This Cantonese lesson is the perfect guide for beginners who want to learn the basics of this popular Chinese dialect. From tones and pronunciation to common phrases and vocabulary, this lesson covers everything you need to get started with speaking Cantonese.
Whether you’re planning a trip to China or simply want to expand your language skills, this lesson will give you a solid foundation in the basics of Cantonese.
Introducing the Cantonese language
Cantonese is a popular Chinese dialect spoken in the southeastern province of Guangdong, as well as in Hong Kong and Macau. It’s estimated that there are around 80 million Cantonese speakers worldwide.
While Mandarin is the official language of China, Cantonese is the dominant form of Chinese spoken in Hong Kong and Macau. If you’re planning a trip to China, it’s a good idea to learn at least some basic Cantonese before you go. Not only will it make your trip more enjoyable, but you’ll also find that locals are more likely to respond favorably to you if you can speak their language.
The Cantonese alphabet consists of 21 consonants, 6 vowels, and 4 tones. While this might seem like a lot to remember at first, the tones are actually one of the easiest things about Cantonese to learn. There are only four tones in Cantonese, compared to the many different tones used in Mandarin Chinese.
The following table shows the Cantonese consonants, with their Mandarin counterparts in brackets.
- Bilabial: p (b), m (m), f (f)
- Dental/alveolar: t (d), n (n), l (l), s (z), c (c/ts)
- Palatal: j (j), q (ch), x (sh)
- Velar: k (g), h (h)
- Glottal: ʔ (none)
As you can see, the Cantonese consonants are very similar to their Mandarin counterparts. The only major difference is that there is no Mandarin equivalent for the Cantonese glottal stop (ʔ). The following table shows the Cantonese vowels, with their Mandarin counterparts in brackets.
- Front: i (i), y (ü), ɪ (üe)
- Central: ə (a), ʊ (o)
- Back: u (e), ʌ (ai), ɔ (ao)
As you can see, the Cantonese vowels are also very similar to their Mandarin counterparts. The only major difference is that there is no Mandarin equivalent for the Cantonese vowel ʌ.
how to say thank you in cantonese
Now that you know how to pronounce the basics of Cantonese, let’s learn some useful phrases. The following table shows how to say “thank you” in Cantonese, as well as how to respond to “thank you” in Cantonese.
English: thank you
English: thank you
Cantonese: dò jeh
As you can see, the phrase for “thank you” in Cantonese is very similar to the phrase for “thank you” in Mandarin Chinese. The only major difference is that the Cantonese phrase uses the character 謝 (dò) instead of the character 谢 (xiè).
Tips for learning Cantonese
- Start with the basics. Don’t try to learn too much at once. focus on mastering the basics of pronunciation and grammar before moving on to more difficult concepts.
- Use a Cantonese dictionary. While there are many Mandarin-Cantonese dictionaries available, it’s best to use a Cantonese dictionary specifically designed for learners of the language. This will make it easier to find the words and phrases you’re looking for.
- Listen to Cantonese audio. A great way to improve your pronunciation and listening skills is to listen to native Cantonese speakers. You can find Cantonese audio recordings online or in Chinese language learning textbooks.
- Practice speaking Cantonese. The best way to learn a language is to practice speaking it as often as possible. If you don’t have any Cantonese-speaking friends, try joining a local Chinese language meetup group or taking a Cantonese-language class.
Learning Cantonese can be a fun and rewarding experience. With a little effort, you’ll be able to communicate with Chinese speakers from all over the world.
Where to find more resources for learning Cantonese
If you’re looking for more resources for learning Cantonese, here are a few suggestions:
CantoneseClass101.com – This website offers free video and audio lessons, as well as a blog with articles about Cantonese culture and language.
YoyoChinese.com – This website offers video-based Mandarin Chinese lessons, but also has a few lessons specifically for Cantonese learners.