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A Brief Overview of Hong Kong Culture

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Hong Kong is truly an amazing place—it’s one of the world’s greatest cities and boasts a unique “East meets West” culture. Wondering why this crowded, tiny city (we’re 293 times smaller than Norway with 1.4 times the population) attracts millions of visitors every year? Or would you like to know a bit more about Hong Kong’s culture before settling here? In either case, you’ve come to the right place. In this lesson from CantoneseClass101, we’ll give you a practical overview of Cantonese culture, so read on!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Core Values and Beliefs
  2. Arts
  3. Food
  4. Holidays
  5. Bonus: Our Everyday Lives
  6. Why is CantoneseClass101 the Best Place to Learn Cantonese?

1. Core Values and Beliefs

Common Belief

A key element in understanding the culture of Hong Kong is to become familiar with the values and beliefs of its people. In this section, we’ll talk about what Hong Kongers believe and how this affects their daily lives.

A- The Harmony of East Meets West

A long-time entrepot and once a colony of the British empire, Hong Kong has a diverse mix of cultures that has fascinated travelers from around the globe. You can find people of all races and religions in Hong Kong, and they’re all treated equally with respect. From Central Hong Kong to Chungking Mansion, you can see how people of different races interact, work together, and build friendships. We pride ourselves in our religious liberty, freedom of speech, and diversity. 

The interesting cultural dynamics behind Hong Kong’s mixed culture scene is rare and worth experiencing yourself through traveling, working, and living in Hong Kong. The robust and cosmopolitan nightlife has also seduced the hearts of many foreigners and expats. Read more at CNN Travel and Time Out Hong Kong to see what our vibrant city has to offer. 

B- Family-Oriented

Even though many locals have adopted Western ways of living, Chinese concepts like “family solidarity” and “family glory” are still prevalent. It’s also common for adults to live with their family or parents, partly due to the sky-rocketed property prices and rent, as well as the strong emphasis on family bonding in Hong Kong.

Many HongKongers live in nuclear families, usually with only one or two children, as most living spaces in Hong Kong are small. The traditional role of a mother is to take care of the family, though many HongKongers choose to hire a housemaid to carry out the domestic duties so that the mother can work full-time. 

In Cantonese family culture, age determines hierarchal seniority within a family. Everyone is expected to respect their elders in accordance with filial piety, a deeply rooted virtue in many Southeast Asian countries. HongKongers usually worship their ancestors at least twice a year, which stems from the belief that children are eternally indebted to their parents. This respect for seniority can also be observed through language; for example, the word “brother” can be further divided into the words “elder brother” and “younger brother.”

2. Arts

Hong Kong is well-known for its various art forms, especially in regards to its film, music, and television industries. Many of these Cantonese popular culture items are also popular around the globe. Let’s take a look!

A- Movie & Film

Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Stephen Chow… Even though Hong Kong is a really small city, it’s given birth to quite a few good movies and movie stars!

The movie industry in Hong Kong has been one of the most successful worldwide, especially during the second half of the twentieth century. It remains prominent in Hong Kong despite a severe slump starting in the mid-1990s. Local martial artists and stars, such as Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, are known globally. Many Hong Kong actors have transitioned to Hollywood over the years as well, including Chow Yun Fat and John Woo. Hong Kong cinema has also received international recognition through the work of director Wong Kar Wai, whose 2046 is one of the best films of the last ten years.

Our all-time favorite Cantonese movie: In the Mood for Love (2000). In the Mood for Love is arguably one of the best Hong Kong movies in centuries. Directed by the internationally renowned filmmaker Kar-Wai Wong, the movie paints the love story of two middle-aged Hong Kongers in the 1960s, starring the handsome Tony Leung Chiu-wai and the elegant Maggie Cheung Man-yuk. Both betrayed by their partners, the lonely next-door neighbors are eager to seek comfort in each other—but are hesitant to go further.

B- Music

Cantopop is a colloquialism for “Cantonese pop music” or “Hong Kong popular music.” This well-loved gem of Hong Kong’s pop culture is a strong representation of local Cantonese music. In addition to Cantopop, Hong Kongers also listen to Mandopop from Taiwan and China. Most artists are essentially multilingual these days and sing in both Cantonese and Mandarin.

One popular singer in recent years is Eason Chan Yik-Shun, a male singer from Hong Kong. He has been described as a blast of fresh air in the Hong Kong music scene, and his album U87 has been recommended by Time Magazine as one of the five best Asian albums worth buying.

C- Television

Hong Kong’s main broadcast television stations include RTHK, HKOpenTV, ViuTV, and TVB. The last one, launched in 1967, is currently the most popular television station in Hong Kong and is known for having been Hong Kong’s first commercial station that was free to air. Many Hong Kong households also use paid cable and satellite television. 

Soap operas, comedies, and variety shows produced in Hong Kong now reach mass audiences throughout the Chinese-speaking world. Many international and pan-Asian broadcasters (including News Corporation’s STAR TV) are based in Hong Kong because of its position as a hub broadcaster. Hong Kong’s terrestrial commercial TV networks are also making inroads into mainland China.

Someone pointing a remote at a TV

Recommended Cantonese TV show: Best Selling Secrets (2007).

This famous 364-episode sitcom series revolves around complex office and family politics amongst the characters. Wong Ka Nam, a smart and confident lady, left her son and husband behind for the States. After her husband died in an airplane crash in search of her, their son, Luk Chit, was taken into her mother-in-law’s custody. 

Eighteen years have passed since then, and Ka Nam wants to see her son again. But she’s forbidden by her mother-in-law, as Ka Nam was blamed for the death of her husband. Amusingly, Chit and Ka Nam soon become friends and colleagues. 

The story evolves and touches on the rivalry, friendship, and romance within the office and household.


3. Food

Hong Kong is a food paradise! Not only does it have the highest density of restaurants in the world and all types of international cuisines, but there’s also a great variety of local dishes and mouth-watering delicacies worth trying. On top of the famous dim sum, other Cantonese foods and snacks like egg tart and fish balls are also too good to be missed.

Below are our top five picks for the best Cantonese dishes and snacks:

A- Dim Sum

The most famous Cantonese-style cuisine element has got to be dim sum!

Dimsum

 點心 (romanization: dim2 sam1)

In case you didn’t know, dim sum refers to bite-sized portions of food served in small bamboo baskets or on a small plate. You need to visit a Cantonese teahouse in order to try dim sum dishes. In Hong Kong, we call the action of going to a Cantonese teahouse for dim sum 飲茶” (jam2 caa4), which means “drink tea,” as Chinese tea is usually served with dim sum dishes.

B- Roasted Goose

Roasted Goose

燒鵝 (romanization: siu1 ngo2) – Photo by Simon Law, under CC BY-SA 2.0

Roasted goose is a type of siu mei (Cantonese-style Charcuterie). It has a crispy outer skin with moist meat inside. Coated with flavorful sauce, roasted goose has a unique barbecue flavor that will surely amaze you.

C- Clay Pot Rice

Clay Pot Rice

煲仔飯  (romanization: bou1 zai2 faan6)

Although this dish may look simple—steamed rice in a clay pot with toppings (and of course, a great sauce)—it’s totally worth a try, especially for the slightly burnt rice at the bottom of the clay pot. Common toppings for clay pot rice include pork, chicken, beef, and Chinese sausages.

D- Wonton Noodles

Wonton Noodles

雲吞麵  (romanization: wan4 tan1 min6) – Photo by Alpha, under CC BY-SA 2.0

Wontons are Chinese dumplings filled with shrimp or meat. Served with clear broth along with thin egg noodles, this common Hong Kong dish is a must-try. 

E- Egg Tarts

Egg Tarts

蛋撻  (romanization: daan6 taat1)

This delicious pastry is filled with sweet egg and best served hot. You can find egg tarts in both Cantonese teahouses and local bakeries.


4. Holidays

As a city where East meets West, we celebrate both Chinese and Western holidays. Here are our most celebrated holidays:

A- Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year is the longest celebration on the Chinese calendar, lasting from the final day of the last month to the beginning of the Lantern Festival. During this holiday, it’s common to gather with family, eat rice cakes, and give children red packets filled with money.

B- Christmas

A Christmas Tree

Christmas is celebrated as a major festival and public holiday in Hong Kong. It’s also the best time to do some shopping with all the discounts the shops are offering!

C- Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival takes place on the fifth day of the fifth month on the Chinese calendar. Its origins relate to the suicide of Qu Yuan in 278 BCE. He was a poet and statesman of the Chu Kingdom during the Warring States period. Traditionally, we eat rice dumplings on this date.

D- Mid-Autumn Festival

A Mooncake

The Mid-Autumn Festival takes place on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar, during a full moon. It’s the time to get some traditional mooncakes or snowy mooncakes!

5. Bonus: Our Everyday Lives

Fancy to learn more about how a local HongKonger lives? We’ve selected three Hong Kong culture facts to give you a better picture of what life in Hong Kong is like! 

A- Tai Chi

Martial Arts

Tai Chi is considered an internal Chinese martial art. It’s practiced for self defense as well as its potential health benefits. If you were to walk the streets or parks of Hong Kong in the morning, you would see a lot of elderly people doing Tai Chi. 

B- Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine refers to various medical practices passed down from Ancient China, many of which are still popular today. Some examples include acupuncture, some types of massage, and dietary therapy.

C- Protest

Hong Kong’s protest culture is very much alive, and there are protests in Hong Kong almost every other week. Most of them are led by the Civil Human Rights Front, a Chinese organization which focuses on political issues in Hong Kong. 

6. Why is CantoneseClass101 the Best Place to Learn Cantonese?

CantoneseClass101.com

One important element of the Cantonese culture is, of course, the Cantonese language! With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

Before you go, let us know in the comments how Cantonese culture compares to that in your country. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese

Your Guide to Basic Cantonese Grammar

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Grammar is critical to every language—it is the needle that sews the bits and pieces of a language together. As a language learner, understanding the grammar will help you better express yourself and communicate with others in your target language.

Cantonese has its own (relatively simple!) grammar rules. It’s vital to learn basic Cantonese grammar if you want to master this interesting language in full. You need to know the right words and sentence structure to speak fluent Cantonese and effectively communicate with native speakers. 

Read on and learn about the most important Cantonese grammar rules!

    → Also keep in mind that we offer several other Cantonese grammar lessons on our website that go into much more detail. If you’re thirsty for more knowledge, make sure to check them out!
Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. General Principle – Simple is Best!
  2. Basic Sentence Structure
  3. Final Particles
  4. Cantonese Tenses
  5. Cantonese Negation
  6. Why is CantoneseClass101 Great for Learning Cantonese?

1. General Principle – Simple is Best!

Eraser

Cantonese is straightforward! 

Cantonese grammar rules are much simpler than those of many other languages. For example, we do not have tenses (past, present, future, etc.) like English does, nor do we have grammatical gender like French does. We don’t have conjugations, honorifics, nor syllabary changes either.

Also, we like to get straight to the point when expressing ourselves. Take “Would you mind going to the store?” as an example:

  • A native Cantonese speaker would ask with: 你去士多? 
  • Romanization: nei5 heoi3 si6 do1
  • Literal translation of 你去士多: You go store?
  • Meaning: Would you mind going to the store?

2. Basic Sentence Structure

A Person Writing

Cantonese has the same basic sentence structure as English: subject (S), verb (V), and object (O).

To illustrate the SVO format, take the English sentence “I watch a movie,” as an example. We can see that the subject “I” is presented first. This is followed by the verb “watch.” Finally, the object “a movie” is positioned last. 

Now let’s compare the same sentence with the Cantonese translation: 我睇戲 (ngo5 tai2 hei3). If we break down the Cantonese sentence, we see that the subject 我 (ngo5), meaning “I,” comes first. Then comes the verb 睇 (tai2), meaning “watch.” And finally, we have the object 戲 (hei3), meaning “movie.”

Below is a summary of the SVO word order in Cantonese:

  • Chinese Characters: 我睇戲。
  • Romanization: ngo5 tai2 hei3
  • Meaning: I watch (a) movie.

Let’s see one more example sentence in the SVO format:

  • Chinese Characters: 我影相。
  • Romanization: ngo5 jing2 soeng2
  • Meaning: I take photos.

Do you want more information on this topic? Then see our article on The 10 Most Useful Cantonese Sentence Patterns and learn how to communicate like a native!

3. Final Particles

An Exclamation Mark

When looking at the essentials of Cantonese grammar, particles cannot be ignored. They play a huge role in the language!

Final particles are placed at the end of a sentence to indicate the mood or attitude of the speaker, and to make the speech more colloquial.

Final particles are most common in Cantonese and Mandarin, but they’re also present in Japanese and many other East Asian languages such as Thai.

Cantonese speakers love to add final particles to their sentences! Let’s take a look at the examples below:

Example particle 1: 嘅

Romanization: ge3
Function / Indication: Indicates humbleness or understanding; emphasis on raising a fact in a subtle way

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 唔係是必要你講嘅。
  • Romanization: m4 hai6 si6 bit1 jiu3 nei5 gong2 ge3
  • Meaning: You are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so.

Example particle 2: 呀

Romanization: aa3
Function / Indication: Indicates enthusiasm and friendliness (usually in a softer tone), or a sarcastic retort 

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 係我呀。
  • Romanization: hai6 ngo5 aa3
  • Meaning: It’s me.

Example particle 3: 喇

Romanization: laa3
Function / Indication: Indicates an exclamation with an emphasis on the past; “already”

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 佢返咗屋企喇。
  • Romanization: keoi5 faan2 zo2 uk1 kei2 laa3
  • Meaning: He already got back home.

Example particle 4: 呢

Romanization: ne1
Function / Indication: Used in questions to soften the tone when inquiring about facts

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 飛機機艙到底幾耐清潔一次呢?
  • Romanization: fei1 gei1 gei1 cong1 dou3 dai2 gei2 noi6 cing1 git3 jat1 ci3 ne1
  • Meaning: How often would the cabin of a plane be cleaned?

Example particle 5: 之嘛

Romanization: zi1 maa3
Function / Indication: “only”

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 污糟咗之嘛。
  • Romanization: wu1 zou1 zo2 zi1 maa3
  • Meaning: It (only) got dirty.

Example particle 6: 咋

Romanization: zaa3
Function / Indication: Indicates disapproval; “just”

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 係因為未見過咋。
  • Romanization: hai6 jan1 wai6 mei6 gin3 gwo3 zaa3
  • Meaning: It’s (just) because this has never been seen.

4. Cantonese Tenses

A Clock

There are no such concepts as tenses or verb conjugation in Cantonese. Instead, we use additional words to indicate the time of an incident when necessary. 

It’s not mandatory to include these additional words as we can usually tell whether an event happened in the past, present, or future from the context. 

Let’s take a look at some common additional words:

Indicating “the past”:

  • Placed after the verb to indicate the past:
    • 咗 (zo2) – have done
    • 過 (gwo3) – tried
    • 完 (jyun4) – did
    • 曬 (saai3) – completed
  • Placed at the beginning of a sentence or right after the subject:
    • 啱啱 (aam1 aam1) – just now
    • 頭先 (tau4 sin1) – a moment ago
    • 前排 (cin4 paai2) – a while back
    • 幾個禮拜之前 (gei2 go3 lai5 baai3 zi1 cin4) – a few weeks ago
    • 上個月 (soeng6 go3 jyut6) – last month
    • 舊年 (gau6 nin2) – last year

Indicating “the present” / “present continuous”:

  • Placed before the verb to indicate the present:
    • 喺度 (hai2 dou6) – be / doing
  • Placed after the verb to indicate the present:
    • 緊 (gan2) – in progress
    • 住 (zyu3) – doing
  • Placed at the beginning of a sentence or right after the subject:
    • 而家 (ji4 gaa1) – now

Indicating “the future”:

  • Placed before the verb to indicate the future:
    • 會 (wui5) – will
  • Placed at the beginning of a sentence or right after the subject:
    • 到時 (dou3 si4) – then
    • 陣間 (zan6 gaan1) – later
    • 跟住 (gan1 zyu6) – and then
    • 之後 (zi1 hau6) – after
    • 聽日 (ting1 jat6) – tomorrow
    • 後日 (hau6 jat6) – the day after tomorrow
    • 下個禮拜 (haa6 go3 lai5 baai3) – next week
    • 下個月 (haa6 go3 jyut6) – next month
    • 出年 (ceot1 nin2) – next year

We’ll be introducing this topic in more detail soon—stay tuned!

5. Cantonese Negation

A Woman Hinting No

Let’s cover one more basic Cantonese grammar element: negation. 

Cantonese negation is quite simple, depending on the context (that is, whether you’re referring to the past, present, or future). There are four main ways to negate a sentence.

Negating the past

There are two patterns for negating the past in Cantonese:

Example
未 (mei6) + verb + 過 (gwo3)我未去過英國。
ngo5 mei6 heoi3 gwo3 jing1 gwok3
I have never been to the UK.
冇 (mou5) + verb我冇食嘢。
ngo5 mou5 sik6 je5
I didn’t eat anything.

Negating the present

Here is the pattern for negating the present in Cantonese:

Example
唔 (m4) + verb我唔識講普通話。
ngo5 m4 sik1 gong2 pou2 tung1 waa2
I don’t know how to speak Mandarin.

Negating the future

Finally, here is how to negate the future:

Example
唔會 (m4 wui5) + verb我唔會去。
ngo5 m4 wui5 heoi3
I am not going.

We’ll be discussing Cantonese negation soon. Stay tuned at CantoneseClass101.com!

6. Why is CantoneseClass101 Great for Learning Cantonese?

CantoneseClass101.com

Now that you’ve learned some basic Cantonese grammar rules (and see how simple they are!), are you ready to officially embark on your Cantonese learning journey?

With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community where you can discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese

The 20+ Best Cantonese Quotes for Learners

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Quotes can be a great tool to help you stay motivated. They also offer cultural insight, provide universal words of wisdom, and tastefully season a pleasant conversation.

Do you want to put some Cantonese quotes in your pocket? We’ve compiled some of the greatest Cantonese quotes with English translations and equivalents, handpicked just for you!

Without further delay, here are the top twenty quotes in Cantonese.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Quotes About Life
  2. Quotes About Love
  3. Quotes About Wisdom
  4. Quotes About Success
  5. Bonus: Quotes About Language Learning
  6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. Quotes About Life

A Woman Gazing

What is life all about, and how should a person live? These are questions people have been trying to answer for a very long time. Here are some Cantonese quotes about life to give you some cultural perspective on the topic!  

1. 做人如果無夢想,同條鹹魚有咩分別呀?

Romanization: zou6 jan4 jyu4 gwo2 mou5 mung6 soeng2, tung4 tiu4 haam4 jyu2 jau5 me1 fan1 bit6 aa3
Literal Translation: “If we don’t have any dreams in life, what can distinguish us from a salted fish?”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” (John Barrymore)
  • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from Shaolin Soccer, a movie directed by the renowned Hong Kong filmmaker Stephen Chow. We might use this quote, for example, to encourage a friend to chase after his or her dream.
  • Additional notes: Shaolin Soccer is one of the most well-known movies in Hong Kong. Watch the trailer on YouTube!

2. 認真你就輸了

Romanization: jing6 zan1 nei5 zau6 syu1 liu5
Literal Translation: “You lose when you get serious.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.” (Elbert Hubbard)
  • Elaboration: This quote is from the title of a book written by novelist Lin Su of Mainland China. It became popular in Hong Kong starting in 2009, and we use it to remind one another not to get too serious or care too much about results.
  • Additional notes: The famous Hong Kong singer Ava released a song, sung in Mandarin, featuring this quote as a title. Check it out!

3. 即使沒有別人給你理由,生命依然值得堅持。

Romanization: zik1 si2 mut6 jau5 bit6 jan4 kap1 nei5 lei5 jau4, sang1 ming6 ji1 jin4 zik6 dak1 gin1 ci4
Literal Translation: “Even if there is no reason to, life is still worth living.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning/ Equivalent quote: “Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.” (William James)
  • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from the award-winning movie, A Simple Life. We use the quote to console a friend who is a bit down.
  • Additional notes: Deanie Ip, the leading actress of this movie, was awarded for her amazing performance with the Best Actress Award at the 68th Venice International Film Festival. Watch the trailer on YouTube!

4. 仍然自由自我,永遠高唱我歌,走遍千里。

Romanization: jing4 jin4 zi6 jau4 zi6 ngo5, wing5 jyun5 gou1 coeng3 ngo5 go1, zau2 pin3 cin1 lei5
Literal Translation: “Be free, sing your own song, walk your own life.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Be yourself.
  • Elaboration: These are some lyrics from the famous song Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies, sung by the Hong Kong rock band Beyond. We use this quote to encourage someone to be his or her true self.
  • Additional notes: Beyond is the most influential Cantopop band from Hong Kong, prominent in overseas Chinese communities and East Asian countries including Japan and Singapore. In fact, Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies is a must-know song for any HongKonger!

5. 對人誠懇,做事負責,多結善緣,自然多得人的幫助。淡泊明志,隨遇而安,不作非分之想, 心境安泰,必少許多失意之苦。

Romanization: deoi3 jan4 sing4 han2, zou6 si6 fu6 zaak3, do1 git3 sin6 jyun4, zi6 jin4 do1 dak1 jan4 dik1 bong1 zo6. daam6 bok6 ming4 zi3, ceoi4 jyu6 ji4 on1, bat1 zok3 fei1 fan6 zi1 soeng2, sam1 ging2 on1 taai3, bit1 siu2 heoi2 do1 sat1 ji3 zi1 fu2
Literal Translation: “Be sincere, responsible, and nice; you will naturally get help from others. Live a simple life, go with the flow, don’t overthink, be calm and present; you will suffer less when you fail.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: The message behind this quote is that a good life will follow naturally if you’re nice and kind, and if you go with the flow.
  • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from Hong Kong’s business tycoon Li Ka-Shing, one of the richest men in the world. We can use this quote to motivate ourselves.
  • Additional notes: Li Ka-Shing is a magnificent businessman—he rose from humble beginnings, built and grew his own business when Hong Kong was still dominated by the Brits, and became Asia’s wealthiest man for many years.

6. 進退怎能隨人潮跌墮,重燃那漸冷卻的火,青春瘋過痛過先不會枉過。 

Romanization: zeon3 teoi3 zam2 nang4 ceoi4 jan4 ciu4 dit3 do6, cung4 jin4 naa5 zim6 laang5 koek3 dik1 fo2, cing1 ceon1 fung1 gwo3 tung3 gwo3 sin1 bat1 wui5 wong2 gwo3
Literal Translation: “We cannot just follow others. Let’s light the dimmed fire, for life is meant to be a roller-coaster ride.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: 
      Hope when the moment comes,
      You’ll say
      I, I did it all
      I, I did it all
      I owned every second that this world could give
      I saw so many places, the things that I did
      Yeah with every broken bone
      I swear I lived
      (I Lived, OneRepublic)
  • Elaboration: These are lyrics from the song Queen G by Hong Kong songwriter Gloria Tang. We can use this quote to encourage others to follow their heart.
  • Additional notes: Gloria Tang, also known as G.E.M., is a talented Hong Kong singer-songwriter. She was the only Asian artist featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2016. Listen to one of her most popular songs, Light Years Away!

2. Quotes About Love

A Heart

Are you madly in love with someone? Or maybe you’re a hopeless romantic? Either way, we think you’ll love these Cantonese love quotes!

7. 人世間所有的相遇,都是久別重逢。

Romanization: jan4 sai3 gaan1 so2 jau5 dik1 soeng1 jyu6, dou1 si6 gau2 bit6 cung4 fung4 
Literal Translation: “All encounters in life are reunions after long times apart.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: This quote explains Yuanfen, a concept similar to Karma. The message behind it is that we should cherish those we love, but we must also accept separation from them should it occur.
  • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from The Grandmaster, a movie directed by the internationally renowned Hong Kong film director Wong Kar-Wai. We use the quote to console a friend who is having relationship issues.
  • Additional notes: The Grandmaster is Wong’s most expensive production to date. You can watch the trailer of the movie on YouTube!

8. 人生就像一場舞會,教會你最初舞步的人卻未必能陪你走到散場。

Romanization: jan4 sang1 zau6 zoeng6 jat1 coeng4 mou5 wui2, gaau3 wui5 nei5 zeoi3 co1 mou5 bou6 dik1 jan4 koek3 mei6 bit1 nang4 pui4 nei5 zau2 dou3 saan3 coeng4 
Literal Translation: “Life is like a ball, the one who teaches you how to dance may not be able to accompany you until the end.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Life is full of ups and downs, and your first love may not be your last.
  • Elaboration: This quote is from Eileen Chang, a famous Chinese-born American essayist, novelist, and screenwriter. We use this quote to offer condolence to a friend who has just broken up with their first love.
  • Additional notes: Chang is one of the best female Chinese writers of all time. Read her books to gain insight on the Chinese view of love and romance!

9. 不如我哋從頭嚟過。

Romanization: bat1 jyu4 ngo5 dei6 cung4 tau4 lei4 gwo3
Literal Translation: “How about we start over again?”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: The message behind this quote is to never take anything for granted.
  • Elaboration: It’s from the movie Happy Together, directed by the famous filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai and featuring the handsome Leslie Cheung. In the movie, the main character lost the love of his life because he did not cherish him when he had the chance to. We may use this quote to try reconciling with an ex, for example.
  • 10. 成世人流流長,總會愛上幾個人渣。

    Romanization: seng4 sai3 jan4 lau4 lau4 coeng4, zung2 wui5 oi3 soeng5 gei2 go3 jan4 zaa1
    Literal Translation: “Life is long, no wonder we would fall in love with a few scoundrels in our lifetimes.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “We are all fools in love.” (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)
    • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from the movie Love in a Puff. We use this quote to console a friend who was betrayed by her lover.
    • Additional notes: You can learn more about love and relationships from a HongKonger’s perspective in the movie Love in a Puff. Check out its trailer!

    11. 世界上最遙遠的距離,不是生與死,而是我站在你面前,你卻不知道我愛你。

    Romanization: sai3 gaai3 soeng6 zeoi3 jiu4 jyun5 dik1 keoi5 lei4, bat1 si6 sang1 jyu5 sei2, ji4 si6 ngo5 zaam6 zoi6 nei5 min6 cin4, nei5 koek3 bat1 zi1 dou3 ngo5 oi3 nei5 
    Literal Translation: “The furthest distance in this world is not life and death. It is that I am standing in front of you, but you don’t know I love you.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “If you love someone, tell them. For hearts are often broken by words left unspoken.” (Stephanie Roogle)
    • Elaboration: This quote is from Hong Kong author Amy Cheung. We use this quote to encourage a friend to express his or her love.
    • Additional notes: Amy Cheung is one of Hong Kong’s most popular writers, and she’s very well-known for her books on love and relationships. She was one of China’s ten richest authors in 2013!

    12. 情場不是超級市場,請勿薄利多銷。

    Romanization: cing4 coeng4 bat1 si6 ciu1 kap1 si5 coeng4, cing2 mat6 bok6 lei6 do1 siu1
    Literal Translation: “The realm of love is not a supermarket; please don’t sell with small profit for quick turnover.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Love is priceless. / Quality over quantity.
    • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from Cantopop lyricist Richard Lam. We use this quote to encourage one to cherish love.

    CantoneseClass101.com has a vocabulary list dedicated to love quotes. Check it out for more bittersweet words on romance! 


    3. Quotes About Wisdom

    Light Bulbs

    What does it mean to be wise, and how is wisdom attained? Here are some Cantonese quotes on the topic to inspire and enlighten you.

    13. 出嚟行,遲早要還 。

    Romanization: ceot1 lei4 haang4, ci4 zou2 jiu3 waan4
    Literal Translation: “This is expected.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: What goes around comes around.
    • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from the movie Infernal Affairs. We use the quote to let our friends know that we have been expecting the consequences of our actions.
    • Additional notes: Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture, was actually a remake of Infernal Affairs!

    14. 是非只因強出口,煩惱只為強出頭 。

    Romanization: si6 fei1 zi2 jan1 koeng5 ceot1 hau2, faan4 nou5 zi2 wai6 koeng5 ceot1 tau4
    Literal Translation: “Gossip comes from the mouth, trouble comes from the head.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Both gossip and trouble are usually self-created.
    • Elaboration: This is from the famous novel The Smiling, Proud Wanderer, written by Hong Kong Wuxia novelist Louis Cha. These words remind us to stay out of others’ business.
    • Additional notes: Louis Cha is Hong Kong’s most famous writer and his Wuxia novels are well-known in every Chinese community. He’s sold over 100 million copies of his works worldwide, excluding pirated copies. He even has an asteroid named after him!

    15. 就算一張廁紙、一條底褲,都有佢本身嘅用處 。

    Romanization: zau6 syun3 jat1 zoeng1 ci3 zi2, jat1 tiu4 dai2 fu3, dou1 jau5 keoi5 bun2 san1 ge3 jung6 cyu3 
    Literal Translation: “Even toilet paper and an undergarment have their own values.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Everyone is of value.
    • Elaboration: This quote is from Hong Kong filmmaker Stephen Chow’s movie From Beijing with Love. We use the quote to promote the idea of self-worth.
    • Additional notes: This movie is a spoof of the James Bond films, and it contains lots of cultural and satirical elements. 

    16. 和諧唔係一百個人講同一番說話,和諧係一百個人有一百句唔同說話之餘,又互相尊重。 

    Romanization: wo4 haai4 m4 hai6 jat1 baak3 go3 jan4 gong2 tung4 jat1 faan1 syut3 waa6, wo4 haai4 hai6 jat1 baak3 go3 jan4 jau5 jat1 baak3 geoi3 m4 tung4 syut3 waa6 zi1 jyu4, jau6 wu6 soeng1 zyun1 zung6 
    Literal Translation: “Harmony is not 100 people saying the same thing; it is about 100 people saying different things while respecting each other.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” (Bryant H. McGill)
    • Elaboration: This quote is from the Cantonese drama When Heaven Burns. We use the quote to defend ourselves when someone forces his/her opinion on us. We can also use it to encourage someone to embrace new ideas.
    • Additional notes: When Heaven Burns is a unique Cantonese drama in many ways. It centers around the spirit of Rock ‘N’ Roll, humanity, religion, and politics. It gained a strong cult following instantly and was very popular among the younger generation.

    17. 寧可哭得理直氣壯,也不願意笑得鬼鬼祟祟。

    Romanization: ning4 ho2 huk1 dak1 lei5 zik6 hei3 zong3, jaa5 bat1 jyun6 ji3 siu3 dak1 gwai2 gwai2 seoi6 seoi6
    Literal Translation: “I’d rather cry boldly than laugh sneakily.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: The message behind this quote is that we should stand firm for justice.
    • Elaboration: It’s a famous quote from Hong Kong’s award-winning lyricist Albert Leung. We use it to encourage others to embrace and defend justice and righteousness.
    • Additional notes: Almost all HongKongers know at least a few songs written by Albert Leung. He has written over 3500 song lyrics!

    4. Quotes About Success

    A Man Climbing Up a Mountain

    Do you have big plans for the future or concerns about an upcoming project? Maybe one of these Cantonese quotes about success can motivate and encourage you. 

    18. 三個臭皮匠,勝過一個諸葛亮。

    Romanization: saam1 go3 cau3 pei4 zoeng6, sing3 gwo3 jat1 go3 zyu1 got3 loeng6
    Literal Translation: “Three cobblers with their wits combined exceed that of Zhuge Liang.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Two heads are better than one.
    • Elaboration: Zhuge Liang was a very famous military strategist in the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD). His work is often compared to that of Sun Tzu, who wrote The Art of War. We use this quote to promote teamwork.
    • Additional notes: Zhuge Liang is the hero in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one of Chinese literature’s Four Great Classical Novels. It’s a great historical novel written in the fourteenth century—highly recommended!

    19. 賺錢靠機遇,成功靠信譽。

    Romanization: zaan6 cin2 kaau3 gei1 jyu6, sing4 gung1 kaau3 seon3 jyu6
    Literal Translation: “Earning money depends on luck; success depends on trust.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “Honesty is the first chapter of the book Wisdom.” (Thomas Jefferson)
    • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from Hong Kong’s business tycoon Li Ka-Shing, one of the richest men in the world. We can use this quote to emphasize the importance of trust and reputation in achieving ultimate success.
    • Additional notes: As mentioned before, Li Ka-Shing is a magnificent businessman. He’s also very generous in sharing his tips to success!

    20. 當你放下面子賺錢的時候,說明你已經懂事了。當你用錢賺回面子的時候,說明你已經成功了。

    Romanization: dong1 nei5 fong3 haa6 min6 zi2 zaan6 cin2 dik1 si4 hau6, syut3 ming4 nei5 ji5 ging1 dung2 si6 liu5. dong1 nei5 jung6 cin2 zaan6 wui4 min6 zi2 dik1 si4 hau6, syut3 ming4 nei5 ji5 ging1 sing4 gung1 liu5 
    Literal Translation: “When you earn money by letting go of your Face (ego), you have become mature. When you earn your Face (ego) with money, you succeed.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: When ego is lost, limitations are lost.
    • Elaboration: Yet another quote from Hong Kong’s most successful businessman, Li Ka-Shing. We can use this quote to remind someone to let go of their ego.
    • Additional notes: Face,” or in Chinese 面 (min2), is a unique concept in Chinese society. This concept of cultural etiquette in Hong Kong describes one’s status, dignity, and integrity. “Face” can also be thought of as the feeling of being respected and honored by others. 

    See our vocabulary list of success quotes for even more inspiring words! 

    5. Bonus: Quotes About Language Learning

    Fancy diving deeper into Cantonese after learning these interesting and insightful quotes? Then let us share a few language learning quotes with you, too!

    Bonus Quote 1 –

    Chinese Character: 新語言就係新生命。
    Romanization: san1 jyu5 jin4 zau6 hai6 san1 sang1 ming6
    Meaning: A new language is a new life.

    Bonus Quote 2 –

    Chinese Character: 我嘅語言界限就係我個世界嘅界限。
    Romanization: ngo5 ge3 jyu5 jin4 gaai3 haan6 zau6 hai6 ngo5 go3 sai3 gaai3 ge3 gaai3 haan6
    Meaning: The limits of my language are the limits of my world.

    Bonus Quote 3 –

    Chinese Character: 識多一個語言,就擁有多一個靈魂。
    Romanization: sik1 do1 jat1 go3 jyu5 jin4, zau6 jung2 jau5 do1 jat1 go3 ling4 wan4
    Meaning: To have another language is to possess a second soul.

    And of course, we have a list of more language learning quotes for you to study. 

    6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

    With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

    Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

    And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

    Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

    Before you go, let us know in the comments which of these quotes is your favorite, and why! We look forward to hearing from you.

    Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese

Your Guide to Basic Cantonese for Business

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The world of work can be wildly different from one country to another, and when traveling somewhere—either permanently or as a visitor—you’ll have to quickly leave a good impression to make the best of your new business environment. Mastering the local language certainly helps. 

This is just as true for visitors to Hong Kong as it is for visitors to any other country. Even though English is one of the official languages, many local businesses and companies prefer candidates who can speak Cantonese. Knowing even basic Cantonese for business will definitely help you maintain good relationships with your colleagues and business partners!

Can’t wait to put some Cantonese business phrases in your pocket? Keep reading and let CantoneseClass101.com give you a hand! Here, you’ll find the phrases you need with examples to help you navigate Hong Kong’s business world.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Business Words and Phrases in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Nailing a Job Interview
  2. Interacting with Coworkers
  3. Sounding Smart in a Meeting
  4. Handling Business Phone Calls and Emails
  5. Going on a Business Trip
  6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. Nailing a Job Interview

Job Interview

Fancy getting a job in Hong Kong? Learn the Cantonese business phrases below to nail your job interview, and don’t miss our article on How to Find a Job in Hong Kong!

Talking about your university

Chinese Character: 我喺_____畢業。
Romanization: ngo5 hai2 __________ bat1 jip6
Meaning: “I graduated from __________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我喺中⽂⼤學畢業。
  • Romanization: ngo5 hai2 zung1 man4 daai6 hok6 bat1 jip6
  • Meaning: “I graduated from The Chinese University of Hong Kong.”

Talking about your major

Chinese Character: 我主修_____。
Romanization: ngo5 zyu2 sau1 __________
Meaning: “I majored in __________.”

Example  

  • Chinese Character: 我主修數學。
  • Romanization: ngo5 zyu2 sau1 sou3 hok6
  • Meaning: “I majored in mathematics.”

Talking about your current job

Chinese Character: 直⾄現時為⽌,我係_____嘅_____。
Romanization: zik6 zi3 jin6 si4 wai4 zi2, ngo5 hai6 ______ ge3 ______
Meaning: “Until now, I have been working as ______ at ______.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 直⾄現時為⽌,我係ABC公司嘅會計。
  • Romanization: zik6 zi3 jin6 si4 wai4 zi2, ngo5 hai6 ABC gung1 si1 ge3 wui6 gai3
  • Meaning: “Until now, I have been working as an accountant at ABC Company.”

Talking about your work experience

Chinese Character: 我仲做過_____。
Romanization: ngo5 zung6 zou6 gwo3 _________
Meaning: “I also have experience as a(n)__________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我仲做過項目經理。
  • Romanization: ngo5 zung6 zou6 gwo3 hong6 muk6 ging1 lei5
  • Meaning: “I also have experience as a project manager.”

Talking about your desire to make the move

Chinese Character: 因為我想_____。
Romanization: jan1 wai6 ngo5 soeng2_____
Meaning: “Because I want to_____.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 因為我想增值⾃己。
  • Romanization: jan1 wai6 ngo5 soeng2 zang1 zik6 zi6 gei2
  • Meaning: “Because I want to progress (myself).”

Talking about why you want to work for the company

Chinese Character: 我鍾意_____,同埋想嘗試其他嘢。
Romanization: ngo5 zung1 ji3_____, tung4 maai4 soeng2 soeng4 si3 kei4 taa1 je5.
Meaning: “I like_____, and I wanted to try something else.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我鍾意接受挑戰,同埋想嘗試其他嘢。
  • Romanization: ngo5 zung1 ji3 zip3 sau6 tiu1 zin3, tung4 maai4 soeng2 soeng4 si3 kei4 taa1 je5
  • Meaning: “I like challenges, and I wanted to try something else.”

2. Interacting with Coworkers

A Group of People Chatting

Want to connect with your coworkers or business partners in Hong Kong? In this section, we’ll cover some Cantonese business language for communicating with your coworkers, both in the workplace and out! 

Starting a conversation when you haven’t talked in a while

Chinese Character: 近排點呀?
Romanization: gan6 paai4 dim2 aa3
Meaning: “How’s it going recently?”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 早晨呀,Tim, 近排點呀? 
  • Romanization: zou2 san4 aa3, Tim, gan6 paai4 dim2 aa3
  • Meaning: “Good morning Tim, how’s it going recently?”

Inquiring about that person’s team at work

Chinese Character: 你條Team最近忙咩呀?
Romanization: nei5 tiu4 Team zeoi3 gan6 mong4 me1 aa3
Meaning: “What is your team busy with recently?”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 好耐冇見,你條Team最近忙咩呀?
  • Romanization: hou2 noi6 mou5 gin3, nei5 tiu4 Team zeoi3 gan6 mong4 me1 aa3
  • Meaning: “It’s been a while since we last met. What is your team busy with recently?”

Telling them where you’re headed

Chinese Character: 我要去_____。
Romanization: ngo5 jiu3 heoi3  ______
Meaning: “I am going to  ______.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我要去會議室。
  • Romanization: ngo5 jiu3 heoi3 wui6 ji5 sat1
  • Meaning: “I am going to the meeting room.”

Telling them what you like

Chinese Character: 我鍾意_____。
Romanization: ngo5 zung1 ji3 _________
Meaning: “I like__________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我鍾意藍色。
  • Romanization: ngo5 zung1 ji3 laam4 sik1
  • Meaning: “I like the color blue.”

Telling them what you don’t like

Chinese Character: 我唔鍾意_____。
Romanization: ngo5 m4 zung1 ji3_____
Meaning: “I don’t like_____.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我唔鍾意呢個project。
  • Romanization: ngo5 m4 zung1 ji3 ni1 go3 project
  • Meaning: “I don’t like this project.”

Letting your coworker know that you’re leaving

Chinese Character: 我走先喇。
Romanization: ngo5 zau2 sin1 laa3
Meaning: “I have to go now.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我走先喇,聽日見!
  • Romanization: ngo5 zau2 sin1 laa3, ting1 jat6 gin3
  • Meaning: “I have to go now, see you tomorrow!”
Business Phrases

3. Sounding Smart in a Meeting

Share your ideas and opinions with team members by using some practical Cantonese for business meetings!

Giving suggestions

Chinese Character: 你應該_____。
Romanization: nei5 jing1 goi1_____
Meaning: “You should_____.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 你應該接受挑戰。
  • Romanization: nei5 jing1 goi1 zip3 sau6 tiu1 zin3
  • Meaning: “You should accept the challenge.”

Commenting on a suggestion

Chinese Character: 你嘅建議_____。
Romanization: nei5 ge3 gin3 ji5_____
Meaning: “Your suggestion_____.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 你嘅建議不獲採納。
  • Romanization: nei5 ge3 gin3 ji5 bat1 wok6 coi2 naap6
  • Meaning: “Your suggestion was not accepted.”

Expressing your opinion

Chinese Character: 我認為_____。
Romanization: ngo5 jing6 wai4  ______
Meaning: “I think  ______.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我認為我哋要擴展服務供應。
  • Romanization: ngo5 jing6 wai4 ngo5 dei6 jiu3 kong3 zin2 fuk6 mou6 gung1 jing3
  • Meaning: “I think that we should broaden our offer.”

Showing your agreement

Chinese Character: 我同意_____。
Romanization: ngo5 tung4 ji3 _________
Meaning: “I agree (with) __________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我同意你嘅⽅案,我哋應該喺尖沙咀開分店。
  • Romanization: ngo5 tung4 ji3 nei5 ge3 fong1 on3, ngo5 dei6 jing1 goi1 hai2 zim1 saa1 zeoi2 hoi1 fan1 dim3
  • Meaning: “I agree with your proposal that we should open a branch in Tsim Sha Tsui.”

Showing your disagreement

Chinese Character: 我嘅諗法唔同。
Romanization: ngo5 ge3 lam2 faat3 m4 tung4
Meaning: “I have a different opinion.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我嘅諗法唔同,我哋要有新嘢畀個市場。
  • Romanization: ngo5 ge3 lam2 faat3 m4 tung4, ngo5 dei6 jiu3 jau5 san1 je5 bei2 go3 si5 coeng4
  • Meaning: “I would not agree with you. We have to bring something new to the market.”

Providing feedback on a suggestion

Chinese Character: 聽起嚟_____。
Romanization: teng1 hei2 lei4 _________
Meaning: “Sounds like _________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 聽起嚟有啲複雜。
  • Romanization: teng1 hei2 lei4 jau5 di1 fuk1 zaap6
  • Meaning: “This sounds a little bit complicated.”

4. Handling Business Phone Calls and Emails

A Lady Having a Phone Call at Work

Now, let’s go over some useful phrases to help you do business in Cantonese over the phone or through email.

Picking up the phone

Chinese Character: 聽電話
Romanization: teng1 din6 waa2
Meaning: “to pick up the phone”

Example 

  • Chinese Character:  ⼀聽到電話響,⽴即聽電話。
  • Romanization: jat1 teng1 dou2 din6 waa2 hoeng2, laap6 zik1 teng1 din6 waa2
  • Meaning: “Once you hear the telephone ring, please pick up the phone immediately.”

Introducing yourself over the phone

Chinese Character: 喂,我係_____。
Romanization: wai2, ngo5 hai6 _________
Meaning: “Hello, this is__________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 喂,我係日新公司嘅李家明。
  • Romanization: wai2, ngo5 hai6 jat6 san1 gung1 si1 ge3 lei5 gaa1 ming4
  • Meaning: “Hello, this is Sun New company’s Li Ka Ming.”

Letting the other person know what you’d like to discuss

Chinese Character: 我想傾下_____。
Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 king1 haa5_____
Meaning: “I want to discuss_____.”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 我想傾吓啲細節。
  • Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 king1 haa5 dik1 sai3 zit3
  • Meaning: “I want to discuss the details.”

Asking if there’s anything else

Chinese Character: 仲有冇其他嘢?
Romanization: zung6 jau5 mou5 kei4 taa1 je5
Meaning: “Anything else?”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 仲有冇其他嘢我可以幫到你?
  • Romanization: zung6 jau5 mou5 kei4 taa1 je5 ngo5 ho2 ji5 bong1 dou2 nei5
  • Meaning: “Is there anything else I can do to help?”

Replying to an email

Chinese Character: 覆電郵
Romanization: fuk1 din6 jau4
Meaning: “to reply to an email”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我嘅主要工‎作係覆電郵。
  • Romanization: ngo5 ge3 zyu2 jiu3 gung1 zok3 hai6 fuk1 din6 jau4
  • Meaning: “My main task is to reply to emails.”

Greeting someone in an email

Chinese Character: _____你好:
Romanization: _____nei5 hou2
Meaning: “Hello _____,”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 陳先生你好:
  • Romanization: can4 sin1 saang1 nei5 hou2
  • Meaning: “Hello Mr. Chan,”

Thanking someone for his/her support

Chinese Character: 感謝你的支持。
Romanization: gam2 ze6 nei5 dik1 zi1 ci4
Meaning: “Thank you for your support.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我們非常感謝你的支持。
  • Romanization: ngo5 mun4 fei1 soeng4 gam2 ze6 nei5 dik1 zi1 ci4
  • Meaning: “We appreciate your support a lot.”

Asking for a meeting

Chinese Character: 我想約_____開會。
Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 joek3 _________ hoi1 wui2
Meaning: “I would like to set up a meeting for _________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我想約星期⼀開會。
  • Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 joek3 sing1 kei4 jat1 hoi1 wui2
  • Meaning: “I would like to set up a meeting for Monday.”

5. Going on a Business Trip

Business Trip

If you’re traveling to Hong Kong for work, memorize these phrases to successfully navigate your business trip in Cantonese!

Checking in with a reservation

Chinese Character: 訂咗房。
Romanization: deng6 zo2 fong2
Meaning: “(I’ve) made a reservation.”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 我姓張,已經訂咗房。
  • Romanization: ngo5 sing3 zoeng1, ji5 ging1 deng6 zo2 fong2
  • Meaning: “I have a reservation under Cheung.”

Asking about room vacancy

Chinese Character: 今晚有冇房?
Romanization: gam1 maan1 jau5 mou5 fong2
Meaning: “Do you have a vacant room for tonight?”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 你好,今晚有冇房?
  • Romanization: nei5 hou2, gam1 maan1 jau5 mou5 fong2
  • Meaning: “Hello, do you have a vacant room for tonight?”

Asking for guidelines/permission

Chinese Character: 我可唔可以_____?
Romanization: ngo5 ho2 m4 ho2 ji5_____
Meaning: “Can I_____?”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 我可唔可以用商務中心?
  • Romanization: ngo5 ho2 m4 ho2 ji5 jung6 soeng1 mou6 zung1 sam1
  • Meaning: “Can I use the business center?”

Checking out

Chinese Character: 退房
Romanization: teoi3 fong2
Meaning: “check out”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 唔該,我想退房。
  • Romanization: m4 goi1, ngo5 soeng2 teoi3 fong2
  • Meaning: “Excuse me, I would like to check out.”

Expressing your needs

Chinese Character: 我要_____。
Romanization: ngo5 jiu3_____
Meaning: “I need_____.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我要間非吸煙單⼈房。
  • Romanization: ngo5 jiu3 gaan1 fei1 kap1 jin1 daan1 jan4 fong2
  • Meaning: “I would like to have a non-smoking single room.”

Asking for directions

Chinese Character: _____ 喺邊度?
Romanization: _________ hai2 bin1 dou6
Meaning: “Where is _________?”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 會議室喺邊度?
  • Romanization: wui6 ji5 sat1 hai2 bin1 dou6
  • Meaning: “Where is the meeting room?”

6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

Now that you’ve learned the basic business phrases, are you interested in picking up even more Cantonese? 

With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there are any business phrases or situations we didn’t cover. We’ll do our best to help you out.

Happy learning, and good luck with your business endeavors!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Business Words and Phrases in Cantonese

Learn Cantonese: YouTube Channels You’ll Love Learning With

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Learning Cantonese can be a real headache—after all, with nine tones and 20k+ characters, Cantonese is one of the most difficult languages to master! But, with the right tools, you can certainly learn Cantonese a lot quicker and more effectively. 

Did you know that in your search for effective Cantonese lessons, YouTube can be an excellent resource? 

Just think of all those nights aimlessly scrolling through YouTube videos, watching one after another. Before you know it, it’s three in the morning and…what time was your alarm clock set for? 

What if you could combine YouTube and language learning to get the best of both worlds? Faster progress and endless entertainment!

As a learner myself, I strongly believe in the power of exposure for language acquisition, and how immersing yourself in Cantonese can help you more than any grammar lesson ever could. Absorbing a variety of media in Cantonese is the best way to effortlessly become more fluent.

In this article, I’ll present you with the best Cantonese YouTubers and channels for language learners in 2020. I’ve made sure to include channels in a variety of categories, from language learning to cooking and lifestyle vlogs. When coupled with the CantoneseClass101 YouTube channel (which I’ll talk more about later), these channels can give you everything you need to immerse yourself in Cantonese and make quick progress.

Enough talk. Here’s our list of the best Cantonese YouTube channels for learners!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. CarlosDouh
  2. 張媽媽廚房Mama Cheung
  3. hongkongmap
  4. MTR Hong Kong
  5. MIHK VLOG
  6. Leave Your Mark
  7. Alfred Chan
  8. 文子MtzCherry
  9. 果籽
  10. Learn Cantonese with CantoneseClass101.com
  11. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. CarlosDouh

Category: Language
Level: Beginner – Intermediate

CarlosDouh makes interesting videos about the Cantonese language and Hong Kong culture. He mainly teaches Cantonese slang—in a very engaging way. I couldn’t help but keep cracking up when browsing through his videos. I recommend this channel for beginners and intermediate level learners, as his videos are easy to follow and he normally introduces just one slang word per video. 

Check out his video on 公主病 (gung1 zyu2 beng6) to find out what this phrase means!

2. 張媽媽廚房Mama Cheung

Category: Lifestyle (cooking)
Level: Intermediate

On this delightful Cantonese cooking YouTube channel, Mama Cheung teaches you how to cook homestyle Hong Kong dishes, so you can learn how to cook and speak at the same time. Most of her videos have English subtitles, and she posts a new video every Thursday. Definitely stay tuned with the Mama Cheung channel if you’re a foodie like me! 

In the meantime, check out how to make Tomato Tofu Soup and get a taste of homestyle Cantonese soup.

3. hongkongmap

Category: Travel
Level: (Upper) Intermediate

This channel offers a virtual guided tour of Hong Kong by a local. Although most of the videos don’t have subtitles, it’s a wonderful way to learn more about the glamourous city from a more local perspective. If you’re interested in exploring the culture, lives of ordinary citizens, and unique places to visit, we highly recommend giving this channel a try. 

Check out one of the local tours and see if it suits you!

4. MTR Hong Kong

Category: Transport
Level: Intermediate

This is an informative channel about the Mass Transit Railway (MTR), the most used public transportation system in Hong Kong. With both Chinese and English subtitles, these videos are a good way to learn both the language and a bit more about one of the world’s best transport systems! Most of the videos are short enough to finish in one sitting—a great way to learn Cantonese if you only have a little bit of time. 

Watch this video to see what MTR has done in light of COVID-19.

5. MIHK VLOG

Category: Lifestyle / Video Blog
Level: (Upper) Intermediate

This channel features vlogs recorded by local teenagers. It’s a great platform for learning more about the youth culture in Hong Kong (and having a good laugh). Better yet, some of the videos have both Cantonese and English subtitles, something that will be very convenient for language learners. 

Watch their Hong Kong-style Pick-Up Line Challenge and see who these Cantonese YouTubers end up with!

6. Leave Your Mark

Category: Documentary
Level: Advanced

If you’re looking to watch something deep and serious, LeaveYourMark is right where you need to be. You can find in-depth interviews with some famous Hong Kongers, where they share their stories and beliefs. 

See what the famous songwriter 恭碩良 (gung1 sek6 loeng4) has to share!

7. Alfred Chan

Category: Lifestyle / Reviews
Level: Advanced

Do you need ideas on where to treat yourself in Hong Kong? This channel largely focuses on things like game and gadget reviews, as well as reviews for famous Hong Kong restaurants. Keep in mind that there are no subtitles, so the video could be a bit difficult for new Cantonese learners to understand. 

Check out this review on Felix, a restaurant in one of the most prestigious hotels in Hong Kong (the Peninsula Hotel), to see if you enjoy Alfred’s channel!

8. 文子MtzCherry

Category: Lifestyle / Vlog
Level: Beginner / Intermediate

This is a fun combination channel, hosted by a local teen giving out Cantonese tutorials and discussing life in Hong Kong. She also does a few vlog-style videos about her own life. Most of the videos have both Cantonese and English subtitles, which is perfect for language learners! Even if you’re just starting out, you’ll be able to enjoy her content and learn something new.

Watch her Cantonese lesson on hygiene to learn about how to stay clean and healthy in Hong Kong.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuD8H2xSFJ8

9. 果籽

Category: Lifestyle
Level: Advanced

Here’s another channel with a variety of content. This local media channel covers a wide range of lifestyle topics: health, travel, food, personal stories, and more. There are Cantonese subtitles, but because the content is made for locals, they might speak a bit fast. Nonetheless, it’s a marvelous way to keep abreast of what’s going on in Hong Kong. 

Check out their video on the five most famous dogs in Hong Kong and learn their stories!

10. Learn Cantonese with CantoneseClass101.com

Category: Language
Level: All levels

If you’re not sure where to start your Cantonese learning journey, or want some help polishing your skills, visit the CantoneseClass101 YouTube channel. We have numerous videos for every skill level on a variety of topics: vocabulary, grammar, culture, and more! You can easily find just what you need by browsing through our categorized playlists. 

Want a sample of what to expect? Learn more about the Buddha’s holiday with CantoneseClass101.com!

11. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

Want to step up your Cantonese after watching our YouTube videos?

With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

Before you go, we’d love to hear what your favorite Cantonese YouTube channel is! Let us know in the comments.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese

How to Say Goodbye in Cantonese

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Do you want to leave a dashing and lasting impression after meeting someone new? It’s time to work on your grand exit! Earlier on this blog, you learned the various ways to say hello. Now it’s time to study how to say goodbye in Cantonese when it’s time to part ways. 

A proper goodbye shows courtesy and respect, and helps you hone your relationships. This is especially true in Asian societies like Hong Kong, where we value politeness, good manners, and filial piety.

There are many ways to say goodbye depending on the situation. In this article, we’ll cover the most common ways to say goodbye in Cantonese so you can be ready for any situation.

What are you waiting for? Start with a bonus, and download the Must-Know Beginner Vocabulary PDF for FREE! (Logged-In Member Only)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. The Most Common Way to Say Goodbye
  2. Specific Ways to Say Goodbye
  3. Gestures for Saying Goodbye
  4. Bonus: More Examples!
  5. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. The Most Common Way to Say Goodbye

Most Common Goodbyes

The most common way to say goodbye in Cantonese is: 拜拜.

Literal Translation: bye bye
Meaning: bye
Romanization: baai1 baai3
Explanation: This is the most common phrase for saying “bye” when we part ways, and it can be used in a variety of situations.

Example Conversation

Elizabeth: 
今日傾得好開心,可惜我有嘢做要走先喇。
gam1 jat6 king1 dak1 hou2 hoi1 sam1, ho2 sik1 ngo5 jau5 je5 zou6 jiu3 zau2 sin1 laa3
“It’s great chatting with you; it’s a pity I need to head off now.”

Charlotte: 
拜拜。
baai1 baai3
“Bye.”

2. Specific Ways to Say Goodbye

A Man Saying Bye to His Family

There are many other ways to say bye in Cantonese apart from 拜拜 (baai1 baai3). We’ll cover nine more popular Cantonese goodbye expressions below so that you’ll be able to make a good exit in any scenario!

1 – Goodbye. (Formal)

Chinese Character: 再見
Literal Translation: again see
Meaning: goodbye
Romanization: zoi3 gin3

Example Conversation 

Fitzwilliam: 
我好攰,想休息下,再見。
ngo5 hou2 gui6, soeng2 jau1 sik1 haa5, zoi3 gin3
“I am tired and would like to take a rest. Goodbye.”

William: 
再見。
zoi3 gin3
“Goodbye.”

2 – See you later.

Chinese Character: 遲啲見
Literal Translation: later see
Meaning: See you later. 
Romanization: ci4 di1 gin3
Note: This phrase is normally used when you plan on seeing each other within the next week.

Example Conversation 

Jane: 
多謝你安排呢個舞會。
do1 ze6 nei5 on1 paai4 ni1 go3 mou5 wui2
“Thank you for organizing the Ball.”

Charles: 
遲啲見。
ci4 di1 gin3
“See you (later).”

3 – See you next time.

Chinese Character: 下次見
Literal Translation: next time see
Meaning: See you (the next time we meet).
Romanization: haa6 ci3 gin3

Example Conversation 

George: 
今日玩得好開心,下次見。
gam1 jat6 waan2 dak1 hou2 hoi1 sam1, haa6 ci3 gin3
“We had a great time today, see you.”

Lydia: 
下次見。
haa6 ci3 gin3
“See you.”

4 – See you (at a specific time).

Chinese Character: (specific time) 見
Literal Translation: (specific time) see
Meaning: See you (at a specific time).
Romanization: (specific time) gin3

Example Conversation 

Elizabeth: 
我好期待聽日終於可以見到你細妹。
ngo5 hou2 kei4 doi6 ting1 jat6 zung1 jyu1 ho2 ji5 gin3 dou2 nei5 sai3 mui2
“I look forward to finally getting to know your sister tomorrow.”

Fitzwilliam: 
咁聽日見。
gam2 ting1 jat6 gin3
“See you tomorrow, then.”

Goodbye Kiss

5 – Take care.

Chinese Character: 保重
Literal Translation: keep important
Meaning: Take care.
Romanization: bou2 zung6

Example Conversation 

Jane: 
我要去一去倫敦,可能要留三個月。
ngo5 jiu3 heoi3 jat1 heoi3 leon4 deon1, ho2 nang4 jiu3 lau4 saam1 go3 jyut6
“I need to go to London and probably have to stay there for three months.”

Elizabeth: 
保重。
bou2 zung6
“Take care.”

6 – I gotta run.

Chinese Character: 我要走先喇
Literal Translation: I need go first 
Meaning: I gotta run.
Romanization: ngo5 jiu3 zau2 sin1 laa3

Example Conversation 

Lydia: 
我要走先喇。
ngo5 jiu3 zau2 sin1 laa3
“I gotta run.”

Catherine: 
好啦,拜拜。
hou2 laa1, baai1 baai3
“Alright. Bye.”

7 – Have a great one.

Chinese Character: 一切順利
Literal Translation: All well and good.
Meaning: Have a great one. / Good luck.
Romanization: jat1 cai3 seon6 lei6

Example Conversation 

Fitzwilliam: 
我有嘢做要離開屋企一陣。
ngo5 jau5 je5 zou6 jiu3 lei4 hoi1 uk1 kei2 jat1 zan6
“I have some business and will be away from home for a while.”

Giorgiana: 
一切順利。
jat1 cai3 seon6 lei6
“Good luck.”

8 – Keep in touch.

Chinese Character: 保持聯絡
Literal Translation: Keep contact
Meaning: Keep in touch.
Romanization: bou2 ci4 lyun4 lok3

Example Conversation 

Jane: 
好可惜你哋要搬走。
hou2 ho2 sik1 nei5 dei6 jiu3 bun1 zau2
“It’s a pity that you guys are moving away.”

Caroline: 
保持聯絡。
bou2 ci4 lyun4 lok3
“Keep in touch.”

9 – Texting “Bye”

Character: 88
Meaning: “bye” for informal texting purposes (“8” in Cantonese sounds like “bye,” and it’s easy to type.)
Romanization: baat3 baat3

Example Conversation 

Jane: 
我約咗人唔傾喇。
ngo5 joek3 zo2 jan4 m4 king1 laa3
“I am meeting a friend, let’s chat later.”

Elizabeth: 
88
“Bye.”

Want more? We have a separate vocabulary list of how to say goodbye in Cantonese so you can learn useful phrases more easily! 

3. Gestures for Saying Goodbye

Now that you know a few key phrases, there’s one more question we’d like to answer: How do you say goodbye in Hong Kong? 

In some Western cultures, you might kiss, hug, or shake hands with someone when it’s time to part ways. But in Hong Kong, we generally just say the parting words, possibly followed by a gentle wave. Local Cantonese do not like touches in general—and kisses on the cheek are a big NO.

Handshake in Business Settings

If you’re in a business setting where you need to give a formal farewell, a firm handshake will do the job just fine.

4. Bonus: More Examples!

a group of colleagues

We have more examples for you! Read the following dialogue between two colleagues, 馬家輝 (maa5 gaa1 fai1) and 張麗珊 (zoeng1 lai6 saan1). They’re good friends in the office, and 馬家輝 is about to leave.

Example dialogue 

馬家輝: 
我走先喇!
ngo5 zau2 sin1 laa3
“I am leaving.”

張麗珊: 
點解咁早走嘅?
dim2 gaai2 gam3 zou2 zau2 ge2
“Why are you leaving so early?”

馬家輝: 
我已經做晒啲嘢,咪返屋企囉!你都唔好成日加班喇。
ngo5 ji5 ging1 zou6 saai3 di1 je5, mai6 faan2 uk1 kei2 lo1. nei5 dou1 m4 hou2 seng4 jat6 gaa1 baan1 laa3
“I have finished my work, so I am heading home. You shouldn’t work overtime so often.”

張麗珊: 
講就容易。
gong2 zau6 jung4 ji6
“It’s easier said than done.”

馬家輝: 
你仲有好多嘢要做?你需唔需要幫手?
nei5 zung6 jau5 hou2 do1 je5 jiu3 zou6? nei5 seoi1 m4 seoi1 jiu3 bong1 sau2?
“Do you still have a lot of work? Do you need help?”

張麗珊: 
唔緊要啦,我自己搞得掂。
m4 gan2 jiu3 laa1, ngo5 zi6 gei2 gaau2 dak1 dim6
“It’s alright, I can take care of it.”

馬家輝: 
咁好啦,聽日見。辛苦晒喇。
gam2 hou2 laa1, ting1 jat6 gin3. san1 fu2 saai3 laa3
“Alright then, see you tomorrow. Thanks for your hard work.”

張麗珊: 
拜拜。
baai1 baai3
“Bye.”

Explanatory notes on the key vocabulary 

VocabularyRomanizationMeaning
走先zau2 sin1to leave early; to leave now
點解dim2 gaai2why
zou2 early
屋企uk1 kei2home
成日seng4 jat6all of the time; always
加班gaa1 baan1to work overtime
容易jung4 ji6easy; simple
需要seoi1 jiu3 need
幫手bong1 sau2help
緊要gan2 jiu3matter
dim6satisfactory; in good order
聽日ting1 jat6tomorrow
gin3to see

We hope the conversation above helped you better understand how to say bye in Cantonese! If you would like to read and listen to more useful examples, do check out our lesson on Saying Goodbye When You Leave Your Job in Hong Kong.

5. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

Now that you’ve learned your basic “hellos” and “goodbyes,” do you fancy learning more Cantonese?

With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

Before you go, let us know how you say goodbye in your language! We look forward to hearing from you.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese

Is Cantonese Hard to Learn?

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You might have heard stories about how difficult it is to learn Cantonese. After all, Cantonese is a tonal language with its own writing system based on 3000 to 4000 Chinese characters!

Even though Cantonese sounds complicated, and is certainly different from European languages such as English and Italian, it’s not that hard to master when you’re using the right tools and approach. So is Cantonese hard to learn? As with learning any other language, you just need to put in time, effort, and of course, your passion!

In this article, we’ll cover the easiest and hardest parts of Cantonese, talk about why you should learn the language, and tell you how to learn it effectively!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Cantonese in a Nutshell
  2. Learning Cantonese – The Easiest Part
  3. Learning Cantonese – The Hardest Part
  4. Why Cantonese?
  5. I Want to Learn Cantonese. Where Should I Start?
  6. Why is CantoneseClass101 Great for Learning Cantonese?

1. Cantonese in a Nutshell

Hong Kong’s Flag
  • Cantonese is spoken in Guangdong Province of China, as well as in Hong Kong, Macao, and Southeast Asia. 
  • Cantonese originated from the city of Guangzhou, which is the capital of Guangdong Province (traditionally known as Canton). 
  • Cantonese is referred to as 廣東話 (gwong2 dung1 wa2), literally meaning “Guangdong dialect,” or 粵語 (jyut6 jyu5), meaning Yue speech.”
  • There are a total of 73 million Cantonese-speakers all over the world.

2. Learning Cantonese – The Easiest Part

Thumbs Up

Cantonese is straightforward!

For example, Cantonese grammar rules are simpler than those of many other languages. We don’t have tenses (past, future, past perfect, etc.) like English, nor do we have grammatical gender like French.

Also, we’re quite direct when expressing ourselves. Many Cantonese-learners, in an attempt to translate what is polite in their own language, actually make a mess of a sentence in Cantonese by adding a lot of unnecessary words. 

For example, take this sentence: “Would you mind going to the store for me please?”

  • A native Cantonese-speaker would ask: 你去士多? (nei5 heoi3 si6 do1)
  • Literal translation of 你去士多: “You go store?”

Many westerners find it strange to be so concise, since this would feel rude to say in English. But finding places to add superfluous words (such as “please” and other common English niceties) is unnecessary. Cantonese is direct!

3. Learning Cantonese – The Hardest Part

A Troubled Student

Pronunciation!

This is a major Cantonese language difficulty that many new learners face.

You probably know already that Cantonese doesn’t use an alphabetical writing system like English does. Instead, it uses characters that are composed of parts that depict physical objects or abstract ideas. Further, there are no concrete rules for how a character should be pronounced based on its appearance.

What makes Cantonese even more different from many European languages is that Cantonese is a tonal language. The meaning of a word can change depending on the pitch that’s used, even if the pronunciation is the same. People not familiar with this tonal system may be easily confused and think that certain tones sound identical! 

This problem of perception is perhaps why Cantonese is so hard to learn, especially considering that there are nine tones in Cantonese (compared to four tones in Mandarin).

If you’ve been learning Cantonese for any length of time, you may know by now that we use a romanization system called “Jyutping.” This system consists of two components: “pronunciation” followed by a “tone number, to notate the sound of a word. Be mindful that even if the “pronunciation” of two or more words is identical, the meaning of the words can be very different if they use different “tone numbers.”

For example:

Chinese CharacterRomanizationMeaning
baa1“bus”
baa2“handle”
baa6“cease”

As you can see, changing the pitch pattern can have a huge impact on a word’s meaning!

4. Why Cantonese?

Have you ever heard of Bruce Lee? Jackie Chan? Chow Yun-fat? Well, they all came from Hong Kong!

There are countless reasons why you should learn Cantonese.

By learning Cantonese, you’ll be providing yourself with new opportunities. As you strengthen your language skills and learn more about Cantonese culture, you’ll start to find that you’re able to better navigate life and take advantage of more opportunities in the workplace—and the world! Traveling to or doing business in Hong Kong will no longer be a far-away dream, but rather a very possible reality. You’ll even have the freedom to move to Hong Kong or Macao to earn a living, or better yet, build a career using your newfound skills—instead of being stuck in one place. 

Hong Kong is one of the world’s most significant financial centers! It has the highest Financial Development Index score and it was ranked as the world’s most competitive economy, as well as the freest market economy, in the world. Being familiar with the Cantonese language, culture, and business environment can be key in settling important negotiations or making major deals.

A Couple Reading Maps

Will you be traveling for pleasure instead? Well, a solid understanding of Cantonese can make your experience in the local Hong Kong markets, rural areas, and restaurants so much smoother and a lot more fun! 

Another great benefit of learning Cantonese is that it will give you the opportunity to grow and look at the world with a more open mind. For instance, take a look at Cantonese pop culture! Many of the movies, dramas, and songs that are loved by people from all over the world were created in Hong Kong. Not everything gets translated, either. So unless you know Cantonese, you’re missing out on a lot of the amazing things that Cantonese pop culture has to offer.

Career growth, smooth travels, personal enlightenment…but that’s not all! Studies have shown that studying another language can improve memory and keep one’s brain in good condition. This, in turn, may prevent early onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia, giving the language-learner up to five additional years of quality life to live! 

5. I Want to Learn Cantonese. Where Should I Start?

Question Marks

1. Learn the romanization.

Pronunciation might be hard, but with the romanization system, you’ll be able to learn the correct pronunciation of a word. This way, you don’t have to keep guessing and going over your vocabulary nonstop! 

Literacy in Cantonese requires the memorization of thousands of components and characters, which can be quite daunting for new Cantonese-learners. To start learning the sounds of Cantonese without the baggage of characters, Cantonese jyutping (also referred to as Cantonese romanization) comes in. This is essentially a way to help translate Cantonese pronunciation into English pronunciation.

2.  Focus on speaking.

Many Cantonese beginners find it tempting to learn both reading and writing at the same time. But we believe that it may be better to start learning how to speak before you get into reading and writing at all! This will keep you from using up all of your mental energy and getting burned out at the beginning of your studies, and provide a more solid base for your language studies.

As mentioned earlier, there are thousands of Cantonese characters, and they were created based on abstract ideas. It takes a long time to gradually memorize and become familiar with all of them. Instead, focus on speaking first. Master it. This will also give you a chance to practice speaking with locals! 

3. Practice makes perfect.

The truth is that the only way you’re going to get a standard accent, well-ordered sentences, and a better understanding of tones is by speaking. So just get out there and practice! Even if you make a mistake, Cantonese people can usually guess what you’re saying, especially when there’s context. And if they can’t understand, there’s always charades. 

And of course, you need a good teacher to guide you and provide the resources you need—and that’s where CantoneseClass101.com comes in!

6. Why is CantoneseClass101 Great for Learning Cantonese?

CantoneseClass101.com

With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced-repetition flashcards, and a lively community to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese-learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

Before you go, we would love to hear your thoughts on learning Cantonese! What Cantonese difficulty do you face the most? Do you feel ready to start (or continue) learning, or do you still have questions or concerns?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Cantonese

The Most Common Cantonese Mistakes You Make When Learning

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Everybody makes mistakes. And yes, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll make mistakes while learning a new language, especially one as difficult as Cantonese

Making mistakes is no big deal—as you come closer to fluency in a language, you’ll have the time to figure out what mistakes you’re still making and how to address them. And that’s exactly what this guide is about.

In this article, we’ll list the most common Cantonese mistakes people make when learning  the language, covering a wide range of categories from pronunciation to word order. By the end of this article, you should be able to spot many mistakes, some of which are very easy to fix!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Pronunciation Mistakes
  2. Vocabulary Word Mistakes
  3. Word Order Mistakes
  4. Grammar Mistakes
  5. Another Big Mistake in Cantonese
  6. The Biggest Mistake: Being Afraid of Making Mistakes in Cantonese!
  7. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. Pronunciation Mistakes 

A Man Pronouncing Words, Literally

Mistake #1: Using the wrong tones

Most learners aren’t familiar with tonal languages like Cantonese. In tonal languages, the meaning of a word can change depending on the pitch, even if the pronunciation remains the same. To people who don’t speak a tonal language, some tones may sound identical! This problem of perception is perhaps the most difficult part of learning a language like Cantonese.

If you’ve learned even a little bit of Cantonese, you probably know by now that we can use a romanization system called “Jyutping,” which consists of two components: “pronunciation,” followed by a “tone number.” Be mindful that even if the “pronunciation” of two or more words is identical, the meaning of the words can be very different if they have different “tone numbers.”

For example:

Chinese CharacterRomanizationMeaning
baa1“bus”
baa2“handle”
baa6“cease”

As you can see, changing the pitch can have a huge impact on the meaning! Always keep your eye and ear out for changes in tone and pitch to avoid a confusing mistake in Cantonese. 

Mistake #2: Mixing up J and Y in the Jyutping system

The Jyutping romanization system is a bit different from English, and one of the most confusing aspects of it is the J consonant. Although it’s represented as a J, it actually sounds like an English Y. So whenever you see the letter J in Jyutping, remember that it’s pronounced as a Y sound.

For example:

Chinese CharacterRomanizationMeaning
jau5“have”
ji3“two”
jyun4“dollar”

Mistake #3: Mispronouncing the C and Z consonants

The Cantonese C sounds a bit like a TS sound, like in “tsunami.” But unlike with the traditional TS sound in English, try to emphasize the T more than the S in Cantonese. Pronouncing it quickly may sometimes help with pronouncing the Cantonese C properly. Lastly, you want to release a burst of turbulent air when you’re pronouncing this sound.

The Cantonese Z sound is identical to that of the Cantonese C, except that you do not produce a burst of air. It has a strong DZ sound.

For example:

Chinese CharacterRomanizationMeaning
cin1“thousand”
cau1“draw”
ciu3“pretty”
zin1“fry”
zau1(common last name)
ziu3“shine”

2. Vocabulary Word Mistakes

A Dictionary

Mistake #4: Mixing up 咗 (zo2) and 過 (gwo3)

The great thing about Cantonese is that there are no verb tenses, conjugations, etc. However, there are two little words used to show that something took place in the past. These little words are particles, and they often come after a verb: 咗 (zo2) and 過 (gwo3).

Since both 咗 (zo2) and 過 (gwo3) indicate past tense, it’s quite common for people (especially beginners) to get these mixed up:

Romanizationzo2gwo3
Meaningshows that an action is complete, similar to the English “-ed” that comes after a verb when an action is doneshows an experience that someone has had before in the past
Take the sentence 我去 (ngo5 heoi3), meaning “I go,” as an example:
Characters我去咗我去過
Romanizationngo5 heoi3 zo2ngo5 heoi3 gwo3
Meaning“I went.”“I’ve been (there).”

From the example sentences above, you can see that when you add 咗 (zo2) to the sentence 我去 (ngo5 heoi3), or “I go,” the “go” becomes “went.” But if you add 過 (gwo3) instead, the “go” becomes “been.”

Mistake #5: Mixing up 唔 (m4) and 冇 (mou5)

There are two ways to negate a Cantonese verb: with 唔 (m4) or with 冇 (mou5). We put either of these two words in front of the verb to show that it is negative, but sometimes, it can be confusing to know when to use which.

The table below demonstrates the difference between the two:

Romanizationm4mou5
Meaningnegates action verbs in the present & future, or when talking about habitual thingsnegates verbs in the past tense, such as when you describe an action that either did not happen, or is not yet complete
Take the sentence 我食 (ngo5 sik6), meaning: “I eat,” as an example:
Characters我唔食我冇食
Romanizationngo5 m4 sik6ngo5 mou5 sik6
Meaning“I don’t eat.”“I didn’t eat.”

There are actually a couple more instances where you can use 冇 (mou5) to negate, but we’ll keep it simple here. You may check out our dictionary or class content to learn more!

3. Word Order Mistakes

A Lady Writing

Mistake #6: Putting the question word first in a question

In English, we usually start a question with the “W” words, like “Why,” “What,” and “Where,” but this is not the case in Cantonese. We do it the other way around, putting the Cantonese question word at the end of the question.

Take “Where is my book?” as an example:

  • Where: 邊 (bin1)
  • Is: 喺 (hai2)
  • My book: 我本書 (ngo5 bun2 syu1)

If you arrange the words in the English way, you’ll have 邊喺我本書 (bin1 hai2 ngo5 bun2 syu1), which is incorrect in Cantonese. The correct way to ask the question is: 我本書喺邊?(ngo5 bun2 syu1 hai2 bin1).

Let’s look at two more examples: “Who is she?” and “What are you eating?”

  • Who: 邊個 (bin1 go3)
  • Is: 喺 (hai2)
  • She: 佢 (keoi5)
  • Correct order: 佢係邊個?(keoi5 hai6 bin1 go3)
  • What: 咩呀 (me1 aa3)
  • You: 你 (nei5)
  • (Are) eating: 食緊 (sik6 gan2)
  • Correct order: 你食緊咩呀?(nei5 sik6 gan2 me1 aa3)

Mistake #7: Putting time adverbs at the end of a sentence

In English, we usually put the time adverb at the end, or occasionally at the beginning, of a sentence. But in Cantonese, we put the time adverb before the verb instead.

The correct way to add “time” to a simple “Subject (S) + Verb (V) + Object (O)” sentence in Cantonese is: “S + Time + V + O.”

Take “I watched a movie last week” as an example:

  • I: 我 (ngo5)
  • Watch: 睇 (tai2)
  • Movie: 戲 (hei3)
  • Last week: 上個禮拜 (soeng6 go3 lai5 baai3)
  • Correct order: 我上個禮拜睇戲 (ngo5 soeng6 go3 lai5 baai3 tai2 hei3)

Want to learn more about how to arrange words in Cantonese? Check out our article on Cantonese word order for more detailed information!

4. Grammar Mistakes

Question Marks

Mistake #8: Directly translating from English to Cantonese without considering parts of speech or context

Have you ever directly translated something from English to Cantonese? Sometimes it works, but very often, your listener may find it confusing. It’s like using Google Translate (it’s a very convenient tool, no doubt!) without double-checking the results (as they may be a bit odd).

Take “He is very sick” as an example:

  • Literal translation of “He is very sick” in Cantonese: 佢好病 (keoi5 hou2 beng6)
  • Meaning of  “佢好病”: “He’s crazy.”
  • Correct translation of He is very sick” in Cantonese: 佢病得好重 (keoi5 beng6 dak1 hou2 cung5)

It might take some time to develop a good understanding of the different parts of speech and how to more accurately translate into Cantonese, but no worries. Practice makes perfect. Try more, and learn from your mistakes!

Mistake #9: Using (or not using) a final particle

There are many final particles in Cantonese to indicate a change of mood or even the meaning of a word or phrase. If you use the wrong Cantonese particle, you may end up expressing the wrong emotion. And in some cases, forgetting to include a final particle may come across as rude! 

Below are some examples of final particles:

ParticleMeaningExample
呀 (aa3)used in neutral questions, or to soften the tone of affirmative statements so they don’t sound as abrupt我返屋企呀 ngo5 faan2 uk1 kei2 aa3“I’m going home.”
啦 (laa1)used in requests and imperatives (leaving it out could make the sentence sound rude)俾我啦 bei2 ngo5 laa1“Give it to me (please).”
囉 (lo1)indicates a suggestion or conclusion that should be obvious我冇車咪返唔到屋企囉 ngo5 mou5 ce1 mai6 faan2 m4 dou2 uk1 kei2 lo1“Without a car (of course), I am unable to go home.”

5. Another Big Mistake in Cantonese

Woman Covering Mouth with Both Hands

Mistake #10: Using too many words

A lot of Cantonese-learners, in an attempt to translate what is polite in their own language, will make a mess of a sentence in Cantonese by adding a lot of unnecessary words. Cantonese actually says things a lot more directly! 

Take “Would you mind going to the store for me, please” as an example:

  • A native Cantonese-speaker would ask with: 你去士多?(nei5 heoi3 si6 do1)
  • Literal translation of “你去士多”: “You go store?”

A lot of westerners find it strange to be so concise—it would feel rude to say that in English. But finding places to add superfluous “pleases” and stuff is unnecessary. It’s okay to use less words in Cantonese. It doesn’t sound rude at all.

6. The Biggest Mistake: Being Afraid of Making Mistakes in Cantonese!

A Woman Panicking

The truth is that the only way you’re going to get a standard accent, order sentences correctly, or get better at using and understanding tones is through making mistakes. So don’t worry. Even if you make a mistake, Cantonese people can usually guess what you’re saying, especially when there’s context. And if they can’t understand, there are always charades. 

The point is, you need to get out there and practice. Use the words you know. Engage in conversation. Then you’ll start to correct yourself, and your ear will get tuned to the language. Cantonese people love it when you try, so they’ll be very encouraging, for sure!

7. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

Learning from mistakes surely helps, but so does learning from 1000+ audio and video lessons!

With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

Before you go, let us know in the comments how many of these mistakes you’ve made before, and if this article was helpful for you. We look forward to hearing from you!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese

The Top 10 Most Common Cantonese Questions and Answers

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Just imagine: You’re going out with a group of native Cantonese-speakers. This is the perfect opportunity to make friends and practice your Cantonese in a real-life situation! But how do you break the ice? What should you say if you run out of topics or if your Cantonese isn’t solid enough to fuel the conversation?

The universal answer is: ask questions! 

Among countless benefits, being able to ask questions in Cantonese will help you avoid awkward silences by keeping the conversation going. It will also make the other person feel like you want to know more about them and value their opinion, thus making you more likeable. Asking questions opens a world of new information and cultural insight!

And one more perk: you don’t have to talk too much, just sit back and listen. Don’t think about your next question or how to steer the conversation back toward yourself. Just enjoy the ride and dive into whatever the other person has to say.

Convinced yet?

In this guide, you’ll not only learn how to ask questions in Cantonese, but also how to answer them. Let’s get started!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. What’s your name?
  2. Where are you from?
  3. Do you speak Cantonese?
  4. How long have you been studying ?
  5. Have you been to [country/city]?
  6. How are you?
  7. What time is it?
  8. What are you doing?
  9. What’s wrong?
  10. How much is it?
  11. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. What’s your name?

First Encounter

Q: 你叫咩名?

“What’s your name?” has to be the most common conversation starter of all. Make sure you keep it in your pocket list!

Romanization: nei5 giu3 me1 meng2

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
nei5 You
giu3 Call
me1 What
meng2Name

A: 我叫。

The answer to this question is pretty straightforward. You either state your name directly, or add the words 我叫before your name and make it “我叫.”

Romanization: ngo5 giu3 .

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
ngo5I
giu3 Call

See some examples of how to answer this question in Cantonese below!

Example 1

Chinese Characters: 我叫欣怡。
Meaning: My name is Yan-yee.
Romanization: ngo5 giu3 jan1 ji4

Example 2

Chinese Characters: 我叫俊傑。
Meaning: My name is Chun-kit.
Romanization: ngo5 giu3 zeon3 git6

Example 3

Chinese Characters: 我叫詠珊。
Meaning: My name is Wing-shan.
Romanization: ngo5 giu3 wing6 saan1

Example 4

Chinese Characters: 我叫偉文。
Meaning: My name is Wai-man.
Romanization: ngo5 giu3 wai5 man4

2. Where are you from?

Q: 你邊度嚟㗎?

This Cantonese question opens up a lot of possible conversation topics, such as cultural differences and must-see places, for you and your new Cantonese friends!

Romanization: nei5 bin1 dou6 lei4 gaa3

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
nei5 You
邊度bin1 dou6Where
lei4Come
gaa3a Cantonese question particle that indicates question or doubt

A: 我嚟嘅。

There are two ways you can answer this question. The first is by answering directly with your city or country: 

  • 香港 (hoeng1 gong2) – “Hong Kong”

You may also add the word 我 before “Hong Kong,” and 嚟嘅 after it: 我香港嚟嘅.

Romanization: ngo5 lei4 ge3

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
ngo5I
lei4To come
ge3a final particle that implies assertion with emphasis

Here are some examples:

Example 1

Chinese Characters: 我美國嚟嘅。
Meaning: I’m from the U.S.
Romanization: ngo5 mei5 gwok3 lei4 ge3

Example 2

Chinese Characters: 我英國嚟嘅。
Meaning: I’m from England.
Romanization: ngo5 jing1 gwok3 lei4 ge3

Example 3

Chinese Characters: 我中國嚟嘅。
Meaning: I’m from China.
Romanization: ngo5 zung1 gwok3 lei4 ge3

Example 4

Chinese Characters: 我德國嚟嘅。
Meaning: I’m from Germany.
Romanization: ngo5 dak1 gwok3 lei4 ge3



3. Do you speak Cantonese?

Books of Different Languages

Q: 你識唔識講?

This is one of those basic Cantonese questions that you may be asked when you meet new friends in Hong Kong!

Romanization: nei5 sik1 m4 sik1 gong2

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
nei5 You
識唔識sik1 m4 sik1To know or not
gong2Speak

Here’s an example:

Chinese Characters: 你識唔識講廣東話?
Meaning: Do you speak Cantonese?
Romanization: nei5 sik1 m4 sik1 gong2 gwong2 dung1 waa2

A: Varies

Depending on how well you know the language, you can answer with one of the below phrases!

AnswerRomanizationMeaning
識少少。sik1 siu2 siu2Yes, I speak a little.
識一啲。sik1 jat1 di1Yes, I speak some.
識啲啲。sik1 di1 di1Yes, I speak a little bit.
識大部分。sik1 daai6 bou6 fan6Yes, I speak quite a lot.

4. How long have you been studying ?

Introducing Yourself

Q: 你學咗幾耐?

Once your new Cantonese friends find out that you speak at least a little bit of their language, you may very likely be asked this question!

Romanization: nei5 hok6 zo2 gei2 noi6

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
nei5 You
學咗hok6 zo2 To have learned
幾耐gei2 noi6How long

Here’s an example:

Chinese Characters: 你學咗廣東話幾耐?
Meaning: How long have you been studying Cantonese?
Romanization: nei5 hok6 zo2 gwong2 dung1 waa2 gei2 noi6

A: Varies

Here are a few examples of how you can answer this question. 

AnswerRomanizationMeaning
一個月。jat1 go3 jyut6For one month.
一年。jat1 nin4For one year.
三個月。saam1 go3 jyut6For three months.
兩年。loeng5 nin4For two years.

5. Have you been to [country/city]?

The Globe

Q: 你有冇去過?

Another great conversation starter. You can share your travel stories and learn more about your Cantonese friends’ adventures!

Romanization: nei5 jau5 mou5 heoi3 gwo3

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
nei5 You
有冇jau5 mou5 To have or to not have
去過heoi3 gwo3Have been

Here’s an example:

Chinese Characters: 你有冇去過香港?
Meaning: Have you been to Hong Kong?
Romanization: nei5 jau5 mou5 heoi3 gwo3 hoeng1 gong2

A: Varies

AnswerRomanizationMeaning
有呀,去過兩次。jau5 aa3, heoi3 gwo3 loeng5 ci3Yes, I’ve been twice.
有呀,去過四次。jau5 aa3, heoi3 gwo3 sei3 ci3Yes, I’ve been four times.
有呀,去過一次。jau5 aa3, heoi3 gwo3 jat1 ci3Yes, I’ve been once.
冇呀。mou5 aa3No. (I have never been.)

6. How are you?

Q: 你好嗎?

This is one of the most useful Cantonese questions to know, especially once you’ve made some good friends and want to inquire about their well-being.

Romanization: nei5 hou2 maa3

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
nei5 You
hou2Good
maa3a Cantonese question particle

A: Varies 

AnswerRomanizationMeaning
我幾好。ngo5 gei2 hou2I’m fine.
我好好。ngo5 hou2 hou2I’m great.
我非常好。ngo5 fei1 soeng4 hou2I’m very good.
我唔係幾好。ngo5 m4 hai6 gei2 hou2I’m not so well.


7. What time is it?

A Clock

Q: 而家幾點?

A great question to ask when you don’t have your watch with you!

Romanization: ji4 gaa1 gei2 dim2

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
而家ji4 gaa1Now
gei2How long / How many / How much
dim2Time

A: Varies

AnswerRomanizationMeaning
十二點。sap6 ji6 dim2It’s twelve o’clock.
九點。gau2 dim2It’s nine o’clock.
六點。luk6 dim2It’s six o’clock.
兩點。loeng5 dim2It’s two o’clock.

8. What are you doing?

Q: 你做緊咩?

Are you curious what your new bestie is up to? Ask them in Cantonese! 

Romanization: nei5 zou6 gan2 me1

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
nei5 You
做緊zou6 gan2 Doing
me1What

A: Varies 

AnswerRomanizationMeaning
我諗緊嘢。ngo5 lam2 gan2 je5I’m thinking.
我食緊嘢。ngo5 sik6 gan2 je5I’m eating.
我做緊嘢。ngo5 zou6 gan2 je5I’m working.
我畫緊嘢。ngo5 waak6 gan2 je5I’m drawing.

9. What’s wrong?

Emotions

Q: 咩事呀?

Does your friend seem down today? Ask them what’s wrong, and lend a listening ear! 

Romanization: me1 si6 aa3

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
me1What
si6Matter
aa3a Cantonese question particle

A: Varies 

AnswerRomanizationMeaning
我好攰。ngo5 hou2 gui6I’m tired.
我唔舒服。ngo5 m4 syu1 fuk6I’m unwell.
我好眼瞓。ngo5 hou2 ngaan5 fan3I’m sleepy.
我擔⼼。ngo5 daam1 sam1I’m worried.

10. How much is it?

Q: 呢個幾錢?

You have to know this question if you plan on shopping in Hong Kong! 

Romanization: ni1 go3 gei2 cin2

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
呢個ni1 go3This
gei2How long / How many / How much 
cin2Money

A: Varies 

AnswerRomanizationMeaning
五十蚊。ng5 sap6 man1$50
一百蚊。jat1 baak3 man1$100
二千蚊ji6 cin1 man1$2000
兩百蚊。loeng5 baak3 man1$200


11. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

By now, you should have a better idea of how to ask and answer the most common Cantonese questions. Are there any important questions or answers we didn’t include? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to help.

Fancy learning more Cantonese after familiarizing yourself with the questions and answers above?

With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program by upgrading your account!

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese

An Introduction to Cantonese Language Proficiency Tests

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Do you fancy studying or working abroad in Hong Kong, but don’t speak Cantonese as your first language? Or maybe you want to know how good your Cantonese is after months of hard work? No worries, we’ve got you covered! 

Today on CantoneseClass101.com, we’ll be providing you with a summary of the most popular Cantonese language exams—so read on!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Study Strategies in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Benefits of Taking a Cantonese Language Exam
  2. What Cantonese Language Exams are There?
  3. COPA (CUHK)
  4. ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI)
  5. Other Exams: GCSE Cantonese & HKDSE Chinese
  6. Bonus: Tips on Preparing for Your Cantonese Proficiency Exam
  7. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. Benefits of Taking a Cantonese Language Exam

A Golden Egg

There are lots of reasons why taking a Cantonese test can be good for you (and your studies)! In the following sections, we’ll go over the top benefits you can expect from doing so.

1. It will improve the way you learn.

Taking tests and exams will give you a better idea of your current Cantonese proficiency level. This knowledge will allow you to see if there are any gaps between reality and your expectations. If so, you can do some reflection to figure out the best way to improve your studies and learning habits.

When you sit for an exam, you’ll have to recall and apply what you’ve learned. So making your studies more targeted allows you (or forces you) to remember useful information. It also improves your ability to apply what you’ve learned in new contexts. 

2. It will increase your motivation.

Before an exam, people tend to study harder than ever. With a goal or target in mind (and the exam fees you paid), you’ll have a greater urge to study and improve your Cantonese.

3. It will demonstrate your Cantonese abilities to others.

If you’re looking to work in Hong Kong and want to impress your potential employer, getting a good Cantonese exam score will help a lot. Not only does it prove that you know Cantonese, but it also proves that you’re resilient and a great learner. Afterall, Cantonese is one of the hardest languages in the world!

2. What Cantonese Language Exams are There?

A Question Mark

Unlike IELTS for English-learners or JLPT for Japanese-learners, there are no government-administered Cantonese language tests in Hong Kong. However, we do have some oral tests designed for Cantonese language learners. The two most common tests are COPA (offered by the Chinese University of Hong Kong [CUHK]) and OPI (offered by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages [ACTFL]).

There are also two more comprehensive Cantonese examinations: GCSE Cantonese and HKDSE Chinese. They’re actually part of the public examination designed for secondary school students. 

GCSE is a test that fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds must pass in order to graduate from the Key Stage 4 phase of their secondary education in either England, Northern Ireland, or Wales. HKDSE is Hong Kong’s university entrance examination, administered upon completion of a three-year senior secondary education.

3. COPA (CUHK)

1. Introduction

The COPA Cantonese exam is an adaptation of the Chinese Speaking Test (CST) developed by the Center for Applied Linguistics in the United States. 

Duration: 30-45 minutes

The examinee hears the test instructions and questions in their mother tongue (English, Japanese, or Korean) from a master tape, and then responds in the foreign language he or she is learning (Cantonese or Putonghua). Tasks cover a wide range of topics and speech functions, and responses are evaluated by two specially trained COPA raters.

The rationale in scoring the COPA is to find the level at which the examinee consistently fulfills the speaking functions. Each COPA task presents the examinee with a speaking task of a defined level of difficulty, based on the Proficiency Guidelines developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). The ACTFL Guidelines describe aspects of speech that characterize speakers as having a given level of proficiency. These guidelines were developed in response to a movement in the language-teaching community, stressing the importance of meaningful communication in the foreign language classroom.

All assessment tools are made available to the public so that learners who want their speaking proficiency in Cantonese assessed may obtain an objective evaluation based on testing and linguistic principles. Currently, English-speakers are able to take the COPA in Cantonese and Putonghua. Students will be notified when the Japanese and Korean versions are available.

2. Score reporting

A certificate will be issued with a description of the proficiency level attained by the examinee. The possible levels are: Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Superior. This certificate will serve as an indication of his/her speaking ability and can be used for various purposes.

The official reports will be sent to the examinee two months after the testing date. Two additional reports will be sent free of charge to institutions designated by the examinee at the time of the evaluation. All subsequent requests to send the official report directly will be charged HK$50 per copy.

3. Fees and application procedure

  • Application fee: HK$100
  • Examination fee: HK$800 

The following groups can take the exam at a special rate of HK$600:

  • Current CUHK and CLC students
  • Students from CUHK university division Advanced Putonghua course
  • Current CLC TCFL Advanced Diploma Programme students

You may download the application form on the official website and bring a check (payable to “Chinese University of Hong Kong”) with you on exam day.

4. ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI)

1. Introduction

Duration: 15-30 minutes

The OPI test takes the form of a phone call, during which the candidate and tester have a guided conversation. After a short introduction, the tester will ask the candidate personalized questions and adapt the conversation depending on the candidate’s language skills, interests, and comfort level. 

As this is a standardized test, it’s a reliable way of measuring a person’s speaking ability in a given language. This Cantonese proficiency test is designed to reveal patterns of weaknesses and strengths that the candidate possesses. 

The OPI tests the candidate’s ability to speak Cantonese effectively in everyday situations. The test does not base its grading on specific curriculum content, and because each interview is adapted for the individual candidate, a candidate’s score or performance is not compared to that of other candidates. 

2. Score reporting

The OPI is graded according to the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines (2012), the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) guidelines, or the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) guidelines. The scoring guidelines are determined based on the type of certification the candidate is looking to attain. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of how each rating scale works:

  • ACTFL – A candidate may be rated anywhere between Novice and Superior.
  • ILR – A candidate may be rated anywhere from ILR 0 (no proficiency) to ILR 5 (functionally native).
  • CEFR – A candidate may be rated anywhere from A1 to C2.

3. Fees and application procedure

  • Examination fee: US$159.00 

You may schedule a test online.

5. Other Exams: GCSE Cantonese & HKDSE Chinese

College Students

Now we’ll briefly introduce the GCSE Cantonese and HKDSE Chinese tests. As explained earlier, these two are actually part of the public exams, and are therefore much more difficult. We do advise that language-learners, especially beginners, aim for the two exams mentioned above (COPA and OPI) rather than the following two!

1. GCSE Cantonese

GCSE in Chinese (spoken Cantonese) consists of four parts to assess your Cantonese listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills: 

  • Part 1: Listening & Understanding in Chinese (Cantonese)
    • Length: 45 minutes, including 5 minutes of reading time
    • Weighting: 25% / 50 Marks
  • Part 2: Speaking in Chinese
    • Length: 10-12 minutes plus 12 minutes of preparation time
    • Weighting: 25% / 70 Marks
  • Part 3: Reading & Understanding in Chinese
    • Length: 1 hour 5 minutes
    • Weighting: 25% / 50 Marks
  • Part 4: Writing in Chinese
    • Length: 1 hour 25 minutes
    • Weighting: 25% / 60 Marks

You may find out more about the exam on the official university website

2. HKDSE Chinese

HKDSE Chinese is designed for very advanced Cantonese speakers—even local secondary school students tend to find it difficult!

  • Part 1: Reading
    • Length: 1 hour 30 minutes
    • Weighting: 24% 
  • Part 2: Writing
    • Length: 1 hour 30 minutes
    • Weighting: 24%
  • Part 3: Listening and Integrated Skills
    • Length: 1 hour 30 minutes
    • Weighting: 18%
  • Part 4: Speaking
    • Length: 25 minutes
    • Weighting: 14%

School-based assessment (SBA) will account for the final 20%. For those who aren’t sitting for the exam as secondary school students, an average SBA score will be applied instead.

You may find out more about the exam here.

6. Bonus: Tips on Preparing for Your Cantonese Proficiency Exam

Light Bulbs
  • Do as many mock tests as you can.
  • Study the vocabulary required for the test.
  • Study the sample answers to the questions.
  • Speak more with native Cantonese-speakers.

Remember, practice makes perfect!

7. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

Language Skills

Planning to take a Cantonese exam soon? Come and practice your Cantonese with CantoneseClass101.com! With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Before you go,  let us know in the comments if we forgot to include anything, or if you still have some questions about these tests. We look forward to hearing from you, and will be glad to help!

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