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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 writing.
Written Standard Chinese
Don't worry if you're not comfortable with the Chinese writing yet. You can always rely on the romanization system. This lesson just give you an overview of how the language is in its written form.
One very interesting point about Cantonese is that it used to be defined as just a spoken language.
As it's one of the major Chinese dialects, it uses the same written standard Chinese as all the other dialects. That's why some people look at some of our lessons and say that "Hey, it's the same as Mandarin!" Yes, we use the same writing, but the pronunciation, use of terms, and sometimes the construction are different in a very significant way.
As a colloquial language, Cantonese is non-standard and full of slang. There are also new Chinese characters that are unique to Cantonese.
Both the standard and slang-filled written texts are widely used in Hong Kong. Newspapers, officials, and documents use the standard form, while tabloids and forums use the colloquial form. Movie subtitles mostly use the standard form, but depending on the genre, sometimes you'll find subtitles in the colloquial form.
So very often you'll hear actors, hosts, or anchors say things that aren't exactly what's shown in the subtitles. That's just the difference between colloquial and written forms in Cantonese. If you say everything the same way it's written in the standard Chinese, it would sound very strange, as if you are reading from a poem.
So keep that in mind!
For example, we'd say 喺 (hai2) meaning "at," such as "at school" 喺學校 (hai2 hok6 haau6); but the same thing in writing is 在 (zoi6). Ao "at school" in writing becomes 在學校 (zoi6 hok6 haau6).
For your reference, we have a section dedicated to this topic on the website, including a reference sheet of the common substitutes for words in written and colloquial writings. Just look for "Written vs Spoken Cantonese" under Cantonese Resource.
You can also check out our advanced video series "Video Culture Class: Hong Kong Holidays." In that series, we have subtitles in written form, while the host is speaking in colloquial form, just like what you'd see on TV shows and movies. We'll link that at the end of this video.
Learn Chinese Characters
Chinese characters are not as difficult as they first appear. Once you're ready to learn, practice writing them again and again.
Yes, we all learned it that way. After knowing a certain number of Chinese characters, you'll become familiar with the building blocks that make the characters. By putting them in different combinations, you'll get the characters you need.
We've prepared practice sheets for 100 of the most commonly used characters on the "Learn Chinese Characters" section, including basic info such as meaning, pronunciation, radical, stroke count, and a stroke order demonstration. So make sure to check it out.
You can learn character by character, or choose the ones that already look familiar to you! Moreover, in most of our audio lessons, we provide Honzi Close-up PDF files. These show the Chinese characters introduced in the lesson, along with their practice sheets.
This is an excellent way to learn new words as well as to practice writing Chinese characters.
So remember to make use of all the resources provided on the site, and you'll be able to master Cantonese in no time!
The Chinese radicals
Speaking of Cantonese Resources, we recently added a section for learners who want to learn Chinese characters the way native speakers do.
That's right! When we were young, we learned Chinese characters by radicals. These are the building blocks of the Chinese characters. There are 214 Chinese Radicals in total.
Each radical reflects some common semantic or phonetic characteristic. For example, most characters that have the "grass" radical are related to plants and herbs.
For instance, 花 (faa1), "flower." 草 (cou2), "grass." 茶 (caa4), "tea." And 莓 (mui5), "berry."
Or, the characters that have the "rain" radical are related to rain or other weather conditions and phenomena.
Yes, 雨 (jyu5), "rain." 雲 (wan4), "cloud." 雪 (syut3), "snow." And 雷 (leoi4), "thunder."
By learning the radicals, you can easily associate a character with its meaning, or group them with relevant terms. This can help you memorize Chinese characters faster and more efficiently.
We also use radicals as the index for dictionaries.
While English dictionaries are arranged in alphabetical order, Chinese dictionaries are arranged in radicals, starting from the least stroke count.
For example, to search for the word 花 (faa1), "flower," first you find the "grass" radical in under the 3-strokes index. Then you count the extra strokes excluding the radical. In this case, there are 4 strokes. So under the "grass" + 4 strokes section, you'll be able to find the character 花 (faa1), "flower."
From that, you can find a detailed explanation about the character and its meanings. You'll also find vocabulary starting with this character, or in some dictionaries, its translation in other languages.
Right! So definitely check out the free Cantonese Resource on CantoneseClass101.com for more details.
In this lesson, we've covered the very basics of Cantonese writing.
You learned about the writing systems used in Hong Kong, the Chinese characters, and the radicals.
Don't forget to check out the Cantonese Resource page for the free resources that we talked about in this lesson.
In the next lesson, you'll be entering Cantonese boot camp, where you'll learn useful beginner phrases to get you speaking Cantonese right away!
See you in the next lesson. Bye!