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Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to Cantonese.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by Jinho
Hi everyone! I'm Jinho!
In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of Cantonese pronunciation.
"Pronunciation" refers to the manner in which a word is spoken. So don't focus on reading what's onscreen. Instead, focus on listening and repeating.
Intro to Jyutping
Let's start by pointing out that Cantonese doesn't use an alphabetical writing system like English does. Instead, it uses characters that are comprised of parts that depict physical objects or abstract ideas.
Literacy in Cantonese requires the memorization of thousands of components and characters. This can be quite daunting for new learners; but don't worry, you don't have to know the writing system right away. We can start learning Cantonese with the romanization system built for learners. This is called...
Jyutping, 粵拼 (jyut6 ping3). Jyutping is the transcription of Cantonese using Roman letters. It makes learning Cantonese much easier, particularly for English speakers. As you begin to learn more characters and improve in Cantonese, you'll eventually rely less and less on romanization. But for now, it's a good place to start.
That's right! There are 22 consonant sounds, and 7 vowel sounds in Cantonese. You can form every single word in Cantonese using these sounds.
We've made an Ultimate Cantonese Pronunciation Guide video series for you guys. This series explains the consonant and vowel sounds in detail. We'll link to this at the end of this introduction to pronunciation lesson.
But before you do that, we'll tell you just how easy Cantonese can be!
English's influence in Cantonese
Now for a quick history lesson: Do you know how long Hong Kong has been a British colony?
That's a trick question. Hong Kong's territory was actually acquired from three separate treaties, first in 1842, then 1860, and lastly, in 1898. So most people would say 99 years. This is the time frame during which the UK had control of what is now the entire Hong Kong region.
Although the sovereignty of Hong Kong was returned to the People's Republic of China by the United Kingdom in 1997, English remains one of the official languages of Hong Kong.
Yep, they are mostly terms for items that were imported or cultures that started in the Western societies. Jinho, can you name a few for us?
Of course! Let's see if you can guess what they are before we give you the English translation.
巴士 (baa1 si2), 沙律 (saa1 leot2), 士多 (si6 do1), 車厘子 (ce1 lei4 zi2), 爵士 (zoek3 si6), 梳化 (so1 faa2).
Now here are the answers. Tell us how many you guessed right!
巴士 (baa1 si2) "bus"
沙律 (saa1 leot2) "salad"
士多 (si6 do1) "store"
車厘子 (ce1 lei4 zi2) "cherry"
爵士 (zoek3 si6) "jazz"
梳化 (so1 faa2) "sofa"
It's a nice surprise to find out that for some terms, Cantonese speaking people can communicate together with English speaking people even without knowing the other language.
Exactly! So if you're an English speaker, you already know something like 10% of the Cantonese language!
Cantonese tones
Ok, now in this section we're going to talk about what most learners find the most difficult: the Cantonese tones.
Unless you already know another tonal language like Vietnamese or Thai, the Cantonese tones can seem totally bizarre to you. In Cantonese, pitch accent is super important.
That's right. A word's meaning could be different depending on the tone that's pronounced. You definitely don't want to mix up "mother" and "horse," for instance.
Haha, yes that would be a funny mistake.
In Cantonese, "mother" is 媽 (maa1). And "horse" is 馬 (maa5). Imagine someone introducing his mother to you by saying, "this is my horse."
So you can see how incredibly important it is to learn all the tones in Cantonese.
But don't worry, there are only six tones.
Can you demonstrate all of them for our learners?
Of course!
絲 (si1)
史 (si2)
試 (si3)
時 (si4)
市 (si5)
是 (si6)
Can you distinguish the different tones? Jinho, can you please say them again, a bit slower this time?
絲 (si1)
史 (si2)
試 (si3)
時 (si4)
市 (si5)
是 (si6)
OK. Let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, you learned about the Cantonese romanization system.
And we learned that Cantonese words can sound very similar to their English equivalent, due to the Western influence while under British rule.
Lastly, we learned a bit about the six Cantonese tones.
We've covered only the basics of Cantonese pronunciation. For more details on the Cantonese tones, please check out our Ultimate Cantonese Pronunciation Guide video series for an in-depth explanation, demonstration, and examples.
In the next lesson, we'll introduce you to the basics of Cantonese grammar. You'll learn about Cantonese word order and how to build basic phrases in Cantonese.
See you in the next lesson. Bye!


Please to leave a comment.
😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 06:30 PM
Pinned Comment
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Did you like this video? Please leave us a comment!

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Wednesday at 01:57 PM
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Hi Cheryl,

Thank you for your question.👍

The link to the Ultimate Cantonese Pronunciation Guide is here:


Hello Lewis,

Thank you for posting.😁

You can search for extra vocabulary in our free dictionary:


Or check out our Core Word list:


Let us know if you have any further questions.

Cheers 😄


Team CantoneseClass101.com

Lewis Wohlmuth
Friday at 07:01 AM
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Where do I find the other vocabulary that you mentioned in this video ?

Thursday at 04:33 AM
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In the lesson a link was mentioned that goes into more detail on pronunciation. How do I go about opening that link?

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Monday at 05:34 PM
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Hi Michael,

Thanks for your comment! 😄

Just leave us a message when you have any questions! 👍


Team CantoneseClass101.com

Sunday at 11:53 PM
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good first lesson.

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Friday at 04:42 PM
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Hi Alex Shneider,

Thanks for posting. Yes, but practice makes perfect. 😉

And if you have any questions, please feel free to leave us a message at any time. 😄


Team CantoneseClass101.com

Alex Shneider
Friday at 06:10 AM
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Tones hard to master

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Friday at 04:51 PM
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Hello Lee Kleir,

Thanks for posting.

For technical issue, you could specify your problem and contact our support team: contact@cantonesepod.com. 😉


Team CantoneseClass101.com

Lee Kleir
Thursday at 03:07 PM
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How can I pickup where I left off without redoing the old lessions

Thursday at 03:02 PM
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I have a hard time picking up the lesson sequence when I restart.