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Lesson Transcript

David: Welcome back to CantoneseClass101. I’m David.
Nicole: 大家好 (daai6 gaa1 hou2). I’m Nicole.
David: In our last lesson we talked about sounds in Jyutping.
Nicole: I hope you like it.
David: In this lesson, we’re going to talk about Cantonese tones.
Nicole: Yeah the beautiful tones!
David: sounds like music to you, but really scary to a lot of us who are learning Cantonese for the first time. You guys can’t even agree, are there 6 of them, or 9 of them.
Nicole: Well, there are only 6!
David: In this lesson, we’re going to learn about the 6 tones. Let’s start at the beginner, with the 1st tone.
Nicole: si1.
David: That’s the 1st tone, high and flat.
Nicole: si1.
David: High and steady.
Nicole: That’s right, it’s very easy!
David: And that’s the highest tone too.
Nicole: Yes really high, si1 . I’m singing here. fan1 or ba1. Those are all 1st tones.
David: And they’re all high, and they’re all flat. OK, the 2nd tone is a rising tone.
Nicole: si2.
David: This is called Mid Rising tone.
Nicole: si2. it’s a little bit lower than the 1st one. It sounds like the intonation we use in English when we ask a question.
David: Like when we say ‘huh?’ or "see?"
Nicole: Exactly. si2. fan2, ba2.
David: Sounds completely like the English question "see?"
Ok, now let's try to put the 1st tone and the 2nd tone together.
Nicole: si1 si2, fan1 fan2, ba1 ba2.
David: Right. So the first 2 tones are down.
Nicole: Yay!
David: What's the 3rd one?
Nicole: si3.
David: The third one is also flat and steady like the first. But it is lower.
Nicole: si3.
David: Flat tone , in the middle of your voice range.
Nicole: si3. fan3. ba3.
David: Let's hear 1 and 3 together for comparison?
Nicole: si1, si3. fan1, fan3.
David: Ok. How about all 3 together?
Nicole: si1 si2 si3
David: Sounds like music. Okay, 3 down!
Nicole: Now we only have 20 to go!
David: 20?!
Nicole: Kidding. We are half way through.
David: So got three more to go. What’s the 4th tone?
Nicole: si4.
David: This is a flat tone, but very very low.
Nicole: si4.
David: This is the 4th tone. It makes you sound unnaturally low.
Nicole: si4.
David: Just remember, low and flat. The lowest.
Nicole: si4, m4…
David: Just like in the word m4 goi1.
Nicole: That's 4th tone, and then 1st tone. Really low, then really high. m4 goi1.
David: And that’s the word for “excuse me”, and “thank you”, and “please”.
Alright, let’s put all 3 flat tones together.
Nicole: si1 si3 si4.
David: Right.
Nicole: si1 si3 si4.
David: Our next time tone, tone 5, is low rising.
Nicole: si5.
David: It starts low and it rises.
Nicole: si5.
David: So it's like the 2nd tone only a lot lower.
Nicole: Exactly. si5, fan5, ba5.
David: Let's hear 2nd and 5th tone together.
Nicole: si2, si5. fan2 fan5. ba2, ba5 .
David: okay, we’ve done 5 tones. Of course, there’s one more tone coming up.
Nicole: yep, that one is actually a bit tricky.
David: It's another flat tone.
Nicole: And in the middle. si6.
David: It’s sort of low, but not in the bottom there.
Nicole: si6, fan6, ba6
Davidt: So to conclude, we got 6 tones, 4 flat tones and 2 rising tones.
Nicole: Right. Let's listen to the four FLAT tones. si1, si3, si4, si6.
Nicole: Ok, and now the 2 rising tones.
Nicole: si2, si5.
David: So that's it. The 6 tones. Nicole, before we go can you give us a quick review?
Nicole: No problem, I will say the six tones in a row, so you can hear the difference. si1 si2 si3 si4 si5 si6 .
David: Let’s hear that one more time, quicker..
Nicole: si1 si2 si3 si4 si5 si6 .
David: Okay, now, before we move on. We want to deal with the point we mentioned at the beginning. You say there no extra tones, these 3 tones that some people talk about. What are they?
Nicole: Ok. There are Entering Tones: Entering high-flat, entering mid-flat, entering low-flat.
David: So what do they sound like?
Nicole: sik1, sek3, sik6.
David: So it’s sorta like tone 1, and then tone 3, and then tone 6
Nicole: Yes, 3 flat tones.
David: And they end with -p, -t, and -k.
Nicole: And they’re the silent -p, -t, -k.
David: So that’s our almost silent glottal stop.
Nicole: Yes. sik1, sek3, sik6. The reason I’m saying that the’re not real tones, is that they’re using the same pitches that we already introduced at the beginning of our lesson.
David: The tones aren’t new, we just have a special name for them because they end with a different sound.
Nicole: Exactly.
David: that's why you said there are only 6 tones.
Nicole: Right!



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

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 06:30 PM
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Please share any methods that have helped you with learning the tones as well!

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Thursday at 03:24 PM
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Hello Craig,

Thank you for the question! 😉

Recall the definitions of our 3 entering tones,


The seventh tone is a syllable that ends in a glottal stop but shares the same pitch with the first tone: [sik1].

The eighth tone is a syllable that ends in a glottal stop and shares the same pitch with the third tone: [sek3].

The ninth tone is a syllable that ends in a glottal stop and shares the same pitch with the sixth tone: [sik6].


you can see that 7th tone shares the same pitch with the 1st tone, 8th tone with the 3rd tone and 9th with the 6th tone. In other words, these tones, which syllable ends in a glottal stop, have no connection with 2nd, 4th, 5th tones.


Team CantoneseClass101.com

Wednesday at 06:30 AM
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Does the debate over the existence of tones 7, 8, and 9 mean that words ending in -p, -t, and -k are never pronounced using the 2nd, 4th, and 5th tones. Rather tone 7 is like tone 1, tone 8 is like tone 3, and tone 9 is like tone 6, meaning words with the glottal stop cannot use tones 2, 4, or 5?

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 09:10 PM
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Hi Lynn,

Thanks for your question! 😄

1st tone: high, 3rd tone: mid, 4th tone: lowest, 6th tone: low.

It may be difficult to separate the difference between tones at the beginning, but I am sure that one will master it after listening repeatedly. 👍😉


Team CantoneseClass101.com

Sunday at 02:04 PM
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the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 6th sounds all same. The only difference is lower and higher pitch?

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Saturday at 12:55 AM
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Hi Geoff,

Thank you for leaving the comment.

If you have any questions, please let us know.:wink:



Team CantoneseClass101.com

Friday at 12:13 PM
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Thanks again ! 唔該晒 !!

Cantoneseclass101.com Verified
Monday at 05:36 AM
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Hello Ziujoeng,

Thank you for your help. :thumbsup:


Team CantoneseClass101.com

Saturday at 01:35 PM
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To Geoff,

I commented about this about 19 comments down (although that was probably a couple of years ago). I hope you take a look.

Cantoneseclass101.com Verified
Saturday at 12:27 PM
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Hi Geoff,

Very great and effective strategies for learning tones. :thumbsup:

You found the website saying the 4th tone is a falling tone, actually it is the description of pitch value of the syllable ~ (low falling,very low level) . What Nicole mentioned is the "Tone Category" which should be the "light flat" for the 4th tone. More material about the Cantonese intonation in Cantoneseclass101.com. Remember to download the Lesson Notes PDF. It provides more detail explanation. Hope you will find it useful.

All About - 4. Cantonese Pronunciation


Ultimate Cantonese Pronunciation Guide - 8. Cantonese Tones



Team CantoneseClass101.com

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Monday at 09:40 PM
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Hi Geoff,

Thanks for sharing your strategies for learning tones :)

Regarding your questions, our team will get back to you as soon as possible.



Team CantoneseClass101.com