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Lesson Transcript


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 is Jyutping?
粵拼 (jyut6 ping3), commonly known as Jyutping, is the standard, most commonly used phonetic system for spelling Cantonese using roman letters. It's a way to read and pronounce Cantonese words through English letters and tone number. For example, siu3 as in "to laugh", is the Jyupting of this character: 笑. Even though most Hong Kong people can understand the Jyutping or other romanization systems, they are not a substitute for the Chinese characters.
Let's get into more details. How is a word built, when written in Jyutping?
Cantonese sound can be broken down into syllables. These syllables can be a standalone word or they can be combined together to form compound words. Each syllable is made up of an initial sound, a final sound, and a tone. So for learners who are not familiar with the Chinese characters, we transcribe the syllables into romanized letters, or Jyutping.
Here is an example of a syllable in Jyutping: sing1 (which means "star"); here the initial sound is /s/, and final sound is /ing/, and the syllable is in the 1st tone.
The tones in Jyutping are represented by a number placed on the right side of the syllable. There are numbers from 1 to 6.
Now, how common is Jyutping in Hong Kong?
Basically, Jyutping is the transliteration of Cantonese sounds for Cantonese learners, which is related to the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) system. For native speakers, however, this is unnecessary and is never taught in school, so don't be surprised when a native speaker is not aware of or doesn't know what Jyutping is.
There are many cases of government-transliterated Hong Kong street or district names that use an obscure and unstandardized system. For example, 深水埗 (sam1 seoi2 bou4) is commonly known as Sham Shui Po district, but the transliteration "Sham Shui Po" is not in line with the Jyutping rules.
You can listen to all the sounds of Cantonese and see their corresponding Jyutping Romanization at www.cantoneseclass101.com/cantonese-alphabet.
There is a Jyutping chart with audio to aid you in perfecting the pronunciation.


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!)