Two weeks without English?!?! Chinese immersion project in Hong Kong

This summer I will be going to Hong Kong for two weeks and giving up my own Native language (English).

Hey, my name is Luke Truman and for the past 9 months I have been learning Cantonese. I have been avoiding characters completely to focus all of my attention towards speaking. However, I am reaching a point where it is becoming increasingly obvious that to progress to any sort of level even close to fluency, I will need to learn Chinese characters. Otherwise I am locking myself away from countless resources and interesting content.

So. What does it have to do with this project?

As I said I will be going to Hong Kong for two weeks and giving up English in an attempt to only speak Cantonese for the entire two weeks I am there. Right now I am conversational, but nothing spectacular. The basic idea is to rocket my spoken ability in one last big effort before I set off in the coming months to learn Chinese characters through the Heisig method.

 

But enough about that. Why should you even care?

 

If you have ever learned a language before you will know its hard. There will be many ups and downs and you are going to make mistakes. A lot. So that being said, I will film the whole thing using my trusty Iphone and upload the whole thing to Youtube. You can see my ups, my downs, what went well and what went not so well. I hope in this transparency you can learn from the mistakes that I make, and you will know what to expect should you try anything like this in the future.

It will give you a good insight in not only how to create a good immersion environment but also how it will feel along the way. Will I want to switch to English? Will I get tired and give up or Burnout? Will I even survive, given the fact that I can't read ANY Chinese? How or will I overcome this? Who knows, but you get the luxury of following me along every step of the way and laughing at my expense.

 

So what are my Goals, Expectations and doubts?

 

My Goal is simple. From the moment I arrive in Hong Kong (stepping through Airport Security) to the moment I leave, I will speak ZERO English.

Now I am no master when it comes to Cantonese, hell i'd still say i'm a beginner. So how do I actually expect this to go? To put it simply, I think its going to be hard. Very hard. And I know for certain there are times I will want to give up, switch to English and just forget this whole language thing once and for all. This is actually one of the reasons I am writing about this and putting it on Youtube in hope that it will put some weight behind my mad claims in hope I will actually follow through with it.

Speaking about forgetting I have been speaking English for a long time, all my life. So what are the chances someone wakes me up on a bus and I just forget this whole project and reply the first thing that pops into my head? English? Quite likely, and this has actually happened before. I was attempting something similar on a lazy Saturday with my girlfriend.  We were sat down, only supposed to be speaking Cantonese, watching tv, and suddenly a thought pops into my head and oops, I spoke English. Now, I am putting this down to the fact we were watching the walking dead at the time, an american tv drama, so I will be doing my best to avoid English media and tv for the duration of my trip to try and stay clear of this problem.

Other doubts I have, not being language related, is I have no idea how to Vlog and/or edit videos. I imagine it will be weird just speaking to the camera, especially with everyone else's shifty eyes looking at the one gwalou trying to speak Chinese to his phone. But hey, nothing Ventured nothing gained.

 

RULES AND HOW TO CREATE AN IMMERSION ENVIRONMENT

So before I get into defining my game plan first I will define some ground rules.

1.) This Project is based on Spoken and audio Immersion, nothing to do with reading and writing. I will still be using English to text and/or message people if needed (Although I will be keeping this to the bare minimum as showed below)

2.) In the event of an emergency, I will be using English (provided my Cantonese hasn't already become super awesome and leagues ahead of my English ability after the second day)

3.) speaking to family

Now I have set out the rules already you can see how the immersion environment is starting to slip. So what can we do to give ourselves the best possible chance of succeeding?

First of all I will be deleting all forms of social media off my Phone with the exception of WeChat (my only means of contact with some of my couchsurfing hosts so if I delete this then I will be sleeping on the street). This should eliminate the majority of my written contact with English leaving just road signs and menus left.

So if I am getting rid of social media for two weeks how will I contact people? and how will I keep my family up to date. Ok, so first off I will be getting a Hong Kong SIM. This will allow me to phone up all of my friends and people I want to meet with and completely bypass having to use any written language at all. Failing that WeChat enables the user to send voice messaging, so I hope that this will somewhat replace texting for the duration of my trip. Finally, what if I have to get on facebook or other social media to message my family or to arrange meetups of some sort? In case you don't know my girlfriend is actually from Hong Kong, its one of the main reasons I got interested in Cantonese in the first place (apart from Bruce Lee and Stephen Chow of course). So what the battle plan is, is to basically to tell her what I want to say and who to say it too. Tell her in Cantonese, and then for her, either through her facebook or my own, message on my behalf. Is this a little silly? Perhaps, but it all goes towards my single goal of reducing my contact with English as much as feasibly possible.

So what else will I be doing? As I mentioned briefly before I will be using couchsurfing to stay with Locals. Five nights in Causeway Bay, followed by two nights in Macau and then 6 nights at the end staying with my girlfriend and her family in Yuen Long. So right from the start I will be in contact with zero expats and doing my best to mingle with the locals.

Aside from this, I have found a few meetups to attend through meetup.com. Some related to practicing languages and some that I have a genuine interest in (such as the hungry hungry herbivores going around to sample the best Vegan food Hong Kong has to offer). Also I have arranged several meetings with friends during my stay as well as a few strangers off couchsurfing. On top of that I have been in contact with a few friends learning Cantonese living in Hong Kong to practice with. so if you think one pale white guy recording himself speaking Chinese in Hong Kong is weird, what about 2? or 3? Also not to mention countless restaurants, bars, shops street stalls to discover.

To sum up. I will be banishing English as far from my life as possible. Right to that spot underneath the sofa that no one ever cleans but just pretends doesn't exist. I will be going around meeting people, going to cool places and just HAVING FUN in the language.

So if this sounds like something you are interested in then please subscribe to my Youtube channel and this blog to follow me along the way.

Note: I won't be uploading this series until I return in order to make the most out of this trip I can't be spending 2-3 hours editing a video every night. You can expect my first video to be up shortly after my return (26th-30th August) and every proceeding one in quick succession. I plan to upload one a day once I get back so you can follow me along one day at a time even if its a bit late.

If you have any questions or even better yet advice, on language learning, Cantonese or vlogging. Please leave me a comment. and if you haven't already check out my other Post on the add1challenge. Speak to you guys soon. Peace.