Learning a new language can be a fun and exciting journey, and what better way to start your adventure than with some Cantonese tongue twisters? These clever wordplays are not only a great way for new learners to get familiar with the sounds and rhythms of a language or to help them fall in love with the nuances of it, but they’re also a great way for advanced learners to test their accents and proficiency. Let’s learn Cantonese with some of the most fun expressions you can know!
Take it from me, a language enthusiast and traveler. Nothing breaks down linguistic barriers quite like a good tongue twister. I remember one instance when I was on a trip to Hong Kong focused on photographing the local people in their daily life. One morning I was trying to strike up a conversation with a lovely local lady, but she was simply not having it with me. She was definitely not in the mood to make an effort and talk to me in English.
I was at a loss because she would be perfect for the project I was working on until I remembered a Cantonese tongue twister I had learned before my trip. Without any context or any meaning whatsoever, I said 痴線蜘蛛啲蜘蛛絲黐住枝樹枝。(chi1 xian4 zhi1 zhu1 zhi1 zhu1 si1 pang4 zhu4 zhi1 shu4 zhi1) meaning “Crazy thread spiders have spider silk that clings to branches” and to my surprise, she lit up with a huge smile and burst into laughter. Suddenly, I explained my project to her, and she even agreed for me to take a photo of her.
It’s amazing what a little bit of language play can do! And using these tongue twisters among the locals shows off your language skills and gives you an instant connection with the culture.
This article will explore some of the most entertaining Cantonese tongue twisters that will have you tripping over your words but in a good way! Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner, these wordplays are guaranteed to put your Cantonese skills to the test. So, grab a notebook, put on your language-learning hat, and let’s get started!
Cantonese Tongue Twisters
Here we’re going to explore 6 different tongue twisters in Cantonese, their difficulty coming from easy to mind-twistingly hard where you actually feel your tongue starting to cramp up. You also have a pinyin pronunciation for every sentence, so you can dominate Cantonese tones. Try to say them and write in the comments if you could match these sentences’ difficulty increase. (BTW, I was stuck on the third one, so anything above that is great!)
入實驗室㩒緊急掣 (Enter the lab, press the emergency button)
Pinyin: yap6 sat6 yim6 sat1 gam6 gan2 gap1 jai3
This is the easiest of the tongue twisters, and it roughly means “Enter the lab, press the emergency button”. In English, it doesn’t seem so hard, right? Try Cantonese and see what’s your language learning level.
郵差叔叔送信純熟迅速送出 (Uncle postman is skilled at delivering letters and sends them out quickly)
Pinyin: yau4 chaai1 suk1 suk1 sung3 seun3 seun4 suk6 seun3 chuk1 sung3 cheut1
The second one in the list has a very strange meaning, but I think that is why it is so hard to say it in Cantonese.
痴線蜘蛛啲蜘蛛絲黐住枝樹枝 (Crazy-thread spiders, spiders cling to branches with their silk)
Pinyin: chi1 sin3 ji1 jyu1 di1 ji1 jyu1 si1 chi1 jyu6 ji1 syu6 ji1
This is when things start to get hard. This sentence means “Crazy-thread spiders, spiders cling to branches with their silk” and it requires you to really practice it to be able to say it seemly.
床腳撞牆角, 牆角撞床腳, 你話床腳撞牆角定牆角撞床腳 (the corner of the bed hits the corner of the wall, the corner of the wall hits the corner of the bed, you say is it the corner of the bed hitting the corner of the wall or is it the corner of the wall hit the corner of the bed)
Pinyin: chong4 geuk3 jong6 cheung4 gok3 cheung4 gok3 jong6 chong4 geuk3, nei5 wa6/wa2 chong4 geuk3 jong6 cheung4 gok3 ding6 cheung4 gok3 jong6 chong4 geuk3
The size of the Pinyin expression should be a red flag to the difficulty of this one.
掘柑掘桔掘金桔, 掘雞掘骨掘龜骨, 掘完雞骨掘金桔, 掘完龜骨掘雞骨 (Digging tangerines, digging oranges, digging kumquats, digging chickens, digging bones, digging turtle bones, digging chicken bones, digging kumquats, digging turtle bones, digging chicken bones)
Pinyin: gwat6 gam1 gwat6 gat1 gwat6 gam1 gat1, gwat6 gai1 gwat6 gwat1 gwat6 gwai1 gwat1, gwat6 yun4 gai1 gwat1 gwat6 gam1 gat1, gwat6 yun4 gwai1 gwat1 gwat6 gai1 gwat1
If you’ve reached this far, you’re already a winner, but I can only consider you a real pro in Cantonese if you hit this one. This phrase means “ Digging tangerines, digging oranges, digging kumquats, digging chickens, digging bones, digging turtle bones, digging chicken bones, digging kumquats, digging turtle bones, digging chicken bones” and despite not having any reasonable meaning, it is able to give a tight knot on your tongue.
一蚊一斤龜, 七蚊一斤雞，佢話龜貴過雞，我話雞貴過龜, 咁究竟龜貴過雞定係雞貴過龜? (One dollar for a tortoise, seven dollars for a chicken. He said the tortoise was more expensive than the chicken. I said the chicken was more expensive than the tortoise. So is the tortoise more expensive than the chicken or is the chicken more expensive than the tortoise?)
Pinyin: yat1 man1 yat1 gan1 gwai1, chat1 man1 yat1 gan1 gai1, keui5 wa6/wa2 gwai1 gwai3 gwo3 gai1, ngo5 wa6/wa2 gai1 gwai3 gwo3 gwai1, gam3/gam2 gau3 ging2 gwai1 gwai3 gwo3 gai1 ding6 hai6 hai6 gai1 gwai3 gwo3 gwai1?
Not in a million years would I be able to recite this tongue twister without fainting with the effort. It is simply a mind-blowing hard phrase in Cantonese – just by hearing it I get dizzy.
What have we learned today? Some really hard sentences in Can tones will really put your fluency to the test. Disclaimer: Don’t try them without supervision! Just kidding, try them as many times as you want.
If these tongue twisters didn’t get you hooked on this language, I can promise you that if you explore our blog and learn more about this language, you’ll be hungry for more Cantonese culture and language.
Queue Ling App – Learn Cantonese Easily
That is where the Ling app enters: to fulfill your language learning necessities!
Learning has never been easier! You just pull out your phone, open the Ling app, and you’re ready to learn any language from over 60 we have available for you!
You’ll learn grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation through fun and interactive games and real-life examples. Native speakers have proven content and many features that help you master hard accents like Cantonese.
At the end of your lesson, you can head to our AI Chatbot and have a little chitchat to practice what you’ve learned. Useful, right?
That is what we are all about – giving our users the best experience possible and helping them dominate any language they desire.
This is only a few taps away for you, just download the app and get started exploring the mind-twisting, fascinating world of the Cantonese language with us!