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u/disinformed · 3 pointsr/Cantonese

I'm a native speaker of Cantonese who had lost fluency in the language due to many years of disuse, but have been able to achieve proficiency (take it as you will) in the language recently. I'll outline my approach:

  1. Study Mandarin to a functional level of fluency. It may seem counter-intuitive to learn another language just to start studying Cantonese, but an understanding of Mandarin will help you greatly (and I can't stress this enough) in learning Cantonese. Although the phonologies of two languages are so different that they aren't mutually intelligible, you can actually map certain sounds and tones between the two. There are very many exceptions, but the relation is fairly consistent. You can even guess the pronunciation of a word in Cantonese if you know the Mandarin equivalent (and vice versa). Learning Mandarin also teaches you formal Cantonese (aka the style of speaking and vocabulary used in news), as the grammar of the two are identical. (See (5) for Mandarin learning resources)

  2. If you are insistent on starting Cantonese first and never touching Mandarin, ignore the above (I highly, highly suggest against this). Cantonese: A Comprehensive Grammar is what I believe to be the best book for taking an organized approach to properly learning Cantonese. You probably already are familiar with the tones of Cantonese, but it's best to officially familiarize yourself with the tone system. Here is a tone mapping between Cantonese and Mandarin. You probably don't have to worry about it until the later stages of learning. You will come to find that tone 2 is similar to tone 5, and that tone 4 is similar to tone 6. It is possible to merge the tones in each pair and still be understood, but if you want your pronunciation to be accurate, learn to distinguish them from the beginning.

    As for learning resources, I recommend Pleco as a dictionary. It has pronunciations for both Mandarin and Cantonese. I don't believe there is a better Chinese dictionary out there. As for Cantonese-oriented dictionaries, I would suggest CC-Canto (the one I use most often on my computer), (less comprehensive than the previous dictionary, but has audio pronunciations), and MDBG (no Cantonese pronunciations, but is a good replacement for Pleco if you don't want to buy it).

    I would visit RTHK Radio for listening practice. RTHK in general provides a plethora of learning materials, including TV programs (live broadcasts), recorded broadcasts, and text news. ONTV is a YouTube broadcast of a news stream that's on almost 24/7. Here is another channel (no live broadcast, but very frequently uploads videos) for news.

  3. The following is just general information, which may or not already be obvious, but should be important nonetheless:

  • Speak as much as you can to native/fluent speakers.

  • Don't be discouraged if you can't understand much news in the first few months; formal Cantonese is very different from colloquial Cantonese, and takes some time to get used to.

  • Decide which Cantonese pronunciation you want to learn--Hong Kong or Guangzhou. Technically, the original pronunciation is that of Guangzhou Cantonese, but today the standard is Hong Kong Cantonese. You can do some research on the pronunciation differences (feel free to pm me for a list), but the most distinct one would probably be the replacement of 'n' with 'l' (lei5 hou2 instead of nei5 hou2).

  1. This section will be an elaboration on how to start learning Chinese (the written language. This is the part where learning Mandarin would be useful. At the beginning, you'll want to cram down 1000 or so characters before starting to learn grammar; although your goal is Cantonese fluency, and given that Cantonese is mainly a spoken language, it's still important to learn the characters because it makes learning vocabulary much easier when you know the meaning of each distinct character. I used this Memrise course. It would be most practical to learn traditional characters for Cantonese because Hong Kong uses traditional characters, but I’ve found that learning traditional characters from simplified characters wasn’t that hard.
    How does one learn how to read and write Chinese? At the early stages, as you learn each character, write it out (preferably on some practice sheet with grids). Eventually it becomes tedious to write out everything, but by then you learn that you don’t actually have to know how to write a character to read it. Nonetheless, you should still write out characters until you’ve familiarized yourself with proper stroke order and the common radicals.

  2. Finally, here are Mandarin learning resources:

u/cinnamynz · 1 pointr/Cantonese

I found the same problem too trying to learn Canto from NZ. Most of the resources are in Mandarin and you have to accept the fact that no one guide will fulfill all your needs. The two books that I have found most helpful are these:
This is a pretty extensive list of traditional characters with stroke diagrams to help you learn to write. I've found it invaluable as a resource however the pronunciation is given in Mandarin.
This is the best spoken Cantonese guide I have found and will help you with grammar integrated with everyday conversation.

Of course pronunciation is something that you can't get with a book. Pleco is a really helpful dictionary style app that includes Canto and Mandarin audio files. You can search for words by English, jyutping or stroke (assuming you know how to write.)

Final thing I would recommend is Cantonese 101 podcasts
It's well worth signing up to this (there's a free trial period) as the lessons are comprehensive and go up to an advanced level. The tutors are Hong Kongers so you will pick up a bit of the culture - and of course plenty to do with business, money and shopping.

Hope this helps and best of luck!

u/roipoiboy · 2 pointsr/Cantonese

PM'd you. I'm gonna make a post on this sub when I finish the cards but till then I can get you the work in progress. They're for this book which is a pretty good introduction.

My partner is from HK and I learned more spending three weeks there with her this summer than I did over several months of self-study, so even after books and flashcards for the basics, the best thing is to speak as much as you can. Why did you decide to learn Cantonese? It would probably be best to tailor your learning approach around that reason.

u/cholesteroltreatment · 2 pointsr/Cantonese

I agree with the other comment. Learn how to speak and listen pretty well first before you move on to reading and writing.

Here is a great resource to get you started. From what I've seen, it has a slow and steady pace:

Find a tutor on iTalki. Watch movies and Youtube channels--you can find a lot of suggestions searching this subreddit.

Add oil!


u/JBfan88 · 1 pointr/Cantonese

It's a Textbook. It's good, but most of the value comes through the dialogues, which are also hosted on (paid resource).

Are you Taiwanese? I'm just curious how someone would be able to write traditional characters so well and not already speak Cantonese.

u/grondoval · 2 pointsr/Cantonese

> We have some folks in Australia saying that after watching that, they knew they would spend their life fighting for justice. To think some people base their value systems on fallacies and lies.....

Yeah. And this is also a mind-blower (for me in the U.S.) →

I didn't major in history, but I studied it for fun. Imagine my face when I found out about that ↑

u/SweetSourPork · 2 pointsr/Cantonese

> What's the best way to learn conversational cantonese without learning the characters?

If you are buying textbooks, many of them (1, 2) use some sort of romanization, be it the Yale system or Jyutping. The books may also come with audio files too, so you can listen and recite.

u/xbee · 1 pointr/Cantonese

Hi! I'm also learning Cantonese so that I can communicate with my SO's parents. These are the resources I'm using:

Teach Yourself book:
Get Started in Cantonese Absolute Beginner Course: The essential introduction to reading, writing, speaking and understanding a new language (Teach Yo

They also have beginner to intermediate on Amazon.
The great thing about the Teach Yourself series is that it comes with an audio file so you can practice listening and understanding. It also has practice problems and reviews to make sure you understand the materials.
Memrise for vocabulary - it's a website but they also have an app
Anki for flashcards
YouTube videos for listening

u/kijhaq · 1 pointr/Cantonese

This is what I've basically concluded from the comments here and perusing the other resources online. For example, I found this great series of books for learning SWC,
Written Standard Chinese, Volume One: A Beginning Reading Text for Modern Chinese: Beginning Reading Text for Modern Chinese v. 1

but of course it refers to Mandarin exclusively. Despite searching high and low, I cannot find an equivalent course with Cantonese pronunciation.

That's pretty annoying because I've just bought this book on Cantonese, but it's probably better to find it out sooner rather than later.

u/poltak12 · 2 pointsr/Cantonese

Are you referring to this? If not, may I ask what you are referring to?