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Lesson Transcript

Nicole: Welcome back to CantoneseClass101, the place to learn and love Cantonese.
Matt: In this lesson, we are taking years of experience in China and boiling it down to a few essential phrases that are a great place to start in Cantonese.
Nicole: Yes these are real life Cantonese words that will help you every day!
Matt: That’s right, Guaranteed to be the best thing you ever learned in Cantonese. Nicole, where should we begin?
Nicole: Well, we want to make a good impression right off the bat, so I think one place is with “thank you”, m4 goi1.
Matt: Yes! m4 is the fourth tone, lowest tone in Cantonese, and goi1 is the first one, right?
Nicole: Yeah, the highest in Cantonese. And if you want to know more about the tones, you can easily find the episode All About Cantonese Tones on CantoneseClass101.com.
Matt: That’s right, I remember that episode. That's a whole episode full of singing.
Nicole: Right. Back to the word thank you. m4 goi1. This is a perfect example to compare the lowest and the highest tone in Cantonese, like riding a rollercoaster, you go from the bottom right up to the top.
Matt: How do you pronounce the lowest sound Nicole?
Nicole: That one's pretty easy. Keep your mouth closed and let the sound come from you throat. m4…. just like humming.
Matt: m4… easy.
Nicole: And goi1 rhymes with "boy". And then try to sing it out like gooooi1~~~
Matt: goooi1.
Nicole: Right but of course in conversation you don't need to be that dramatic to say a word. Here is just for explanation, m4 goi1.
Matt: Right. Cantonese love thank you so much that they’ll often hit you with a barrage of it.
Nicole: Yes, ‘m4 goi1 m4 goi1 m4 goi1 m4 goi1 m4 goi1 m4 goi1 m4 goi1 m4 goi1’. Well this is truly a rollercoaster,low high low high low high low high low high ….
Matt: Well I’m not sure if that’s a rollercoaster, sounds more like a chainsaw. Sometimes it’s not really thank you, but rather, thank you for getting out of here!
Nicole: That’s true sometimes it will be used in a way to get rid of you… or begging you to do something.
Matt: Oh yeah because it can mean "please" as well, it’s such a versatile word.
Nicole: Yes, "please please please please" get out of here...
Matt: But most of the time, it's used in genuine thanks.
Nicole: Definitely. And there are other m4 goi1 occasions too.
Matt: Like what?
Nicole: Well, I’ve noticed it been used in cases where they don’t know what the heck you are talking about.
Matt: That’s right, like ‘thank you for that… and whatever it was’. It’s quite cute.
Nicole: I guess sometimes there’s just nothing else that can be said, in a case like that!
Matt: But nonetheless, it’s the universal word for gratitude. We’ll leave the cultural lesson of discerning which kind of gratitude up to you.
Nicole: Sometimes you hear people say that out loud in a restaurant too, like "m4 goi1", really loud. That is to get attention, like "excuse me".
Matt:But I thought Cantonese people said everything out loud in a restaurant.
Nicole: Well we wanted to get your attention and it turned out that we did.
Matt:Yes you did. It was impossible not to have noticed.
Nicole: "m4 goi1", cheers! Okay. Of course we should also mention 你好 (nei3 hou2).
Matt: That’s right. Yes and if you don’t know 你好 (nei5 hou2), we don’t know where you’ve been. We’d be remiss if we didn’t teach you hello.
Nicole: That’s right. nei5 is the fifth tone, mid rising tone. and hou2 is the second. Also a rising tone, but high rising, like asking questions, hou2.
Matt: They are the only rising tones among the 6, right?
Nicole: Exactly. And this word nei5 hou2 perfectly group them together for comparison and for practice.
Matt: If you could say Hello, you are done with half of Cantonese sounds.
Nicole: Because in Cantonese tones they are either flat or rising.
Matt: Yeah. So this word...
Nicole: nei5 hou2.
Matt: literally means ‘you good’. Not a bad way to greet someone. Let's hear it again Nicole.
Nicole: nei5 hou2.
Matt: Now, unfortunately, a lot of these essential phrases stem from situations of confusion, which will happen a bit if you are learning the language. Therefore, we’re going to equip you well.
Nicole: On that note, the next one is for not understanding what someone is saying.
Matt: Which maaaay happen more often than not. It is literally ‘hear not understand’. They’re hearing you, just not understanding you. It may be a high frequency phrase, at first.
Nicole: Sometimes they’ll say it to you, if, say you use the wrong tones or something, 聽唔明 (teng1 m4 ming4).
Matt: Let’s have that one more time.
Nicole: 聽唔明 (teng1 m4 ming4). 聽唔明 (teng1 m4 ming4).
Matt: Well I'm gonna go out on a limp and try to guess what the tones are here.
Nicole: Ok, well I will feed you the first one. teng1 is the high and flat, the first tone.
Matt: You just took the easiest one!
Nicole: No, the easiest is the second one, m4, it's the same word same sound as the first word in m4 goi1, thank you
Matt: That’s right, the lowest humming word.
Nicole: Then the last word, ming4. What tone is that?
Matt: It's the same pitch as m4, right?
Nicole: Correct. So it’s the 4th tone.
Matt: Now this phrase is going to be your best friend. For example, sometimes Cantonese people get really excited if you greet them in Cantonese.
Nicole: Yes, because we love it when a foreigner can speak Cantonese.
Matt: So, after you say ‘nei5 hou2’, they may just come back at you with a barrage of Cantonese that you don’t understand.
Nicole: Yes, in such a case, be prepared to say, ‘teng1 m4 ming4’.
Matt: That’s right, it’s like the magic words. As soon as you get it out, the person immediately gets it.
Nicole: Yeah. These 3 words teng1 m4 ming4 seem to have dramatic effect…
Matt: And your counterpart will likely become very compassionate into your dilemma.
Nicole: But sometimes people say teng1 m4 ming4 because they want to play dumb…
Matt: or they don't want to continue the conversation with you anymore.
Nicole: True. but on average most Cantonese still want to talk to you.
Matt: See this is the best part about learning Cantonese with CantoneseClass101, you not only learn the language but you learn the layers beneath the language.
Nicole: Right. Stay with us if you want to learn the really cool Cantonese and know what they actually mean when they are saying teng1 m4 ming4 or twelve m4 goi1’s in a row.
Matt: That’s right. A similar and also very high frequency phrase in English is “I don't know”.
Nicole: Yeah, this is the must-learn phrase in every language. In Cantonese, i don't know is 唔知 (m4 zi1).
Matt: This sounds very like our first phrase for thank you. Do they share the same tones?
Nicole: Correct. Let's hear the first word first, m4 goi1.
Matt:While is “thank you”, or “excuse me”, or even “please”.
Nicole: And then the 2nd one "i don't know", 唔知 m4 zi1.
Matt:one more time?
Nicole:m4 zi1.
Matt:Which is "i don't know". Let’s have both together one more time for comparison, and listeners, make sure you’re repeating after us.
Nicole: Ok. m4 goi1. m4 zi1.
Matt:”Thank you”, and “I don’t know”, in that order. One more time?
Nicole: m4 goi1. m4 zi1.
Matt:The first one was ”Thank you”, and the 2nd one was “I don’t know”.
Nicole: So if you ask someone where is the his house and he replies m4 zi1...
Matt:that means he doesn't want you to know or is playing dumb.
Nicole:Exactly. Again, join us at CantoneseClass101.com, you can learn so much more than just the language.
Matt:That’s right. So, the top 4 phrases are down. What else do we have, what’s the last one, Nicole?
Nicole:對唔住 (deoi3 m4 zyu6)
Matt:”Sorry”, I hear that one often.
Nicole:對唔住 (deoi3 m4 zyu6)
Matt: Again we have m4 in here.
Nicole: That's great news,What could be better than learning a new phrase that includes old words?
Matt:Makes it a little bit easier. And the three tones of these three characters are 3 4 6, correct?
Nicole:Totally correct, You are getting better and better!
Matt:thank you, Nicole! I’ve been practicing. It's not easy to get recognition from you, you know.
Nicole: You are welcome.
Matt:And this easy phrase means ”Sorry”, which is a serious apology, not like “excuse me”.
Nicole: Right, like when you accidentally crack someone's laptop…
Matt:Or… after you threw someone’s cat out of the window.
Nicole: Right, that’s when you should say deoi3 m4 zyu6.
Matt:one more time?
Nicole:deoi3 m4 zyu6.
Matt:So here we have taught the top 5 phrases in Cantonese. But we also have a bonus phrase.
Nicole: Truly bonus. 我愛你 (ngo5 oi3 nei5).
Matt: Oh I love you too, Nicole.
Nicole: 我愛你 (ngo5 oi3 nei5).
Matt: “I love you”.
Nicole: I believe this is very powerful. When you are in love with a cantonese girl but you don't speak Cantonese yet. Throw out this phrase and she will be yours.
Matt: Yes, but you need to say it right and be sincere. Otherwise the girl might reply I don't understand.
Nicole: teng1 m4 ming4.
Matt: that might ruin your whole night.
Nicole: Right. Also you will need to know this phrase in case some cute guy says ngo5 oi3 nei5 in front of you. You will want to know what he’s saying.
Matt: I had a friend who learnt to say "i love you" in 10 different languages just to impress girls.
Nicole: Did he include the Cantonese one?
Matt: Not yet. I will make sure I send it to him.
Nicole: Good. So let's do a quick review of today's lesson.
Matt: Okay. The Top 5 Phrases in Cantonese. Number 5 being...
Nicole: 唔該 (m4 goi1)
Matt: “Thank you”, “please”, and even “excuse me”.
Nicole: And number 4, 你好 (nei5 hou2).
Matt: “You good?”, or “hello”. and now the number 3 phrase...
Nicole: 聽唔明 (teng1 m4 ming4).
Matt: “I don't understand”.
Nicole: Right. Number 2, 唔知 (m4 zi1).
Matt: “I don't know”. And now the number 1 phrase...
Nicole: 對唔住 (deoi3 m4 zyu6).
Matt: Which is “I'm sorry”.
Nicole: But we still have one more.
Matt: That’s right, the bonus phrase “I love you”.
Nicole: 我愛你 (ngo5 oi3 nei5)
Matt: I love you too, Nicole.
Nicole: Thank you, Matt.
Matt: That just does it for today. So come on in and learn with us at CantoneseClass101.com.


Please to leave a comment.
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CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 06:30 PM
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What other key phrases do you know in Cantonese?

Cantoneseclass101.com Verified
Sunday at 06:33 AM
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Hello Sara,

You can also say .....

唔該,可唔可以講多一次?(m4 goi1, ho2 m4 ho2 ji5 gong2 do1 jat1 ci3?)

Excuse me, would you say again?

唔該(m4 goi1)~Excuse me


唔可以(m4 ho2 ji5)~cannot


多一次(do1 jat1 ci3)~one more time

OR 唔該,可唔可以講慢啲? (m4 goi1, ho2 m4 ho2 ji5 gong2 maan6 di1?)

Excuse me, can you speak a little bit slowly?


Team CantoneseClass101.com

Sunday at 05:19 AM
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Aww, I wish I had known the phrase teng1 m4 ming4 when I was in Hong Kong last time! I tried to use some Cantonese, but people got so excited it was impossible to get them to speak more slowly so I could understand their answer :(

Cantoneseclass101.com Verified
Monday at 04:18 AM
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Hi Jacky,


I love to listen to Jacky Cheung songs too. He just has such a beautiful voice! I think it is a very good way to pick up Cantonese through singing and listening to the songs of your favorite singer.

Maybe you can check out the lesson 4 of this series.


It would teach you the rules for pronouncing Cantonese letters easily. Remember to download the lesson note and transcript of the lesson. It helps you master reading jyutping when you listen to the lesson.:thumbsup:


Team CantoneseClass101.com

Jacky Lam
Sunday at 01:31 PM
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Hi Olivia,

My name is Jacky Lam (林欣荣)from Singapore.


I am 45 years old and hope I am not too late to pick up this language.

I am keen to learn Cantonese because I love to

listen Jacky Cheung Cantonese songs but not able to

sing Cantonese songs well due to my Cantonese pronunciations not accurate.

In jyutping there is six tones which I tried to figure out how to pronounce?

Any suggestions or methods which I can master reading jyutping without any difficulty.

Hope you can answer my above queries?

Saturday at 01:23 AM
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Hi Lily,

Welcome to CantoneseClass101.com! We're glad to hear that you're enjoying our lessons!:grin:

Have you listened to our Pronunciation series? there are more details and samples about the tones. It's not easy, but practice makes perfect! It's important to speak each word loud so your ear will get used to the sound!

To write Traditional Chinese, Google has a nice input tool extension for Chrome, check out the details at: http://youtu.be/Vwp5TwYGsnw

If you have any other questions, just let us know! We're here to help!:smile:


Team CantoneseClass101.com

Friday at 10:12 AM
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I should keep these top 5 phrases in my head. I haven't started to talk to my Cantonese friends and students in Cantonese yet, I think when I am ready few days later, I will pop out one of these phrases to make them surprising.

Thursday at 06:59 PM
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Hi, there

I am Lily, I have just started the Cantonese Class 2 days ago, and still try to figure out all the features inside. It is a bit hard for me to pronounce correctly with 6 tones at the moment, but for me, I am lucky to work at home so I can listen and practice the lessons over and over until I feel the sense of it. Anyway, I do like Cantonese tones like music, and also enjoy the flexible class structure and lots of users friendly resources. Just one question, I am using simplified Chinese to write with my computer. Is there Cantonese software that I can use it for writing?

Thanks Cantonese Class 101,

Friday at 12:26 PM
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Hi YG,

Since native speakers recognize Chinese characters instead of romanization, by seeing 愛 we link it with a sound like "oi3" or "ngoi3" in jyutping system, depending on family background. Although the official jyutping for 愛 is "oi3", it's not considered wrong to pronounce "ngoi3", since they're very similar to native speakers ears.


Team CantoneseClass101.com

Thursday at 12:44 PM
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Hello~~ I have a question.

In this audio lesson, for the character 愛, Nicole actually pronounced "ngoi3" instead of "oi3", right? Just want to make sure~~

Thank you!


Monday at 01:21 PM
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Hi 宝龙 ,

Thanks your comment!

And yes, 我愛你 (ngo5 oi3 nei5) is "I love you". 愛's proper pronunciation is "oi3", but even if you say "ngoi3", native speakers will understand.

Background (from Wikipedia):

In Cantonese, some speakers omit the initial [ng]. For instance, the character 牙 (Jyutping: ngaa4, meaning "tooth"), ends up being pronounced "aa4." Prescriptivists tend to consider these changes as substandard and denounce them for being "lazy sounds". However, in a case of hypercorrection, some speakers have started pronouncing words that should have a null initial using an initial [ng]. Because of this hypercorrection, words such as 愛 (Jyutping: oi3, meaning "love"), are pronounced by speakers with an [ng] initial, "ngoi3".


Team CantoneseClass101.com