Jump to content
  • Sign Up

Learning Cantonese


Recommended Posts

I'm an ABC and have been learning Cantonese for a few months (having already learnt Mandarin) and am nowhere near native speaker level - not even a 3 year old native speaker's level :mrgreen: - so what I say is just my personal opinion and may well be completely wrong...

I recognise your recording from How to learn any language.com's Sound Gallery

and while it's by no means bad, and for the most part understandable given context, I don't think your accent sounds quite like a native speaker's yet.

"Fun ying...m hou m gei dak" and "yat chi hok... lin zaap" are fairly clear, although I find it a bit hard to understand that little bit in the middle. It also sounds to me like your tones on "ou zau" (Australia), "m hou" (don't) and "tong maai" (and) are a little bit off, and it sounds like you say "yu lin" instead of "yu yin" (language). Someone else whose Cantonese is better than mine can verify/disagree. :)

I'm not sure exactly what it is that gives away your accent; I myself was wondering the other day how to differentiate between accent and actual incorrect pronunciation. One of the other recordings in the sound gallery, Shusaku's, who apparently is also a non-native speaker, sounds, to me, indistinguishable from a native speaker's.

Anyway, hope that helps you a bit, and good luck with your learning!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On the first listen, I just managed to understand random words like 欢迎 foonying (apologies for dodgy transliteration) and 学中文 hot jung mun.

Looking at the text of what the message should be, I guess my mind was guessing at what the meanings should be. I think I heard 一種 as yut tsai/together etc.

If you listen to your own version and then listen to a native speaker speak the same phrase, can you hear the differences?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is my accent obvious of being Aussie? Can you understand what I said?

Yes, you sound like a foreigner, but I don't think you should worry about your accent as long as you can be understood. I couldn't understand much the first time I listened to your recording but after a few tries I could understand most of it except "hok zong mun ge [ ] hok hai". "yut yut dou" also gave me a hard time.

I think your pronunciation is very good, but your tones are slightly off, you can probably work on your tones a little more with your wife and try again, but good job!

One of the other recordings in the sound gallery, Shusaku's, who apparently is also a non-native speaker, sounds, to me, indistinguishable from a native speaker's.

Shusaku is very good, but still obvious not a native speaker.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guys, what's the best English language site to see highlighted differences between standard Mandarin and colloquial (written) Cantonese? I am mainly interested in differences in the actual characters or whole words used, common verbs, interjections, etc, which are unique to Cantonese vernacular, it's:

For example (Cantonese is on the left):

係 (hai6) = 是

喺 (hai2) = 在

佢 (keui) = 他, 她, 它

哋 (dei) = 们

饮 (飲) (yam) = 喝

嘅 (ge) = 的

嚟 (lei) = 来


I know this site but there are no lists like this http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk

Basically, for a Mandarin speaker/reader what are the characters/words that would cause difficulty to read a vernacular Cantonese text. Let's forget about different pronunciation and difference between traditional and simplified version. Someone said, if you know the copulas, pronouns, you are sort of covering about 30% of differences in text, the rest of the text would still make sense to a Mandarin reader, just the word usage could be slightly different, like with example 饮 (飲) (yam) = 喝.



Some specific Cantonese characters may not work on a web-site (like LIP - "lift", "elevator" character (立 + 車 together)), please describe them or use "o" for the 口 component

(喺 = o係). Is "d" used as well?

Unfortunately, I've been saving such characters but I lost the file at work, so I only remember a few of the characters in the boat - I almost used them all up in this post, need more.

Roddy, sorry, if it's off-topic. I hope it's not deviating too much.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

atitarev, I think Claw or someone made an exhuastive list before, search around the forums (use google).

Thanks all for commenting - now I feel slightly depressed.

Don't be, you are doing very well! Cantonese is very hard to learn, never mind learning to speak like a native. Even some Chinese people who went to Hong Kong at young age (e.g. age 10) still speak it with accents, and most foreigners' kids born and raised in Hong Kong also speak it with accents.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Quest. I checked Chinese forums (i.e. this forum) for Claw's posts - 15 minutes' effort didn't yield much. I'll contact Claw if he's got the list. Do you remember the topic name?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The expression that you put into your voice as you read, I think, is what makes it sound foreign. I think that if you use the kind of expression that your wife used, it would be 非常好! :mrgreen:

P.S. I am green with envy for your Cantonese skills!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

I've been working (on and off) on a number of lists, only I don't get around to post and update them,

i. e.

1) Japanese (processed only the first 1,000 most common Japanese for discrepancy - not matching either simplified or traditional Chinese, I started and joined some threads on this),

2) Korean (it's not many variations from standard traditional Chinese but there are some) and

3) Cantonese specific characters. Some Cantonese characters can't be displayed in a browser, only in desktop tools.

Some info is here, please check if that's sufficient for your needs.



My Cantonese list is not organised in a way I could publish them but you can find more comprehensive ones on Hong Kong Supplementary Character Set (HKSCS) site:


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Quest, good lists!

I recently came across a character in a textbook - a final particle, pronounced "ga" in Cantonese (dont' reme,mber the tone). It is written as 口 (on the left) and 架 (on the right). I couldn't find the character in a standard dictionaries. It must be part of the Hong Kong supplementary character set. Is this particle important? What do you type if it's not in the standard library - "o架" or there is a better substitute?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is important. 真o架 (gaa3) . Can't type it here though.

Thanks, Skylee. Sorry if it is a stupid question to ask but if it is important why is it so hard to enter? Is this a standard character for Hong Kong only?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Skylee. I just thought that if Cantonese is not standardised, at least not the way Mandarin is, then should we worry about characters that are part of standard Chinese character set? If they are colloquial but can't be entered via normal ways - MS IME, Chinese word processors, then why bother? HK government added a few thousand Cantonese specific characters! So, learning Cantonese is not for faint-hearted, besides, all formal texts are written in standard Mandarin, so all educated Canonese speakers need to know both ways to write.

Sorry for this example but in Mandarin woman's breast (colloquial word) written as 女 + 米 mīmī can be written as its homophone 咪咪 because the other character is not supported by standard methods.

Vernacular Cantonese has much more characters than Mandarin, besides they are sometimes too complex, e.g. 嚟 but written Cantonese would still use the Mandarin version - 來.

With vernacular Cantonese it is often the character usage, which is different but the characters are not specific to Cantonese:

Cantonese would use 食 and 飲 but Mandarin 吃 and 喝.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...