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Lesson Transcript

Intro

Hi, everybody! Olivia here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Cantonese questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: What are tones?
Explanation
Many Cantonese learners find the tones confusing, because the intonation in Cantonese is very different from most of the other languages. Tones is the use of pitch to distinguish meaning. Each Chinese character comes with a tone, and it is important to pronounce Cantonese correctly, because there are so many words that come with the same Jyutping spelling. If a person doesn’t pronounce the tone right, a listener may get something completely different from what they actually meant to say.
Let's get into more details. How many tones are there?
There are six tones in Cantonese:
The 1st tone is high and steady. 絲 si1 "silk."
The 2nd tone starts with a low pitch and rises to high pitch. 史 si2 "history."
The 3th tone is a mid tone, it's pronounced in the middle of your range and is steady. 試 si3 "try."
The 4th tone is the lowest tone. 時 si4 "time."
The 5th tone is another rising tone, it starts low then rises to the middle of your range. 市 si5 "city."
Lastly, the 6th tone is low and steady, but not as low as the 4th tone. 是 si6 "is."
Do tones really matter?
It’s not only important, but crucial to master the different tones in Cantonese. Just like how mispronouncing a sound or misreading a character can have a huge impact on meaning. Using the wrong tone can drastically change the meaning of a word or sentence too.
For example, 媽(maa1) in the 1st tone means "mother", while 麻(maa4) in the 4th tone means "linen", and 馬(maa5) in the 5th tone means "horse". Don’t get them mixed up!

Outro

How was it? Pretty interesting right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
"See you next time!", 下次見! (haa6 ci3 gin3!)

4 Comments

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CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Friday at 06:30 PM
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What Cantonese learning question do you have?

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Monday at 05:04 PM
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Hello Ezra,


Thanks for your question.

You can practice the Cantonese tones with comparing to the one shown in our video. 😉


Ada

Team CantoneseClass101.com

Ezra
Saturday at 01:18 PM
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How do I find my tonal range?

John Edward De Leon
Saturday at 06:15 PM
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Olivia, Please do NOT answer this because this is a guide for Mandarin speakers who are learning Cantonese, and this is not a question.


Cantonese Tone - Mandarin Equivalent

1st - 1st

2nd - 2nd

3rd - ?

4th - Half 3rd tone

5th - ?

6th - Yoyo Chinese 3rd tone