Her student Megan Choy, agrees. Choy has been learning Cantonese with Gamst Berg for a year and a half. She could not speak Cantonese before that. She says she was once mocked for her mispronunciation of Cheung Sha Wan when she was asking for directions. She blames the confusing phonetics that misled her to pronounce the word “Sha” wrongly. She also dislikes Hong Kong people’s judgmental tone and attitude.
Gamst Berg is a staunch supporter of Cantonese and even took part in the protests to protect Cantonese from being encroached upon by Putonghua. She thinks local people should recognise Cantonese as a language instead of a dialect because Cantonese has its own characters and grammar. And she is very defensive about this opinion. “Call it a dialect and this interview is off,” she says.
While Gamst Berg may be irritated by the attitude of Hong Kong people, this does not stop her from teaching Cantonese. In addition to her own YouTube channel and podcast, she also has a blog which she updates weekly with her encounters and observations of daily life. She also encourages people to learn Cantonese and buy her novels and DVDs.
Cecilie Gamst Berg thinks Cantonese sounds great, and more than that, it is fun and innovative. She is nothing if not a Cantonese zealot and has a stated goal in life – to make Cantonese a world language.
Edited by Jennifer Lam