hkvibes : Cantonese basics (part I)

May 22, 2008
Cantonese basics (part I)

Today we gonna learn a few basics about Cantonese. Cantonese is difficult and more different from Mandarin than Spanish is from French for example (in case you speak these languages too). The difficulty here is to teach the words along with the correct accents. Cantonese has up to nine different accents so it’s quite a nightmare. I strongly encourage you to repeat the pronunciation of these words with a Chinese colleague or friend. All in all, five words would already be a good progress for today.

Hello = Djo san: lower accent on the “o” of “djo”

Thank you = Ng goi / Do tse: depending on the situation, you’ll thank someone by saying “ng goi” (pronounce “mh” goi) or “do tse” (accent on “o” in “do” and “e” in “tse”). “Ng goi” is for a service whereas “do tse” is for a present for which money has been spent. For example, if you ask for a document at work you’ll thank by saying “ng goi” but if your manager invites you to the restaurant you’ll say “do tse”.

Please = Ng goi: same as “thank you”

How are you? = Ley ho ma?: “ley” means “you”, “ho” means “good”

I’m fine = ho ho ar: “ar” is often added by Cantonese speakers at the end of their sentences (can be “la” also) and should be pronounced “ah” (i.e. without the “r”); “ho ho” means “very good” (2x “good”).

Note: all the pinyin above is 100% guaranted PMP (Pimp My Pinyin) so don’t hesitate to correct it in the comments!

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