You are recommended to read this book with a Cantonese speaker. Listen to the sounds of the language and enjoy it first! As you listen again, read the Jyutping Romanization tier of the text and repeat after your teacher. You will find that certain words appear repeatedly, such as “adults”, “lonely”, “elephant”, and “fly”. Create new sentences with these words such as “Can you draw a flying elephant for me?” or “Can you draw a lonely adult for me?” in Cantonese.
Try to understand the story by reading either Jyutping or Chinese characters. When you encounter words that you don’t know, make an educated guess first. You can then consult a teacher or the English edition of the book. Enjoy the story and bookmark your favourite chapter of the book. As you get more familiar with Chinese characters, cover up the Jyutping tier and read the chapter aloud. Finally, summarize the chapter in your own words. Record it and share with a Cantonese speaker!
Make a list of colloquial expressions or idioms that you have learned from this book, such as 失驚無神 sat1 geng1 mou4 san4 (Chapter 2) and 手板眼見功夫 sau2 baan2 ngaan5 gin3 gung1 fu1 (Chapter 5). Save the list on your phone so that you can review it conveniently. Make an effort to use them in your daily conversations. Next, feel the nuances of the attitudes expressed by the characters in their utterances. For example, The Little Prince has commented that adults are strange multiple times. In each instance, the utterance is slightly different. Lastly, get a copy of Animal Farm in Cantonese (also published in 2021)!
As you read aloud the story to your children, use an interactive approach. For example, after you read the first paragraph of Chapter 1, ask your children questions to engage them: What are other things that you find scary? Have you ever been to a forest? What can you find there? (in Cantonese of course). Explain a few Chinese characters in each chapter. For example, for Chapter 1, you can explain the structure of 森林 sam1 lam4 - 木 means “tree” so 森林 means “a place with many trees”. Encourage your children to write the characters with you.
There are several Cantonese Romanization systems out there. You may have seen Yale Romanization in other textbooks which marks tones with accent symbols. This book uses the Jyutping system developed by The Linguistic Society of Hong Kong. You can search “Jyutping-Yale converter” online for more information. Note that the initial “j-” in Jyutping corresponds to “y-” in Yale.
It is not uncommon that native Cantonese speakers pronounce the same word differently. In fact, this happens in any living language! This book shows the pronunciation suggested by trusted dictionaries and databases, but this does not mean that alternative pronunciations are “deviations” from a standard. So, no, I wouldn’t say your friends are “wrong” or “lazy”!