Dialogue - Cantonese



你好 nei5 hou2 hello
ngo5 I
giu3 to be called; call
nei5 you (singular)
你呢 nei5 ne1 and you
hou2 very, quite
嘉玲 gaa1 ling4 Carina Lau
偉仔 wai5 zai2 Tony Leung

Lesson Notes



The Focus of This Lesson is Introducing Yourself and Asking Other's Names.
ngo5 giu3 wai5 zai2, nei5 ne1?
"I'm Tony Leung. And you?"

The way to introduce yourself in Cantonese is very similar to English. In this case, we follow a simple pattern:


我叫 (ngo5 giu3) - "I'm called" + (name)

The sentence follows the subject (我) + verb (叫) + object (name) sentence structure, which is standard for Cantonese.

For Example:

  1. 我叫Nicole。
    ngo5 giu3 Nicole
    "I'm Nicole."
  2. 我叫Matt。
    ngo5 giu3 Matt
    "I'm Matt."

你呢 (nei5 ne1) "and you?"

We can use 你呢 (nei5 ne1) on any occasion where you want to ask for the other person's information or opinion. It is normal to first say something about yourself before you ask someone else 你呢.


Cultural Insights

What is Your Name?

When dealing with names in Cantonese, there are two ground rules you want to follow.


In the Chinese naming system, the given name is placed after the surname. Imagine your name in English. To turn your name into a Cantonese name, just put your family name first, and your first name, last. So for instance, Paul Johnson would now be Johnson Paul. For a Cantonese example, Tony Leung would be 梁朝偉, (loeng4 ciu4 wai5) - Literally, Leung Tony.

A second guideline is that it is more polite in Cantonese to introduce your name before asking others theirs. It is very common to simply ask for the family name of someone who is older than you as a sign of respect. For example, 你貴姓?(nei5 gwai3 seng3?) - "What is your family name?"

Lesson Transcript



Nicole: 大家好 (daai6 gaa1 hou2). I'm Nicole. And welcome to CantoneseClass101.
Matt: Matt here! Welcome to our Absolute Beginner Season 1, Lesson 1. In this lesson you will learn how to introduce yourself. We've got a dialogue here that can happen pretty much anyplace.
Nicole: That's right, a bookstore, a cafe, pretty much anywhere.
Matt: So who is this between Nicole?
Nicole: It's between two famous Hong Kong movies stars! So they're speaking casually.
Male: Okay. Now, let's take a listen to how the dialogue goes.

Lesson conversation

你好。(nei5 hou2.)
你好。(nei5 hou2.)
我叫偉仔,你呢? (ngo5 giu3 wai5 zai2, nei5 ne1?)
我叫嘉玲。(ngo5 giu3 gaa1 ling4.)
English Host: One more time, a bit slower.
你好。(nei5 hou2.)
你好。(nei5 hou2.)
我叫偉仔,你呢? (ngo5 giu3 wai5 zai2, nei5 ne1?)
我叫嘉玲。(ngo5 giu3 gaa1 ling4.)
English Host: And now with the English translation.
你好。(nei5 hou2.)
Matt: Hello.
你好。(nei5 hou2.)
Matt: Hello.
我叫偉仔,你呢? (ngo5 giu3 wai5 zai2, nei5 ne1?)
Matt: I'm Tony Leung. And you?
我叫嘉玲。(ngo5 giu3 gaa1 ling4.)
Matt: I'm Carina Lau.
Matt: We promised to start people off easy....
Nicole: And we did....
Matt: That was easy?
Nicole: Um-hum, but don't worry if you didn't get it. We are going to go through it really, really slowly.
Matt: Okay. One quick question first. If I go to Hong Kong, will I really see Jackie Chan on the streets?
Nicole: Probably. I see him every day.
Matt: But before we talk about Jackie Chan, let's take a look at the vocabulary for this lesson.
The first word is:
Nicole: 你好 (nei5 hou2) [natural native speed]
Matt: Hello.
Nicole: 你好 (nei5 hou2) [slowly - broken down by syllable]. 你好 (nei5 hou2) [natural native speed]
Matt: The next word is?
Nicole: 我 (ngo5) [natural native speed]
Matt: I.
Nicole: 我 (ngo5) [slowly - broken down by syllable]. 我 (ngo5) [natural native speed]
Matt: Next, we have.
Nicole: 好 (hou2) [natural native speed]
Matt: Very.
Nicole: 好 (hou2) [slowly - broken down by syllable]. 好 (hou2) [natural native speed].
Nicole: 叫 (giu3) [natural native speed]
Matt: To be called; call.
Nicole: 叫 (giu3) [slowly – broken down by syllable]. 叫 (giu3) [natural native speed]
Matt: Next word.
Nicole: 你 (nei5) [natural native speed]
Matt: You (singular).
Nicole: 你 (nei5) [slowly - broken down by syllable]. 你 (nei5) [natural native speed]
Matt: Followed by.
Nicole: 你呢 (nei5 ne1) [natural native speed]
Matt: And you.
Nicole: 你呢 (nei5 ne1) [slowly - broken down by syllable]. 你呢 (nei5 ne1) [natural native speed]
Matt: The next one we have is a name.
Nicole: 偉仔 (wai5 zai2) [natural native speed]
Matt: Tony Leung.
Nicole: 偉仔 (wai5 zai2) [slowly - broken down by syllable]. 偉仔 (wai5 zai2) [natural native speed]
Matt: And next, another name.
Nicole: 嘉玲 (gaa1 ling4) [natural native speed]
Matt: Carina Lau.
Nicole: 嘉玲 (gaa1 ling4) [slowly - broken down by syllable]. 嘉玲 (gaa1 ling4) [natural native speed]
Matt: So our key vocabulary is all about introducing ourselves.
Nicole: That's right.
Matt: So what's our first word in the vocabulary?
Nicole: It's 你好. (nei5 hou2)
Matt: And that means "hello".
Nicole: 你好. (nei5 hou2)
Matt: Because this is our first lesson, I want us to really slow this down. Can you say it for us very slowly, Nicole?
Nicole: 你好 (nei5 hou2)
Matt: And what does that mean?
Nicole: 你好 (nei5 hou2) literally means "you" "good".
Matt: Right. So to say "you" we say?
Nicole: 你 (nei5)
Matt: And to say "good" we say?
Nicole: 好 (hou2)
Matt: You good.
Nicole: 你好 (nei5 hou2)
Matt: See, Cantonese is really easy.
Nicole: Yeah, I told you.
Matt: Now, a question for you Nicole, we already learned the word for "me", right?
Nicole: Sure. 我 (ngo5)
Matt: We heard that in the dialogue
Nicole: 我 (ngo5)
Matt: So if we want to say "I'm good" can we do the same thing?
Nicole: Like 我好(ngo5 hou2)?No. You're crazy.
Matt: Come one, now.
Nicole: You have to say "very good" or 好好 (hou2 hou2).
Matt: So, you just double the word for good?
Nicole: Yeah, that's right. That's easy. 好好 (hou2 hou2).
Matt: Now, if I want to say I'm very good.
Nicole: 我好好 (ngo5hou2 hou2)
Matt: What about you're very good.
Nicole: 你好好 (nei5 hou2 hou2)
Matt: So let's hear these words again. Hello.
Nicole: 你好 (nei5 hou2)
Matt: I'm very good.
Nicole: 我好好 (ngo5 hou2 hou2)
Matt: You're very good.
Nicole: 你好好 (nei5 hou2 hou2) - that's only grammatically correct, it sounds a bit strange, and weird and unnatural, so don't say that.
Matt: So which one don't we want to say?
Nicole: 你好好 (nei5 hou2 hou2).
Matt: But if we want to say I'm very good.
Nicole: You can say 我好好 (ngo5 hou2 hou2).
Matt: And that sounds natural.
Nicole: That's right.
Matt: Now, we're not supposed to learn questions until lesson two.
Nicole: Oh yeah?
Matt: But this one is pretty easy. And we already know three of the words.
Nicole: No, four words. We've learned four words. Matt, pay attention.
Matt: You're right. So the first one is hello.
Nicole: 你好 (nei5 hou2)
Matt: And that's "you".
Nicole: 你 (nei5)
Matt: And "good".
Nicole: 好 (hou2)
Matt: For hello.
Nicole: 你好 (nei5 hou2)
Matt: and...
Nicole: and...?
Matt: "Very good".
Nicole: Yup, 好好 (hou2 hou2).
Matt: We're going to go to the grammar section in a bit. Before we do, I want to talk about this last phrase.
Nicole: Yup, 你呢? (nei5 ne1?)
Matt: Right. Let's hear it again slowly?
Nicole: 你呢 (nei5 ne1)
Matt: What is that?
Nicole: That's the question that we promised not to teach?
Matt: Oh, so we do teach questions in lesson one.
Nicole: You know, bonus, bonus question.
Matt: And this just means this question just means "And you?".
Nicole: Right, 你呢? (nei5 ne1?)
Matt: I'm good, and you?
Nicole: 我好好,你呢?(ngo5 hou2 hou2, nei5 ne1?)
Matt: So our first lesson and we have already taught you enough Cantonese to chat up Jackie Chan.
Nicole: That's right.
Matt: First you say hey, Jackie or "hi".
Nicole: 你好 (nei5 hou2) Jackie.
Matt: Then he'll say, hi back.
Nicole: 你好 (nei5 hou2) Nicole.
Matt: Wow, he even knows your name, Nicole. Then you can tell him his movies are "very good".
Nicole: Yeah, your movies are 好好 (hou2 hou2).
Matt: Great. So it's a short conversation, but it is only our first lesson.

Lesson focus

Matt: Now, let's move on to the grammar section, where we'll teach you how to introduce yourself.
Nicole: Okay.
Matt: Our focus for this lesson is of course introducing ourselves.
Nicole: Yup. In the dialogue we heard 我叫偉仔 (ngo5 giu3 wai5 zai2).
Matt: Which means, "I'm called 偉仔(wai5 zai2)."
Nicole: Um-hum. 我叫偉仔 (ngo5 giu3 wai5 zai2).
Matt: "I'm called 偉仔(wai5 zai2)."
Nicole: So you see our structure here is really simple.
Matt: First, we're saying "I".
Nicole: 我 (ngo5)
Matt: "am called"
Nicole: 叫 (giu3)
Matt: And then you put your name in.
Nicole: Tell your last name 偉仔 (wai5 zai2).
Matt: I am called 偉仔 (wai5 zai2).
Nicole: 我叫偉仔 (ngo5 giu3 wai5 zai2).
Matt: Another example would be "I'm called Matt".
Nicole: 我叫 (ngo5 giu3) Matt.
Matt: And for Nicole, it would be I'm called Nicole.
Nicole: 我叫藍蔚 (ngo5 giu3 laam4 wai6), that's my Cantonese name.
Matt: So people can just put their own names into this sentence, right?
Nicole: That's right 我叫 (ngo5 giu3) and then their name. Like, 我叫 (ngo5 giu3) David, 我叫 (ngo5 giu3) Gail, 我叫 (ngo5 giu3) Teddy, whatever....
Matt: This is actually the most common grammar structure in Cantonese.
Nicole: Yeah.
Matt: First comes the subject.
Nicole: 我 (ngo5)
Matt: Then the verb.
Nicole: 叫 (giu3)
Matt: Then the rest of the sentence.
Nicole: Like 我叫偉仔 (ngo5 giu3 wai5 zai2) or 我叫嘉玲 (ngo5 giu3 gaa1 ling4).
Matt: So these are actually two Hong Kong movie stars, right?
Nicole: Yup, they got married last year?
Matt: Tony Leung got married? I bet you were disappointed.
Nicole: I cried.
Matt: Me too. He is sexy.
Nicole: Anyway, tell me Matt. Do you understand this sentence? 我叫嘉玲,你呢?(ngo5 giu3 gaa1 ling4, nei5 ne1?)
Matt: Of course. Now, let's hear that last bit.
Nicole: 你呢? (nei5 ne1?)
Matt: This is our question if you remember from earlier in the lesson.
Nicole: Yup, 我叫嘉玲,你呢? (ngo5 giu3 gaa1 ling4, nei5 ne1?)
Matt: We tell people our own name, then say, "how about you?".
Nicole: 你呢? (nei5 ne1?)
Matt: I'm very good, how about you?
Nicole: 我好好,你呢?(ngo5 hou2 hou2, nei5 ne1?)


Matt: And that does it for our first lesson.
Nicole: That's right.
Matt: So stop by CantoneseClass101.com and make sure you pick up the lesson notes.
Nicole: It has a conversation transcript.
Matt: Vocabulary, sample sentences, a grammar explanation.
Nicole: And a cultural insight section.
Matt: Seeing the Cantonese…
Nicole: …really helps you remember faster.
Matt: But don't take our word for it, please have a look for yourself.
Nicole: And let us know what you think.
Matt: Thanks for tuning in.
Nicole: Thank you.