Phrasebook use in China
Phrasebook Use in China
While many may imagine early China as being closed to the outside world, China was in communication with a wide range of countries. As early as 1276 an 'Office of Interpreters' was established to assist with communication.
Some of the earliest Chinese phrasebooks, created during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), were not to assist users speak English but to speak southeast Asian languages, such as Vietnamese, Cham and Malay.
By 1836, however, dictionary and phrasebook author and publisher Samuel Wells Williams observed how the circulation of manuscripts containing transliterated English words were now common in Canton (now Guangzhou) [see map].
These phrasebooks record the sounds of the foreign language using a sequence of Chinese characters which, when read aloud in the appropriate dialect, approximate the sounds of the target phrases in the foreign language.
Over the course of the nineteenth century many different Cantonese-English phrasebooks were created by different publishers both in China and overseas. Some were designed for Cantonese speakers, others for English speakers and some phrasebooks, such as The Chinese and English Instructor by Tong Ting-Ku (1862), assisted Cantonese readers speak English and English readers speak Cantonese.
A short essay by the Chinese Museum, 2013.
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.