What is Cantonese Language and How to Learn it Effectively – The Complete Guide
If you are reading this article, I believe you have already started to learn Cantonese. Whether you are about to move to Hong Kong, or have lived in Hong Kong for many years, I believe you must have thought about learning Cantonese or are already learning, I hope this article can give you some advice on learning Cantonese.
1. What is Cantonese?
Besides Mandarin Chinese, the official language spoken in China, there are many Chinese dialects spoken in everywhere in China, one of them is called Cantonese. Cantonese language is a Chinese dialect widely spoken in Hong Kong, Canton province in China, Macau and even in other Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore and many others. In Hong Kong, Cantonese is the official language spoken by 7.5 million people, more and more foreigners or mainland Chinese people learn Cantonese language immediately when they first arrive here in Hong Kong.
The language itself is interesting, but hard to learn since there are six tones or night tones in Cantonese language, those tones make foreigners hard to distinguish and understand the difference. But as I said, Cantonese language is actually very interesting to learn since the language is very old and when you learn the language, you will find out a lot of interesting Chinese culture and art in the language.
Since Cantonese is a Chinese dialect, it is written in Chinese characters, but the characters are slightly different from Mandarin Chinese characters, it is called traditional Chinese characters, which is a old style Chinese writing method has a longer history than Mandarin simplified Chinese characters which only been developed for a couple of decades. Because of this, it makes learning Cantonese more difficult, there are a plenty of Chinese characters you must learn in order to understand the Chinese books or newspapers in Hong Kong. Some Mainlanders even don’t understand the traditional Chinese characters!
Learning Cantonese will make your life more convenient. Instead of learning Mandarin In Hong Kong, everyone speaks Cantonese and can speak English, but it is not so convenient. If you go to you territories or Kowloon in Hong Kong, you have to speak Cantonese, because there are fewer people who can speak English in those places, and if you go to the market to buy food, no one will speak English to you.
Learning Cantonese is also helpful for learning other Chinese dialects for example mandarin. Because they share the common grammar patterns, and also the Chinese characters are similar. So first you can learn Cantonese and then if you want to develop your business in China then you can pick up mandarin easily.
If you want to learn the Chinese culture learning Cantonese is a great way to know it. Because of the long history of Cantonese language there are lots of culture and art things you can find in Cantonese language while learning it. This will also make learning Cantonese language more fun and interesting.
All over Hong Kong is the best place to learn Cantonese because you can hear and speak Cantonese language everywhere in Hong Kong, from local restaurants, local supermarkets, radios and television. You can also practice Cantonese language with the local people, because the local people they are very helpful if they know you’re learning in Cantonese they will be very respectful and you can practice with them everywhere you like and it’s also very fun.
As we all know that Hong Kong is the place where Western and Chinese culture are mixed. Learning the Cantonese language is not only learning a language but also learning the culture. So that is why we always recommend students to learn Cantonese if they live in Hong Kong.
3. Difficulties about learning Cantonese
The first difficulty for Cantonese learners is the tone of Cantonese language. Different from European languages Chinese language is a tonal language, more than the four tones of mandarin Cantonese language has 6 or 9 tones, that makes learning Cantonese tone more difficult than mandarin. Because each tone will show each word in different meanings, therefore making the tongue right is extremely important, if you got the tone wrong the meaning completely changed. So the first step of learning Cantonese is learn how to understand the tone and say it correctly.
Secondly, Cantonese is using traditional Chinese characters, it is more difficult to write for a lot of foreigners, you almost need to learn 3,000 to 4,000 traditional Chinese characters in order to read books or newspapers, some people want to learn companies they try not to learn traditional characters because it is too difficult, but actually we highly recommend you learn Chinese traditional characters, because when you learn Cantonese into an intermediate level you will find there are too many similar pronounced words that will make you very confusing, only the Chinese characters can distinguish the different meanings and you know the characters it will help you to understand the Chinese language.
The next difficulty is the grammar. Some people say Chinese grandma is comparatively simple, yes that is true maybe at the beginning but actually when you go to intermediate level the grandma can be very tricky, especially in Cantonese there are so many set phrases or sentence patterns you must follow, sometimes you’ll find it hard to put the single word into the right place. That will make learning Cantonese grammar or difficult than you think about.
When you hear Chinese people Cantonese people speak you can find out that actually they speak super fast, it is very difficult for foreigner to listen and understand what they mean, because sometimes they are very many slangs or idioms included in the conversation, which are not commonly taught in the textbook, and most of the time Cantonese people they don’t slow down their speaking so it is also very difficult to make them slow and understand what they say. Careful a lot of listening and speaking training are needed when you take the course.
First of all, we hope that you will spend a certain amount of time learning the tones of Cantonese, because the six tones of Cantonese are very important. When it comes to vocabulary, you will find more and more words with different meanings but similar pronunciations, which will cause a lot of trouble for Cantonese learners.
After mastering the tones, you can start to learn basic conversations, first learn everyday language, and then learn some basic grammar, pay attention to Chinese listening and speaking is the most difficult, so you must strengthen listening and speaking skills, and learning Chinese characters is also very important.
We recommend learning listening, speaking and Chinese characters together, so that after a class, you can learn all the content and make the class less boring. In addition, in terms of schedule, we hope to have two or three classes a week, each class is one and a half hours or two hours, and then we need to review about two or three hours a week when we go home, so it takes about half a year, Cantonese ability will improve by leaps and bounds.
Making friends with local Hong Kong people is a very good way to learn Cantonese. Although they speak quickly, you don’t have to worry, because even if you don’t understand what they say now, the words they say are imprinted in your mind, and you will remember them very easily when you learn them later. . Unlike in class, you only hear the teacher’s speech in class. If you chat with the locals, you can hear different pronunciations and different tones, which is very helpful for you to learn Cantonese.
When you are trying a new language, you must understand what kind of learning person you are, because some people are visual learner, others are listener and speaker, therefore, you must choose the right way to study,
Visual learners learn primarily by reading and seeing. They usually like to sit at the front of the classroom and have neat study habits. In the process of listening to the class, I will occasionally close my eyes and recall to help memorize. Images and colors can help them learn effectively. For example, when you learn Cantonese, focus on more about learning Chinese characters.
Auditory learners prefer to learn by listening. They usually pick a spot in the classroom where they can hear clearly and see clearly or not. In the process of listening to the class, he will talk to himself, read the text aloud, and help memory by repeating the text information. They prefer to review texts by retelling rather than writing, and enjoy creating learning opportunities that they can discuss with others. To apply to learning Cantonese, you must try to talk to people and practice more on listening at the same time.
In addition, we found that a good way to learn a language is to write more, because writing is a good way to help memory, if you find that you have difficulty learning new Cantonese words, then I suggest you write more and record the grammar of the words that the teacher has spoken, and then make more sentences. When you write and use your brain together, the learning effect will be greatly increased. Students who learn Cantonese may wish to try this method.
6. Resources to learn Cantonese
There are many resources on the web for learning Cantonese, if you are looking for a Cantonese and English dictionary, then I recommend you to use this, this website allows you to choose different phonetic systems to display different Cantonese vocabulary.
Now the popular learning methods are one-to-one Cantonese courses and group courses. In fact, both have their own advantages and disadvantages. How to choose depends on the individual. According to the different needs of students, choose the right one. Your own course is very important. Generally speaking, private lessons are suitable for students who want to improve their Cantonese skills quickly, and the time and place are more flexible.
The speed of learning is much faster than group lessons, and students can ask the teacher questions at any time, and the teacher can also meet the students’ requirements. According to the teaching method of making appropriate teaching materials according to the learning progress, group courses are limited in time and place, and are not suitable for students with irregular time. However, the tuition fees of group courses are relatively cheap, and they can communicate with other group members.
Listening: Listening to language material, such like film, TV, audiovisual language lessons or music, will help you reinforce the words you have learned and are learning. However, just listening is not enough, you have to repeat it yourself, and you have to apply it in your speaking.
Read. Start with easy-to-understand books, and then move on to more difficult books as you progress. Try not to look up the dictionary whenever you encounter a new word, and learn to guess the meaning of the word according to the context.
Children’s books are great introductory materials because the main goal of these books is to teach children how to read and understand their language. In the beginning, you can choose children’s books.
Speak. If you don’t speak it, you will never learn the language well, and you will never be able to remember it. You can find and communicate with native speakers of that language through Skype. If this method doesn’t work for you, see if family members or friends around you can help. They may be able to introduce you to someone to practice with you. Language schools are also good places to practice speaking.
Write: We think writing Chinese characters is especially important for learning Cantonese, because the soul of Chinese is Chinese characters. If you don’t pay attention to Chinese characters, you will know the real meaning of Chinese very well. When we learn a language, we must not only learn to speak and listen, but most importantly learn the meaning behind this language and learn about Chinese culture. Chinese is an ancient language with extremely rich content, which is worth learning by all foreigners.
In general, learning Cantonese is a necessary activity to live in Hong Kong, whether it is for hobby or work. Learning Cantonese not only brings fun to your life, but also makes your brain healthier, and you can interact with Hong Kong people. Chatting can also make you integrate into the society faster.