told us to speak in English because that was what we were supposed to be in Australia for. Her exact words were, "You come to Australia to learn English." I was shocked. I couldn't believe that a teacher would say something like that! And it was so unfair! There's nothing wrong with speaking Chinese ... actually I've noticed that my group of friends and I always get these looks from the teachers whenever they walk past when we're speaking Chinese. They don't really show anything, but I bet they're thinking something bad. I hope they aren't, though! Sometimes I think that Asian people studying in Asian countries are much luckier because they won't have to worry about other being racist towards them, because everyone's Asian!

    Oh, anyways, enough said. Well, not really, but yes.

    Ah, Greg, you know I have an online friend from Malaysia who is fourteen years old (or maybe even younger) and she speaks five languages? I'm not sure if she speaks all of them fluently, but I know she can speak English, Chinese and Malaysian. And me, poor, poor me, I only speak English and Cantonese. -.-'

    I want to learn Mandarin! And French! Yay!

    Anyways, I liked that interview! And thanks for warning us about how the reporters switch things around ... I normally believe everything that is written in articles unless it's something that sounds really far-fetched which I find hard to believe.

    Oh and to be honest, if I met a Caucasian and I was speaking to him in Chinese, I'd probably be wondering for half the time whether or not he really understands me, too. Asians and English are very, very common, but Caucasians and Chinese is another story.

    By the way, what's wrong with the name 14K Guy? Um, does it mean anything?

  14. prettypanda says:

    hello, nice to see you on your blog here, i 've seen you on TV so many times...your blog ID picture looks alot better...just joking...you look good on TV too.

  15. Kat says:

    Hi! I'm planning to learn Cantonese right now but doesn't have enough time because of school work. Just wondering, how long does it take you to at least understand what people are talking in Cantonese?

  16. Crystal says:

    Hi Gregory!

    I happened to 'bump' into your blog accidentally when I was browsing other websites.
    I have known you from the past Hong Kong TVB Serial Dramas, all the way from Singapore.
    But alas, we could only watch in Mandarin version, with English subtitles. Unless we purchase the dramas in VCDs or DVDs, then we would be able to watch in Cantonese Version. Still, Hong Kong drama serials would be better in its original language version.
    Hope to see you act in one of the Asian drama serials soon!
    Keep it up, Gregory! You have lots of support here!
    加油!

    Crystal

  17. 蝦米 says:

    剛有時間再看那篇訪問, 其中一項講到外國人在香港從事演員機會是很少的, 其實這個現像是好奇怪的, 因為香港是一個中西匯聚城市嘛! 昨晚我也跟朋友討論這個問題, 我認為香港的電視台做事作風太彊化了, 現在有些韓劇如我的名字叫金三珣及甜蜜間諜, 已起用外國演員擔任較重要角色, 有些更是當第二男主角, 而他們在戲內也只需說英語便可以了, 所以我希望tvb, 能夠讓多些外國人擔任一些重要角色, 要大膽嘗試起用外國演員, 如河生, 喬寶寶, 你們都是很有演戲天份的, 請tvb不要只看到你們是外國人然後又識講廣東話覺得好有趣, 然後就甚麼都沒發現, 這樣實是浪費人材.

  18. C.H says:

    Have seen you act in TVB dramas as long as i can remember...
    As a kid, I have always wondered why it was the same foreigner over and over again in so many different serials...ha.. :D
    Great job you are doing.
    All the best!

  19. Harryn says:

    Hi!! I'm 19 I live in Australia, Melbourne. But I'm a Chinese.
    I seen you on TVB dramas since I was young, and I was so surprised that you are an Aussie but your Cantonese speaks as good as a Chinese. That is awesome!!
    Do you also read Chinese or write Chinese?

    By the way, I think you acted really good in every dramas!! Hope to see you appear on drama more often.

    Sorry I asked too much questions, haha. Cauce I am really curious about it.:]
    Best wishes..

  20. Ian says:

    That was an interesting interview, i find it amusing on some of the parts of the interview.

    I am from a multi racial country, i started to learn few others languages since i was a child.

    It wasn't that hard as i learned those languages in primary and secondary school.

    Your interview really remind me to myself on how i struggled to learn English when i was in secondary school. Somehow, it wasn't easy eventhough i had formal classes in school. I almost sleep in the grammar class, lol..

    And then, i found that it was easier to learn English informally. I start watching those tv series, litsening to English songs, reading English newspapers, communicates with my friends who speaks fluent English in English, they corrected my mistakes as i spokes...

    I just feel that we might have some common here, Greg, lol, hope you won't mind.., hehe..

    Atleast, nowadays i won't need subtitles for the US TV shows most of the time..., i still makes a lot of grammar mistakes, anyway, gotta admit that i am not that dedicate in this matter as you are.

    As long as people could understands what i am trying say, it will work fine for me.

    As a Caucasian, you actually achieved a lot. Good one and Congrats on that.. ;)

  21. Ray Flores says:

    Hello Mr. Rivers,

    I appreciate the interview you gave on Adam's site. It really is an inspiration to people, especially those who are not Chinese, to know that learning Cantonese is not an impossible task. I'm a Filipino-American and have just started to take up Cantonese. You mentioned in your interview that there were a couple of famous Western priests that were fluent in Cantonese. Do you happen to know their names? Thank you very much.

  22. sapphire says:

    Hi! Mr Ho,

    Happy birthday to you on 4.30, and wishing you C C U E too.

    Best wishes from the *Blue* family.

  23. Natalie* says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
    I ALSO LIKE THE WAY U ACT,
    BY THE WAY, I JUST KNOW U CAME FROM AUSTRALIA..

  24. nicky says:

    Hi Greg,

    It's an interesting interview!! You're very talented !

    Happy Birthday!!

  25. 杜格拉斯 says:

    其實我覺得一個識講廣東話o既鬼佬係你o既死穴,將你定o左型。優點反而變o左缺點。其實你可以試吓係不同o既media出現,我就好少見你去英文或者國語media出現,或者,一個"會講廣東話o既鬼佬"形象太深入民心。

  26. Tony says:

    Hello Gregory,

    Great interview! I enjoyed it quite a bit.

    I'd like to comment on your opinion that Mandarin won't eclipse Cantonese any time soon. That may be the case in Hong Kong. Not so, in Los Angeles where I live. You were in Los Angeles for three months back in 2004. I don't know if you noticed the change. I've been here over thirty years and have seen the shift. In fact, an article on the Los Angeles Times a couple of months ago, depicted Cantonese as a fading language. Yes, an abundance of Chineses here still speak Cantonese. But during the last ten years or so, a huge influx of immigrants from Taiwan and China have changed the language landscape. In the old days, you could patronize any Chinese business and speak Cantonese. Not any more. More often than not, you have to converse in Mandarin. Mandarin seems to be the language of choice now for public forums, meetings and gatherings. Most of Chinese classes are offered in Mandarin. It's tough to find Cantonese classes. Even Hollywood has followed the shift.
    In the old days, when you saw a Chinese person speaking Chinese in an American film, it was Cantonese. Now it's Mandarin. There are six Chinese language stations here, four of them are in Mandarin.
    I have younger relatives in Hong Kong who are quickly learning Mandarin. With China eventually assuming full control somewhere down the road, may it be forty years, Mandarin will be the official language in Hong Kong.

  27. Karen says:

    hi greg!!

    im a big tvb and im a chinese/hong kong person that moved to aus/sydney when i was small!!! love seeing you on tv!!!. just reading your interview and realised that you went to University of New South Wales also... im going there rite now!

    keep up da great work!!! we have TVBJ which is TVB satellite here in aus so i get to watch you on tv!!!

  28. Dawn says:

    Hi Hi,
    It's a coincidence to me reading your website, it was great! As so many people have said, I've been seeing you on TV and a drama since I was younger, I was impressed of your speaking skills!!

    I was so touched when I was reading your article about your 'Friend & tutor'-Mrs Cheung, I was imagining all the scenes that you described in that article. I know 2 girls so far that they were born the same day as me, but didn't know what time I was born and wouldn't even calculating who was the 1 was born 1st/ what. So funny!I don't keep in touch with them anymore, I guess I can still keep in touch with 1 of them!
    I have a Scottish boy friend and he is/ was still trying to learn to speak Cantonese, it's great to know how to got into cantonese/ chinese, so I can tell my b-f where the 'key'point is. He bought himself a 'Learning Cantonese' CD, he's learning numbers now, I guess how far he can take is very depending on himself.(thought about when I 1st learn english in school in HK, i wasn't good at all anyway!)If you want to speak that language, the best way is to stay in that place!
    Just 1 more thing to say is that I've got an Aussie colleague, he's nice, funny and strange sometimes, I know Aussies are everywhere, nothing special need to be mentioned here, just want to say it, after reading this website, I'll mention you to him if I remember! umm,Interesting....

  29. lot says:

    Hi Greg

    I came across your website when researching on the famous Macaunese sweet Sawdust cake. I think you are an inspiration to anyone learning to speak Cantonese as a foreign language. I have told my English pen-pal about you. She lives in the Midlands and has been teaching herself Cantonese ever since she became a fan of Chow Yun Fat and HK movies. I've read the Chinese articles you wrote. Your mastery of the Chinese language is really amazing. I've been learning English for a lot longer than you have been learning Chinese but your written Chinese is much, much better than my written English. For me, the greatest motivating force for improving my English is a desire to communicate with other people on a deep level (I am a Chinese of HK origin but live in the UK now) and to feel connected to the locals. I could have lived in the UK for my whole life and still survived with very little English but that's not what I want. I feel that if I have lived here for so long and not have even one good English friend with whom I can share my inner thoughts, then my life here wouldn't have very much meaning to me. That's the reason why for the past few years, I made an effort to improve my English.

    Not only was I impressed with your linguistic skills, I was also very impressed with your acting. I think your acting is much better than a lot of the other Westerners appearing in Chinese TV drama series. Maybe they are struggling too hard with their Cantonese and have no more energy for other aspects of their acting. Have you ever thought of developing your career in Hollywood? I think you could be just as good as any other Western actors. TVB doesn't seem to recognize your acting talent. They are just happy that they've found someone with a Western face who can speak Cantonese clearly and fluently. I think you should show the blogs (are these called blogs) from your Chinese fans/friends to your TVB boss and demand some more significant roles.

    I didn't know your original English name so I have always wonder how you chose your Chinese surname as it is a bit unusual. Now I know your English name, the Chinese surname seems a very apt choice. Maybe one day your children and grandchildren will help to establish this as a familiar Chinese surname. An aunt of my husband married an Israelite. They gave their son the Chinese surname "Lit", which is the third Chinese character in the Chinese name for "Israel".

    Best of luck.
    Lot

  30. 河國榮 says:

    Peri,

    'funny but accurate Cantonese' -- good one ;-)

    I've never been able to lose my accent. I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing. only time will tell.

    Anni,

    have fun with the language. it's a challenge to learn but definitely worth it.

    Kayin,

    I'm extremely jealous of your Malaysian friend. speaking five languages! and only 14 years old!!!

    '14K' is the name of very prominent triad group in Hong Kong.

    Petty Panda,

    yep, the picture looks good. that's why I used it ;-)

    Kat,

    it took a few months to be able to understand basics like the time, food, songs. it took a lot longer than that to understand conversation, perhaps a year or more.

    but even today, there are conversations that I don't fully understand. learning Cantonese is a life-long process. I sometimes wonder if other languages are just as challenging.

    Crystal,

    where possible, I too prefer to watch videos in their original language. I used to watch Dragon Ball and I absolutely refused to watch it in any language other than Japanese. the dubbing, including Cantonese, didn't do it justice.

    蝦米,

    thank you for those comments. if only TVB knew...

    Ian,

    'they corrected my mistakes as I spoke' -- the biggest obstacle many of us have to learning Cantonese is that people don't correct us when we are wrong. you should be grateful for the friends that helped you.

    Ray,

    sorry, I can't remember the names of the priests. I do remember that one of them is the daughter of a missionary. she's quite astonishing. if you search for Cantonese speaking foreigners on the net, you'll probably find references to them.

    Douglas,

    you're right ;-) I should make more effort in English media possibilities.

    Tony,

    unfortunately, I have to agree with you. where there is a huge influx of Chinese/Taiwanese, the major Chinese language will become Mandarin. believe it or not, this is even true in Guang Dong, the capital of the Cantonese province in China. there are so many immigrant workers from other poorer parts of China that even the locals are forced to speak Mandarin.

    minority languages are definitely at risk; a loss for all of us.

    Karen,

    UNSW is a great! university. I hope you enjoy it.

    Lot,

    Chow Yun Fat is one of the few actors that I truly admire. he's an incredible actor but his skills have unfortunately been underplayed by Hollywood.

    your attitude of learning the language of the place you live in is admirable. I would agree with you 100%. in the early years, a lot of foreigners came to Hong Kong and claimed that the locals should learn English because Hong Kong was an English colony. irrespective of whose colony it was, I believe that it was still a Chinese/Cantonese region and therefore, visitors should learn Cantonese rather than the locals learning English. today, there is no question because Hong Kong has officially been returned to China.

    acting while speaking in Cantonese is extremely difficult. it took me many many years to overcome this difficulty.

    Hollywood? the actors over there are amazing. there are subpar actors but most of the active actors really kick butt!

    TVB? they're serving a Chinese market. foreigners like myself are not very important.

    is your husband's aunt still in Israel? isn't that a very difficult place to live?

    regards,
    Ho Kwok Wing

  31. David says:

    Dear Greg,

    I have recently published two book to learn and practice cantonese, as well as mandarin (with a CD, MP3).
    Would you mind diffusing this information? Could be useful to anyone who needs cantonese here.
    Thanks in advance,

    best regards,

    David

    Guide Pratique de Conversation Francais~Cantonais~Mandarin
    法國會話—法語~廣東話~普通話
    David SANTANDREU CALONGE

    Paperback: 208 pages
    ISBN: 962-937-108-1
    Dimensions: 148 x 210mm
    Pub. Date: January 2005
    Price: HK$95.00 (Local delivery only)

    US$17.00 (For delivery outside Hong Kong)
    [plus Postage: US$5.00 (surface mail) US$15.00 (airmail)]

    Guía de Conversación: Español~Cantonés~ Mandarín
    西班牙會話—西班牙語 ● 廣東話 ● 普通話
    David SANTANDREU CALONGE ● Ángel GARRALDA ORTEGA

    Paperback: 176 pages
    ISBN: 962-937-129-4
    Dimensions: 148 x 210mm
    Pub. Date: June 2006
    Price: HK$95.00 (Local delivery only)

    US$17.00 (For delivery outside Hong Kong)
    [plus Postage: US$5.00 (surface mail) US$15.00 (airmail)]

    Promotional Discount: 20% off This discount is available to all customers.

    http://www.cityu.edu.hk/cityu/dpt-admin/upress.htm

  32. erica says:

    河國榮,一直都有留意你係tvb的演出,你的演技不錯,外形也很好,亦有注意到你的努力上進,事實上一個外國人係香港娛樂圈生存絕對不是易事,試問咁多年來有多少個soler呀‧anyway, 多年來我都有留意你的電視劇,加油努力支持你‧
    實在很配服你的勇氣,一個人由澳洲來港發展,有點冒險,你很勇呀!