#1 Best Guide: Learning Cantonese

Cantonese food - Learning Cantonese Ling app

Do you like dim sum? Or do you watch a lot of dramas? Or maybe you’d like to visit a Cantonese speaking area, such as Hong Kong and Macau. Whatever your reasons may be, if you’re here, you must be looking for one thing for sure – you’re interested in learning Cantonese, or 廣東話 (gwong2 dung1 waa2)! Well, I’m pleased to tell you that you’ve come to the right place. 

The Cantonese language is a Chinese dialect originating from Guangzhou, historically known as Canton, in China. But even though it’s a Chinese dialect, it’s not at all mutually intelligible with Chinese! This is not just because of many phonological differences, but also differences in grammar and some vocabulary. In this article, we’ll be learning all about the Cantonese language

Girl looking at a notebook - Learning Cantonese

Tips For Learning Cantonese

Let’s get started with some tips on how to tackle your Cantonese learning journey in bits and pieces.

#1 How To Read And Write Cantonese

If you’re a Chinese speaker looking to learn Cantonese, I have good news for you! Since the Cantonese language shares the same Chinese characters as Chinese, you’d only have to learn the Cantonese pronunciation of the Chinese characters to read Cantonese. This pretty much means that Chinese characters, specifically traditional characters, and Cantonese characters are exactly the same!

And if you have no prior knowledge of Chinese characters, that’s all right too! Simply start with learning how to read and write a few basic Chinese characters, such as “you” 你 (nei5), “I/me” 我 (ngo5), and “is/to be” 是 (si6). Once you’ve gotten the hang of them, you can learn Cantonese characters that are intermediate level and advanced level.

Once you’ve more or less mastered how to write a few basic characters, you can take things to the next level by learning how to read and write Cantonese vocabulary. You can start with simple words that are often used in daily conversations, such as “thank you” 谢谢 (je6 je6), “sorry” 对不起 (deui3 bat hei2), and “it’s okay” 没关系 (mut6 gwaan1 hai6), before moving on to everyday nouns such as “food” 食物 (sik6 mat6), “money” 钱 (chin4/chin2), and “office” 办公室 (baan6 gung1 sat1).

Cantonese words and characters may seem intimidating at the beginning, but remember, practice is key! Keep a word bank book, write down all the characters you’ve learned along with their meanings, and don’t stop practicing again and again until you can remember how to read and write them! Reading and writing skills are a really important part of language learning, so it’s essential that you cover them.

Young woman in library with a megaphone, another woman in the back. - Learning Cantonese

#2 How To Speak Cantonese

If you watch a lot of Hong Kong cinema, you’ve probably noticed actors and actresses using various Cantonese tones, leaving you fascinated and determined to learn Cantonese. It kind of sounds like their voices are on a seesaw – going up and down, and down and up again whenever they’re speaking. That’s because Cantonese is a tonal language!

Just like other tonal languages such as Thai and Vietnamese, Cantonese has not one, not two, but a whooping total of six tones! This makes spoken Cantonese a lot harder than written Cantonese. But still, as difficult as it may be, it’s not impossible to learn spoken Cantonese!

Remember the Cantonese vocabulary you’ve learned to read and write? Now, all you’ve got to do is learn how to say them out loud. Simply key these words into Cantonese text-to-speech tools and repeat after the pronunciation! These tools are pretty accurate and close to how a native speaker would sound, so don’t worry about making a mistake. 

But if you want an even better alternative, you should download the Ling app. You can listen to and repeat the pronunciation of every Cantonese word you learn there! Don’t worry about sounding bad or anything, just keep listening to how the words sound, and then repeating the words to yourself. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself getting the hang of it.

You can even practice speaking with native speakers, who’d be more than happy to help you practice and correct your pronunciation whenever you make a mistake. You can even practice speaking with fellow budding Cantonese speakers who are trying to learn the language! Just remember to keep an open mind and be more than ready to assist your fellow Cantonese learners whenever they need help.

Woman with a hand to her ear as if listening

#3 How To Listen To Cantonese

Want some Cantonese listening practice? Aside from engaging in everyday conversation with native speakers or fellow students learning Cantonese, there are many other ways you can do this as well! 

One method would be to watch YouTube videos in the Cantonese language. Whether it’s a Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, or Stephen Chow, listening to spoken Cantonese consistently can definitely help improve your listening skills. You’ll find yourself paying even more attention to the various tones in Cantonese, making what you thought would be a difficult language to learn easier than you’d expected. 

Easy Phrases For Learning Cantonese 

EnglishCantonese PhrasePronunciation
I want to learn Cantonese.我想學廣東話。ngo5 soeng2 hok6 gwong2 dung1 waa2.
Can you teach me?你可以教我嗎?nei5 ho2 ji5 gaau3 ngo5 maa3?
I don’t understand.我聽不懂。ngo5 teng1 bat1 dung2.
Can you repeat that?你可以重複一次嗎?nei5 ho2 ji5 cung4 fuk6 jat1 ci3 maa3?
Can I practice?我可以練習嗎?ngo5 ho2 ji5 lin6 zaap6 maa3?
Do you speak English?你會說英文嗎?nei5 wui5 syut3 jing1 man2 maa3?
Please speak slowly.請慢慢講。ceng2 maan6 maan6 gong2.
I study every day.我每天都在學習。ngo5 mui5 tin1 dou1 zoi6 hok6 zaap6.
I enjoy learning new languages.我喜歡學習新語言。ngo5 hei2 fun1 hok6 zaap6 san1 jyu5 jin4.
Your pronunciation is very good.你的發音很好。nei5 dik1 faat3 jam1 han2 hou2.

Ready To Start Learning Cantonese? 

You’ve read all about learning Cantonese, so now it’s time to take action! Whether you want to start with learning basic greetings first, or if you want to try using learning materials and word lists to get some basic vocabulary down first, it’s completely up to you and your learning style.

By the way, did we mention that the Ling app is a fantastic way to get started with learning Cantonese? Aside from Cantonese grammar and vocabulary, you can also learn how to correctly pronounce Cantonese words with audio files, as well as learn phrases frequently used in everyday conversations and dialogue. So, what are you waiting for? Download the Ling app today from the App Store or Google Play Store!

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