I’m Learning Cantonese

My fiance is Cantonese and as the wedding slowly creeps closer I’ve started to make a conscious effort to learn the language. It’s been a bit difficult to find online resources so I’m taking a self-study approach recommended by Tim Ferriss (my current idol). I’ve consolidated some of basics in this blog post for others to learn with me.

Tim Ferriss Language Learning

How to read Cantonese sounds

This is the hard part of the language. You must pronounce each word correctly with the proper inflection otherwise you’ll say a completely different word.

No. Description Yale representation
1 high-flat sīn sīk
1 high-falling sìn
2 mid-rising sín
3 mid-flat si sin sik
4 mid-falling sìh sìhn
5 low-rising síh síhn
6 low-flat sih sihn sihk

From <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yale_romanization_of_Cantonese>

Cantonese Grammar

Grammar in Cantonese is my favorite, mostly because it’s so easy. It’s an SVO langauge meaning sentences are structured like English. Subject Verb Object. Ex: I eat apple. And you don’t need to conjugate the verbs; unlike Spanish which has at least 6 different conjugation types in the present tense alone. You also don’t change the word order for questions. It’s all contextual. Wikipedia again has some knowledge on the topic: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantonese_grammar

The Basics

Tim recommends translating 12 sentences plus a bonus 13th sentence to understand how each language you’re learning structures their different types of sentences and parts of speech. Ex: questions, statements, pronouns, etc. I went to Fiverr and Quora for translations. I liked Quora’s interpretations the best.

Original translation can be found on HERE on Quora. It was translated graciously by Lue-Yee Tsang.

English Cantonese
The apple is red. Go pìhng gwó hùhng sīk ge.
It is John’s apple. Go pìhng gwó haih John ge.
I give John the apple. Pìhng gwó ngóh béi John la.
We give him the apple. Pìhng gwó ngóh deih béi keúih la.
He gives it to John. Keúih béi jó John.
She gives it to him. Keúih béi jó keúih.
Is the apple red? Go pìhng gwó haih m`h haih hùhng sīk ga? (neutral)
The apples are red. Dī pìhng gwó hùhng sīk ge.
I must give it to him. Ngóh yiu béi keúih a.
I want to give it to her. Ngóh seúng béi keúih a.
I’m going to know tomorrow. Ngóh tìng yaht jauh jì la.
I can’t eat the apple. Ngóh m sihk dāk pìhng gwó.
I have eaten the apple. Ngóh sihk jó pìhng gwó .


By next Saturday I hope to have memorized this little snippet memorized and recorded (either video or audio) posted on a new blog by August 22, 2015.

 Hello,  it’s nice to meet you. My name is Nik and I’m from Atlanta. I have one older brother who lives in Utah and a dog named Donkey. I’m marrying Connie next May at a park and I’m very excited. 

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