Language, A Key to Survival: Cantonese-English Phrasebooks in Australia
- Chinese Museum
- Donald History and Natural History Group operating the Donald Court House Museum
- Golden Dragon Museum
- State Library of New South Wales
Most international travellers today are familiar with phrasebooks. These books provide a guide to pronunciation, useful vocabulary, but most importantly lists of useful phrases to help travellers negotiate their way around a country where they don't speak the language.
Anyone who has tried to communicate across the language divide without such a tool knows how valuable they are.
This web story explores how Chinese from the gold rush period onwards have used phrasebooks to help them find their way in Australia. You can compare examples of Cantonese-English phrasebooks from different eras; watch Museum volunteers Nick and David speak English using a gold-rush era phrasebook; learn a little about the lives of some of the people who owned these phrasebooks; and hear Mr Ng and Mr Leong discuss their experiences learning English in Australia and China in the early to mid-twentieth century.
We hope that teachers will also be inspired by the education kit which contains AusVELS-linked classroom activities designed to encourage students to reflect on the challenges that a lack of English might have posed for Chinese immigrants in Victoria during the gold rushes and also what the contents of these phrasebooks can tell us about the lives of these Chinese men. To supplement the education kit are a collection of historical newspaper engravings to help you imagine life during the gold rushes for Chinese immigrants.
This project is supported through funding from the Australian Government's Your Community Heritage Program.
Zhu, 'English through the Vernaculars of the Canton and Shiuhing Prefectures', c1862
Stedman & Lee, 'A Chinese and English Phrase Book in the Canton Dialect', New York, 1888
Sun, 'The Self Educator', Sydney, c1892
Sun, 'The Self Educator', 2nd edn (enlarged), Sydney, c1892
Mo, 'Chinese Pronunciation of English Words/The Tallyman's Vocabulary', 9th edn, Hong Kong, 1923
Locations listed in Zhu's 'English through the Vernaculars of the Canton and Shiuhing Prefectures'
Guangzhou and Surrounds
Maa Louey (1835-1915) and his family
Maa Louey, undated
Georgie Ah Ling's house (1968)
Georgie Ah Ling's house (2012)
Donald is my home: George Ah Ling (c1884-1987)
Phrasebook use in China
Introduction to Chinese and Cantonese dialects
Speaking English with an 1860s Cantonese-English phrasebook
Learning English in 1950s Australia: Mr Ng’s experience
Learning English in 1930s China: Mr Leong's Experience
Arrival of the first gold escort, Melbourne, 1852
Arrival of Chinese immigrants to Little Bourke St, Melbourne, c1866
Opening of the new Chinese joss house, Emerald Hill, 1866
Chinese leaving for the diggings from Newstead on a Cobb & Co coach, c1865-1871
Chinese sluicing, near Beechworth, c1864
Chinese man working a mining cradle, Upper Ovens district, c1878
The Chinese hawker, 1873.
Christmas in Melbourne: A Chinese pedlar making presents to his customers, 1887
Lowe Kong Meng, 1866
Story education resources
Education Cantonese-English Phrasebook in Australia Education kit
Language, a Key to Survival: Cantonese-English Phrasebook in Australia Education Kit, produced by the Chinese Museum, 2013.
This education kit contains classroom activities designed for teachers to use in conjunction with this website story Language, A Key to Survival: Cantonese-English Phrasebooks in Australia.
It contains five classroom activities which support various areas of the Victorian curriculum (AusVELS), including AusVELS Humanities (History) Level 5 and AusVELS Humanities (History) Level 9.
The focus of this kit is on Zhu's English through the Vernaculars of the Canton and Shiuhing Prefectures (c1857-c1862) - a Cantonese to English phrasebook produced for Cantonese speakers arriving on the goldfields during the Californian and Victorian gold rushes.