Cantonese is a tonal language. You can find many people perplexed about how to learn Cantonese. Furthermore, the Cantonese language is commonly and easily mistaken for the Mandarin language. When Cantonese and Mandarin are written, you may hardly see the difference. But, when spoken fluently, any fluent speaker can tell the two languages apart.
Cantonese Chinese is generally spoken in Hong Kong, Guangdong Province, some of Malaysia, and Macau, as well as in other countries, namely the USA and Europe. The immigrants from Guangdong mainly speak this language.
Cantonese is considered a complex language to learn, especially for many speakers because for the following reasons. The difference in the writing systems, pronunciations, the number of speakers being relatively few, and the fact that Mandarin is a more popular alternative.
Despite all these challenges, language learners can still learn the Cantonese Chinese language. The trick is to look for a simple method or technique to ease your struggle. Some simple ways to learn Cantonese are explained below.
1. How to Learn Cantonese- Easy Ways of Learning Cantonese
There are several ways of learning Cantonese, but you can find the most convenient approaches below.
1.1. Use the Cantonese Language Applications on Your Electronic Devices
Technology advancements have simplified the complex learning process, making it almost effortless for learners.
Furthermore, with these language learning applications, namely Duolingo, the difficulty to scout a Cantonese teacher to learn the Cantonese language is solved.
Secondly, you will find it convenient for learning because you can study according to your convenience. When you go online, you can have a lesson anywhere at your convenience.
Most apps have lessons that are designed to be brief and less complicated. You can easily take two or three classes every day. So if you are stuck with a hectic schedule, you can still take a lesson every four hours or when idle.
Here is a list of popular and well-developed Cantonese learning apps.
This app is great for learning since it focuses on speaking. You can find audio lessons that will walk you through routine conversations. Furthermore, apart from your listening skills, this app can help you work on your vocabulary.
There is a subscription, but you have a trial run which is for seven days.
This app also devotes a lot to learning. The courses are interactive and have word lists for reference. Furthermore, there are illustrations to help you recall the meaning of these words. The app repeats words and phrases to ensure your long-term memory commitment.
You can also take a five-minute lesson for free every day.
The Glossika approach is straightforward. You recite phrases as a native speaker pronounces them. You get to repeat sentences numerous times throughout your learning process.
However, you can find no actual classes on this app. Instead, with the help of the audio, you can absorb the grammar, Cantonese vocabulary, and speaking rhythms.
Furthermore, it is an intriguing way to learn since it prevents you from feeling bored and boosts confidence. You can use Glossika for free for the first seven days.
1.1.4. More Information on Language Learning Apps
Each of them has aided language learners to attain gradually impressive results with low commitment at almost no cost but with high convenience.
You can improve your fluency in routine conversations, Cantonese vocabulary, and listening skills through interaction with other native Cantonese speakers.
The application uses the technique of repetition to achieve perfect understanding by mimicking audio. This style allows you to recite phrases in a fashion similar to a childish recital.
However, there are also classes where you are taught on the apps.
1.2. Online Cantonese Course
You could find an online Cantonese course as a better alternative if you are interested in an organized structural form of learning. However, the scheduling of lessons will not be as per your preference.
This course follows the same routine arrangement as in a school or university. Most of them utilize a hybrid approach to learning. They have live classes, pre-recorded videos, beginner classes and several study materials to reinforce what you learned during the lessons.
1.2.1. Beginner Cantonese Course
A beginner Cantonese course speeds up the learning process if you want to learn how to speak Cantonese as quickly as possible.
With a beginner’s book full of simple dialogues, you can skip the writing system, which is the complex part of learning Cantonese, since many speakers are unfamiliar with tonal languages, including Cantonese. Hence, you can learn the conversational parts.
As you read the dialogues, two Romanization systems are recommended for Cantonese: Jyutping and Yale. However, resources that use Jyutping are preferred because Yale is a bit outdated.
The books are full of Cantonese dialogue that you can use. Cantonese for Everyone and CantoneseClass101 are both well-known resources for beginners. These are good for you to start learning.
However, the dialogues can be too short to practice listening. Thus, you are advised not to spend much time on them and advance to more appropriate methods.
Moreover, the vocabulary lists mix up the written and spoken Cantonese, which is always different. So, you should avoid these lists, especially on the websites.
This online learning platform teaches several Cantonese courses. Furthermore, it has over a hundred and thirty courses for you to select from. You can find basic, intermediate, and advanced levels courses. In addition, there are also writing sessions for Cantonese.
1.2.3. FSI Cantonese Basic Course
Foreign Service Institute Language Courses are formal ways of learning Cantonese. They have been demonstrated to be efficient for Cantonese students. However, the courses are not very popular.
Nonetheless, they produce significant results, and here is why. These audio courses are split into thirty lessons, including explanations, drills, and conversations.
You can use a free FSI textbook to follow during the lessons, and the best part is that you can try the lessons free for the first thirty days.
1.3. Opt for an Online Cantonese Tutor
Cantonese native speakers are fewer than those that speak Mandarin. Nevertheless, you can still find a teacher for Cantonese because you will find it challenging to learn the native language without them.
In addition, the best way to practice and master the language is to have constant conversations with someone fluent.
However, that may not be possible, putting several factors into consideration. Luckily for you, there is the option of having an online tutor. The tutor could even be a Cantonese speaker who lives in Hong Kong.
Taking an online class with someone to guide you through the ropes is better than working alone and will help you achieve significant results quickly.
The reputable platforms with Cantonese tutors available provide one-on-one classes, including Verbling, Italki, and Amazing Talker.
With a tutor, you can balance the time spent learning Cantonese and the other activities in your life. There is a medium commitment required since you have some assistance. The Cantonese tutors are moderately affordable and convenient for your learning process.
1.4. Reading Cantonese Books
Studying and reading a book is old-fashioned to many people. However, you will find this a very efficient method. Cantonese books contain all you need to learn the language properly.
Most of the language classes use books during their studies. Studying Cantonese literature and stories is a great way to perfect your language comprehension.
In addition, you should use the books for self-study. There are practice questions and answers as well as recorded audio containing dialogues of Cantonese conversations. This helps you to memorize Cantonese pronunciation correctly.
Furthermore, the most appropriate way to learn any language is by reading its literature. The books that may be helpful include:
- Complete Cantonese
- Learn to Speak Cantonese I
- Get Started in Cantonese
1.5. Cantonese Videos
You often find yourself spending time viewing several videos on the internet. So why not use the surplus time to study and learn Cantonese? Imagine how much progress you would make in such a short time.
You can listen to the speaker’s tone and watch their expression. You can download videos directly from native Cantonese speakers.
Many channels teach spoken and written Cantonese language, Cantonese culture, and behaviour. Furthermore, you can find hundreds of videos.
1.6. Cantonese Podcasts
Podcasts are very similar to recorded audio and are also a convenient way to learn Cantonese. You can listen from anywhere while doing your other activities.
Podcasts give you familiarity with the language. You can listen to the pronunciations clearly and understand the language better.
CantoneseClass101, Cantonese Pod, and Learn Cantonese Daily are some podcasts you can listen to. Furthermore, you can find all the materials you can listen to on these podcasts.
1.7. Get Familiar with Tones
One of the aspects you will find most challenging in Cantonese is learning the tones. The Chinese contemporary linguists modified the original nine Cantonese tones, leaving only six that are now taught.
You can search through the resources, namely the Tones Cheat Sheet. The Romanization systems have tone numbers. You will find it challenging to memorize the tones, but with constant references to the chart, you can master the same.
1.7.1. The Cantonese Tones
The Cantonese language is tonal. The unique feature of Cantonese is the tones. Each of the Chinese characters can alter the meaning of a word. Thus it is necessary to understand them properly to master the language. The various tones are given below.
- High-Level Tone – This tone is high and flat. It requires starting at a high pitch and maintaining it as you pronounce the word.
- High Rising Tone- This tone is a mid-level pitch that rises to a high pitch.
- Mid-Level Tone- This tone is neither high nor low. It is the normal-speaking voice.
- Low Falling-Rising Tone- This tone requires you to start at a high pitch and then fall to a low pitch before rising again.
- Low-Level Tone- This tone is low and flat. It requires starting at a low pitch and maintaining it as you speak.
- Low Rising Tone- This tone requires you to begin at a mid-level pitch and switch to a low pitch.
1.8. Listen and Practise Everyday
This is the most crucial step when you are learning any language. You can hear the language being spoken by constantly listening to the audio of dialogues. Hence, you will become familiar with the words and the sounds as you listen many times.
Furthermore, you can know how far you have progressed. Also, when trying to memorize the tones, listen carefully as you move along. You can constantly check the charts in case you forget while listening.
Use Jyutping to help you read as you listen. Eventually, constant practice will improve your ability to conceptualize. Though you will have errors, you can find progress at the end.
Thus, ensure you spend time daily to focus on listening.
1.9. Use Flashcards to Memorise Significant Cantonese Words
Flashcards are used to study at school and can be very helpful when trying to perfect your vocabulary as you are learning Cantonese. When you pick this method, you will be comfortable with listening and comprehension.
You are just building your vocabulary. Fortunately, you can use Flashcards apps on your phone. Hence, you can practise anywhere according to your comfort.
A flash card has a word that you are unfamiliar with. You get that word and use it to construct a meaningful sentence. This method is a great way to utilize idle time while waiting at the bus stop or on a lunch break.
You can take turns studying the sentences in English. Then proceed to translate them into Cantonese and recite them. This process will improve your conversational skills by adding significant words to your speech.
1.10. Use of Mnemonics to Memorise Tricky Words
You may find some Cantonese words difficult to remember even with all the constant practice you do. When that happens, you can try to use mnemonics to ensure that such tricky words stay in your mind.
Mnemonics involve associating certain words with a particular image or memory that is easy to remember. In this method, you can create a link between the new word, and something you already know in your mind. Hence, you can recollect it without any trouble.
You can even associate such words with personal memories or whatever way you find it easy to recall the word.
1.11. Setting Goals
Most language apps have goals to encourage learners to keep learning. These include divisions that determine your progress to show how much you have learned.
Duolingo classifies its learners according to progress by promoting learners performing well and demoting those not up to the mark.
Furthermore, goals keep you focused to continue learning. They help you realize what you want and how to get it. However, you can avoid repeating the same tasks you are already familiar with.
Set short-term goals and mix up the materials to avoid getting bored repeating the same tasks. You will remain engaged and will be constantly challenged to get better. You can set goals that are assessable and achievable with deadlines.
With this, you will not lose track of your ultimate goal- learning Cantonese.
1.12. Get a Cantonese Speaking Partner
Initially, you may not be comfortable conversing with another fluent Cantonese speaker. At an early stage, you may prefer to say the little you have learned to only your teacher.
As you become accustomed to the vocabulary, you should find a partner to talk to. Although you may feel shy, this is the key to memorizing things you have learned.
Furthermore, it is no use learning a language that you never get to speak for years. The human mind can forget things with time. So it is necessary to continuously remind yourself by having daily conversations with someone.
Fortunately, you can go online and meet people that speak Cantonese, probably even those living in Hong Kong. You can do this over social media or chat with learners on the language teaching app. With time, your progress will be impressive.
Set a goal of speaking to three or four Cantonese people regularly to attain significant results. In a year, you should be speaking fluent Cantonese.
1.13. Focus on Relevant Words and Phrases
The beginner’s book may not have all the words and phrases you are interested in. You might want to discuss hobbies, interests, work-related issues, and more during a conversation.
There is no way all these will be covered in the course, but you can still use the Cantonese resources to learn the words you are specifically interested in. This will, in turn, build your confidence when you talk to people.
You can also improve your sentence structure because the more you get comfortable with simple phrases, namely: I am a Biology professor at a university. You will gain momentum to keep learning more.
It will also help when you are answering simple questions. For instance, imagine you are at an interview, and the first question is why you are learning Cantonese or whether is it a complex language. These are simple questions, and you can answer them.
1.14. Explore Cantonese Content
Cantonese content can be movies, television series, novels, other forms of literature, news sheets and articles. Many will argue that watching TV and binge-watching series is not a great way to learn any language, and they are not wrong.
Nevertheless, you cannot entirely ignore the tiny advantage it offers. First, let us remember the French classes at school that occasionally involved watching some movies to keep the learners engaged and interested in the language.
Also, when learning Spanish, watching money heists will make it more exciting and enjoyable. This will make the learning process interesting and relatable.
In the same way, you can associate words learned in class with those in the movies and stories. You can listen to them being used in meaningful sentences and conversations.
Moreover, watching TV series and movies will be interesting. Even better, there will be English subtitles to translate as you watch. You can remind yourself of words that are difficult to remember. You can use mnemonics here.
Additionally, you will find out about Cantonese culture and country. Furthermore, you can make friends in the new language.
Will it Take Very Long to Learn to Speak and Write the Cantonese Language?
The general opinion suggests learning Cantonese can be difficult. However, this shall not have to be necessarily true.
You may take a long time to learn the language, or maybe you may not. It depends on your ability to understand and master the rules of the language, but in the end, everyone has different experiences based on their commitment levels.
Is it Costly to Learn Cantonese?
You can find several ways to learn Cantonese. Many of them involve no costs at all. You can watch youtube videos, download podcasts, and listen to recorded audio. All of these are available for free. In addition, apps, namely Duolingo and CantoneseClass101 offer their content free of charge.
Learning a new language can be hard, but it is not impossible. As a learner, you need to have access to the appropriate resources and tools to be able to accomplish the task.
You can effortlessly learn a new language with the appropriate method and necessary commitment. You will have a fantastic experience. If possible, try to make your learning process engaging too.
Remember, constant practice is the key, so the more you study and repeat it several times, the more you will improve. Furthermore, what matters most is that you should find a convenient learning method that delivers the highest amount of progress.
Hence, similar to any other learning process, you should have dedication and resilience so that in no time, you will be speaking Cantonese. Subsequently, you can also eliminate your worry about how to learn Cantonese and become a fluent speaker.