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Chinese Project Notes 9: Making Your Own Music

So, I was sitting at the train station, about to go to the starting point of one of my epic walks, listening to my meager collection of Cantonese hip-hop which consisted (consists?) entirely of the few LMF songs I was able to scrape together. But I was really enjoying it, and realizing that I understood a lot of the words, like 開開心心(hōihōisāmsām)、唔該(mhgōi ) and cetera. And it struck me that rap was “nothing but” words attached to music. I thought of making and recording my own Cantonese raps, but then that seemed like too much trouble, and I wouldn’t want to get creative yet, for fear of picking up bad habits. Then I realized that I have Cantonese words — audio made for Mandarin- and Japanese-speaking learners of Cantonese. And I have music — lyricless electronica from the likes of The Prodigy, The Crystal Method, The Daft Punk and The Soundtrack to Ikebukuro West Gate Park. Why not, eh, how do you say, combine them? So I did 🙂 . Now I have more Cantonese “rap”. And I have a way to get me to listen to those useful but by themselves rather bland language-learning audio tracks. So, I’m pretty 開開心心(hōihōisāmsām) about it. Just to give you an idea of what I made, here are some 30-second samples of my simple sound-mashing.

I used the program Cool Edit Pro to do it. I’m sure there are free programs out there that can do the job for you. If you’re reading this and you know of such an app or apps, feel free to let the rest of us know. Also, if anyone knows good Cantonese music of any genre, feel free to share. 唔該(mhgōi ).

  30 comments for “Chinese Project Notes 9: Making Your Own Music

  1. Ivan the Terrible
    March 2, 2008 at 12:25

    So have you officially gone ‘all Cantonese all the time’? Or are you still studying Mandarin as well?

  2. Jim
    March 2, 2008 at 14:53

    Audacity is a free, open-source audio editor. I highly recommend it!

  3. March 2, 2008 at 22:28

    Of course rap isn’t “just words attached to music”, as the rapping itself is done with the rythm of the other sounds. Nevertheless, it’s nicer to listen to listen to language courses like this than just listening to the original audio without any background sound.

    What does this mean for you Mandarin, by the way? Are you only concentrating on Cantonese now?

  4. Charles A.
    March 3, 2008 at 22:50

    Any recommendations on a good (and free?) video to audio convertor? Preferably one that’ll break the audio into chunks. I used Cool Edit Pro (great program by the way) but was only able to rip the entire episode then manually break it into chunks.

  5. quendidil
    March 4, 2008 at 00:26

    Speaking of the IWGP soundtrack, do you know where to find the 「俺の話を聴け、二分だけでもいい」 song also featured in T&D? Makoto’s father sang it in the IWGP special; does it exist in a separate album?

  6. Brent
    March 6, 2008 at 08:14

    I’m sorry that I’m posting it here, but I feel I need this answered, and it seems like it would be answered here because it would be seen more…

    I’m thinking of going monolingual, and learning Japanese with Japanese. I wave a question concerning learning new words and phrases. How do I learn them without understanding the definition? Do I translate part of it into English, because if I don’t understand the definition of a definition, how am I supposed to understand the word…?

    >_< I hope it’s not just me being closed-minded, because I really want to learn, I’m just so confused…

    Thanks for helping. ^_^

  7. March 6, 2008 at 13:10

    @ Brent

    Of course when you start you won’t understand the definition, but by doing the recursive searching (looking up words from the definition and in turn looking up words from those definitions etc etc) you’ll start to see some of the same words again.

    My advice when starting to go Monolingual (although I’ve not long started myself) is to look up a word in both a Jap-Eng and Jap-Jap dictionary, but only enter the Japanese definition into your SRS. I often find that when I know what the word is, the Japanese definition suddenly makes more sense (normally just from the kanji meanings). Then, when you review and see the definition it’ll be enough to remind you of the meaning. Eventually you’ll reach a point where you don’t need to get the English definition first as the dictionary will give you enough.

    I guess it’s not a case of never using a bi-lingual dictionary, just not seeing English when you review.

  8. quendidil
    March 6, 2008 at 20:25

    Frankly, IMO, in J-J definitions, the kanji already give 60% of the meaning; the rest is from stuff like the particles, 「こと」, synonyms, antonyms, a few adverbs (また)
    1 物の形を正しくないようにさせる。ゆがませる
    2 心や行いなどを正しくないようにさせる。ゆがませる。
    I think you can at least get the gist from this? The language in definitions is quite simple; dictionary writers would try to make their definitions as concise as possible.

    IMO again, once you’ve got the basic grammar down (from e.g. Tae Kim’s Guide), you’re good to go for J-J; IF you have properly done your Chinese character work.

    From this Classical Chinese textbook (in English :p) I have, the author says one semester of university level Japanese (which, AFAIK, is atrociously low?) and a good knowledge of Chinese characters is enough to make use of a great resource for Classical Chinese: the 大漢和辞典, which has definitions in Japanese, as you can see from the name. (和= classical 倭)

  9. Brent
    March 6, 2008 at 23:00

    Oh, okay. ^_^

    Thanks, I think I get it now.

  10. nacest
    March 7, 2008 at 02:53

    Personally, when the definition given by Sanseido Web Dictionary is too difficult for me, I look for it on the Nintendo DS dictionary and on the Challenge dictionary for kids. Usually one of those 3 has an easy definition. Challenge actually always has good definitions, but I only use it as a backup because it’s not digital.

    So the gist is, try to use more than one dictionary 🙂

  11. Chiro-kun
    March 7, 2008 at 12:15


    You mean 楽引そのまま漢字辞典 right?
    How’s the 国語辞典 in that one? I might plan on buying it….

    Another general question to those who have completed Heisig:
    Do you guys keep reviewing your kanji? For me, it’s been around 2-3 months and I’m gradually starting to forget the meanings and stroke orders…..

  12. nacest
    March 7, 2008 at 17:06

    漢字そのまま DS楽引辞典
    From what I can tell it’s a good dictionary. Its definitions may be slightly less simple than the sanseido ones (and the Challenge ones), but it’s still very clear.

    But the main reason I like it is that it’s soooooo handy. After I got it I was finally able to read manga and books (well I’m still reading my first book :P) in Japanese while in bed, because I’m not bound to big paper dics or to the PC for the web-based ones.

    As for kanji, yes, I’m still reviewing them on the site. It’s been 6 months since I’ve finished RTK, and now the average daily workload is ~18 cards. It takes something like 10 minutes a day 🙂

  13. quendidil
    March 7, 2008 at 17:46

    I think once you start doing at least around 100 new cards a day, you’ll see your reading comprehension improve much faster.

  14. zodiac
    March 7, 2008 at 22:56

    “Classical Chinese: the 大漢和辞典, which has definitions in Japanese, as you can see from the name. (和= classical 倭)”

    huh? I thought classical chinese is chinese as spoken in the past?

  15. Nivaldo
    March 8, 2008 at 02:24

    Hey Khatz! How’re you doing? Look, I was surfing through your site and when I read the “Are you a three day monk?” article’s comments I found a very useful comment of yours concerning Native Japanese Words. So I stopped going for ナルト and デスノート and instead picked up all the episodes of おねがいティーチャー(got somewhat addicted to it :D. Not that I’m romantic or something like that). Do you think I made a good choice? Also, what do you think of grouping “key comments” into some kind of group like “Key Comments” attach it to the groups you already have at the top of the page? I mean, among comments there are some very nice and helpful ones. By grouping them, it would make searching easier if necessary at all.
    About おねがいティーチャー’s choice, I would like to hear the opinion of other people as well? As from I what I’ve seen, this anime has much more natural words than ナルト or デスノート among others.
    Finally, good job “Making your own music”. 😀

  16. Chiro-kun
    March 8, 2008 at 12:37

    @nacest –
    Ok this is the last question (promise 🙂 ). Do you write down all sentences in your SRS? I mean, since you practice Kanji everyday do you need to write the separate entries themselves?

    @Nivaldo –
    Don’t know about お願いティーチャー since I haven’t watched it but try クラナド or みなみけ. They both have a LOT of natural words and to top it みなみけ is slice of life. Yeah I fully agree about ナルト/One Piece (which sucks because I’m a great One Piece fan myself 🙁 ).

  17. Nivaldo
    March 8, 2008 at 17:24

    Yep! Gonna get みなみけ soon. I’m anxious. Also, try おねがいティーチャー at least until episode 8. It contains great pieces of comedy but from episode 8 on it becomes an almost strictly romantic series but still, enjoyable for the profound story. I guess I’m becoming romantic. 🙁

  18. nacest
    March 8, 2008 at 18:06

    to tell the truth, I’m not writing the sentences down lately. Until a couple of weeks ago I was using the pronunciation->expression method suggested by Khatz in a recent post. During that time I wrote down most of the sentences and it was a good kanji exercise as well (I’ve been meaning to write a small report on my experience with this method. I’ll probably do it next week). The only downside is that it takes some time.
    Lately my schedule has gotten somewhat tight, so I temporarily switched back to expression->pronunciation with no writing down the sentences.

    Anyway, I would suggest you write at least some of the sentences down, because writing individual kanji is not the same thing. You need to exercise the kana too, and the “flow” of continuous writing (I write them vertically instead of horizontally to get used to their mentality).

  19. Chiro-kun
    March 8, 2008 at 22:45

    @Nivaldo –
    今週から来週までの間に見てみる積もりだけどさ! 🙂
    でも(imho)ロマンチックアニメならラブリコンプレックス(ラブコン) が最高だと思います!(それにキャラの言い方は関西弁ですよ!関西弁って大好き! 😀 )

    @nacest –
    Hmmm I was thinking of dropping that habit too since my schedule is pretty tight too, for this week and the next. Great idea of writing them down vertically, やって見るよ!!
    本当にありがとう!今から頑張るよ。 😀

  20. quendidil
    March 8, 2008 at 22:50

    Clannad is very easy to understand IMO, is the language really natural? If so, then :). I far prefer it to Kanon actually, I’d rate Clannad>AIR>Kanon, :p.

    “Classical Chinese: the 大漢和辞典, which has definitions in Japanese, as you can see from the name. (和= classical 倭)”

    huh? I thought classical chinese is chinese as spoken in the past?

    Read the whole sentence, I said ‘a great resource for Classical Chinese’, which the 大漢和辞典 is.

    Classical Chinese wasn’t authentically spoken for much longer after the Warring States period, probably at most till the mid-Han dynasty. The pronunciation had changed a lot by the Tang dynasty; tones weren’t originally in “Old Chinese”, the basis for Classical Chinese, as many scholars claim. They did develop by Middle Chinese during the Tang Dynasty though. The Tang period is when ‘Classical Chinese’ spread through (North-)East Asia; the Tang poems, Buddhist scriptures etc, are in this language, which does emulate quite successfully (I think) the grammar of REAL “classical chinese” (Warring States Chinese) though the pronunciation is drastically different (rhymes don’t work in many cases for example). The Nanyue regions (modern Guangdong and the surroundings) were also conquered during the Tang period by the Han Chinese, Cantonese developed from the Han settlers’ Middle Chinese with some influence from the natives, and is thus more conservative in some areas than the northern dialects. (Like maybe American English preserving some aspects of 17th century English ). The

    OK, but all that was slightly OOT, suffice to say, the Japanese have also been studying Classical Chinese for centuries and they need dictionaries to aid their studies as well, so they developed this dictionary for Classical Chinese (文言文 in Chinese) with definitions in Japanese.

  21. zodiac
    March 9, 2008 at 00:19

    Actually, wouldn’t using a 13-volume dictionary be overkill for studying Japanese? Or even 文言文 for that matter.

  22. khatzumoto
    March 9, 2008 at 13:22

    @Ivan the Terrible
    >So have you officially gone ‘all Cantonese all the time’? Or are you still studying Mandarin as well?
    Dunno yet.

  23. khatzumoto
    March 9, 2008 at 13:24

    >Speaking of the IWGP soundtrack, do you know where to find the 「俺の話を聴け、二分だけでもいい」 song also featured in T&D? Makoto’s father sang it in the IWGP special; does it exist in a separate album?
    It’s not on the IWGP ablum[sic]. But, it’s by クレイジーケンバンド (Crazy Ken Band) and it’ the opening theme to タイガー&ドラゴン

  24. quendidil
    March 9, 2008 at 19:52


    Not if you’re getting into some really archaic and almost unused characters (most of which have appeared after the Tang, AFAIK)

  25. Nivaldo
    March 11, 2008 at 03:27

    I’d love to reply in japanese but unfortunately I still don’t have enough input(in fact, it has slowed down or even stopped due to environment problems). I must say I didn’t get your comment for a while(a few days) but I got it now FULLY(word by word). Well, the おねがいティーチャー anime is my first one of the romantic kind and to be honest I don’t enjoy romantic things much but as I’ve been weak on that area lately(needing a partner) it’s been useful(passion with japanese native words, yay!). So can’t really tell about where this path is going to lead but tell you that I’ve read the sinopsis of ラブコン and now I’m a little unsure if I should watch it or not. I’ll experiment it. As Khatz says, we must go for experiments. 😀

  26. Chris
    November 12, 2009 at 22:58

    I just have to say, adding music to rather dull dialogues has been a huge help. Why the heck did I not think of this before??? Thanks Khatz!

  27. Kubelek
    March 25, 2010 at 04:37

    it reminds me of that one polish nu-jazz song:

    the first minute is an intro to their album. good stuff!

  28. Angeldust
    March 31, 2010 at 08:36

    I don’t have any Cantonese music, but if you’re still into making your own music a really good lyricless electronica band is Tiesto. His stuff is amazing! I really like his “Parade of the Athletes” album. It’s the music he did for the opening ceremonies for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. It’s really good.

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