Learning Cantonese
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Learning Cantonese

Date Posted: 02/09/2020

How to Learn Cantonese: The Easiest Way to Learn Cantonese in Easy Steps



Cantonese has a rich history and culture as a language and is one of the most expressive and fun languages ​​one can ever learn. Moreover, Hong Kong cinema is legendary with big names like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Stephen Chow. As well as movies, many TV dramas and Cantopop songs are played all the time in Hong Kong.


Cantonese isn’t limited to Hong Kong. With over 60million native speakers, Cantonese is also spoken in southern China, Macau, parts of Malaysia, Guangdong province, and Chinatowns.


But it seems very difficult to learn, doesn’t it?


Cantonese has a reputation for being a difficult language. Still, like any language, if you have a good plan and a solid routine, you can get to grips with it in months.


In this article, I’m going to share some simple steps you can take today to become a fluent Cantonese speaker.


Ignore Chinese Characters and Find a Good Cantonese Course for Beginners

Because your objective here is to speak the language, the best way to start is to find a solid starter book, full of dialogue, and a fictionalized transcript. One of the main obstacles to learning any Chinese language is the writing system. It takes a long time to learn all the characters, so if you want to be able to speak as early as possible, avoid rushing to remember those.

There are two basic romanization systems used for Cantonese; Yale and Jyutping. Older features tend to favour Yale, while newer features tend to favour Jyutping. For this purpose, you should go for functions that use Jyutping. A great choice to help you learn is “Cantonese for everyone,” and another popular option is CantoneseClass101, which is still an excellent resource for beginners.


Obtain a Cantonese Tone Cheat Sheet

Aside from the characters, the other big obstacle in Cantonese is the tones. Although most native speakers say there are nine tones, only six are taught in modern Cantonese.

So what’s the best way to learn the tones? Fortunately for us, romanization systems have built-in tone numbers. The letters represent the sound and the numbers, the intonation. The Cantonese tone cheat sheet can be used for quick reference.


Listen to Cantonese Everyday

When learning a language, one cannot overstress the importance of listening to the language of choice. To get familiar with the sounds, you need to listen often. Listen first without a transcript to see what you already know.

With the help of Jyutping, try to listen and read at the same time. Please pay close attention to the tone indicators and listen to them as you go. This is where the tone table comes in. If you forget the meaning of a number, look it up in the tone table. After the search, listen again.

Ensure you set aside time each day to focus on listening, and try not to rely too heavily on explanations in English, such as podcasts or grammar explanations.


Transfer useful Cantonese words to flashcards

Right now, you are listening every day while building your passive Cantonese vocabulary and understanding of Cantonese.

The best thing about flashcard apps is that they are on your phone so that you can take them with you. As long as you have a free minute or two during the day, you can pick up the phone and practice. It’s an advantageous way to use downtime, like when you are waiting at the bus station.

When you come in contact with a word you want to learn, don’t just take it, make sure you take the whole sentence to capture the context. Put your mother tongue on the side of your flashcard and Cantonese in the full sentence on the other side.

When reviewing the flashcards, look at the prompt in English and try to say the sentence in Cantonese. Best of all, see a message, then practice speaking. This is similar to the skills you should use in a conversation and will make your first conversation easier.


Use mnemonics to make sure difficult Cantonese words are imprinted in your mind.

While flashcards are remarkably useful, you need to allow time to go through them thoroughly. There will inevitably be a few words and phrases that don’t stick. When this happens, you need to use mnemonics.

A mnemonic involves associating a word with a particular and memorable image. This connects the new word in your brain to something you already know and makes it easier to remember quickly. The more personal and relevant the image and the easier it is to imagine 
it in your head, the better the chances.


Set mini-goals and combine your learning materials

Setting goals is extremely beneficial. Goals not only help you see your progress and results but keep you focused and on track, keeping you from doing the same for a long time.

Setting short-term goals and mixing up your materials is a great way to keep yourself busy and speed up your progress.


Find a partner in Cantonese.

Finding a good mentor or language exchange partner is invaluable. In the beginning, we need someone to talk to so that we can build trust, have real conversations, and activate our vocabulary. If you want to be conversational fluently, it’s essential to speak regularly and talk a lot.


Bottom Line

Despite its perceived difficulty, Cantonese, like any language, can be learned quickly if done correctly. There are various reasons you would want to learn Cantonese, from dramas and movies to travel, history, friends, and family.


Whatever your reasons, Cantonese is such an expressive and fun language to speak that it is well worth it. Learning Cantonese is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding, exciting, and fun things to do.


Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be on your way to a Cantonese conversation before you know it. The keys are consistency, routine, talking a lot, and listening every day. And finally, podcasts are one of the best ways to learn a new language.



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