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The Cantonese &Toisan Society: Celebrating Heritage and Language

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“Lay ho mah?” which means “how are you?” in Cantonese, is one of the many useful phrases learned at the Cantonese &Toisan Society. The Cantonese &Toisan Society is a volunteer based program that promotes the culture and heritage of the Cantonese and Toisan people. Kim Mui is the founder and volunteers her time teaching both Cantonese and Toisanese languages to children and adults.

When asked why she started this program, Kim states, “I want to pay homage to my Cantonese and Toisan ancestors who were the initial group of Chinese to come to the US to build the US Transcontinental railroad, and the railroads in Canada. I also want to spread the Cantonese and Toisanese languages since they are widely spoken languages, and people who are surrounded by them take interest in learning. I decided to volunteer to teach it as well.”

Classes are held in Chinatown on Sundays from 12 to 1pm. All classes are free. There is a suggested donation of $3.00 which covers class materials and equipment. Children (ages 8 and up) are encouraged to attend but must be accompanied by an adult. There is no Chinese writing included. Additional materials, books, and displays of Cantonese and Toisanese contributions in American history are provided.

What makes Kim’s program unique?

Classes are taught using Kim's own phonetic system. Her phonetic system is easy to read, and makes learning phrases like, “Mm goy” (“thank you” or “excuse me”) fun. The Cantonese & Toisan Society attracts all types of people ranging in cultures, backgrounds, and languages. African-Americans, Africans, Caucasians, Asian-Americans, and Mandarin speakers attend classes. This allows people to get together and mingle with each other while learning. Kim strives to cater her program to promote and encourage all people to learn Cantonese and Toisanese. They are enjoyable, informative, and with a comprehensive phonetic system, it makes people want to learn more.

Kim has been teaching since February 2003. She feels that with the rich history, experiences, struggles, and contributions of her ancestors, Cantonese and Toisan cultures deserve credit and recognition.

For more information visit CantoneseToisanSociety.blogspot.com

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