When choosing the learning materials : Mind the Cantonese Romanization

Knowing the romanization of Cantonese surely help the learning.

What is romanization?

In linguistics, romanization or latinization (or romanisationlatinisation: see spelling differences) is the representation of a written word or spoken speech with the Roman (Latin) script, or a system for doing so, where the original word or language uses a different writing system (or none).

Putonghua (Mandarin used in China) has its romanization called “pinyin”.

There are several romanization system for Cantonese,

Cantonese romanization systems are based on the accent of Canton and Hong Kong, and have helped define the concept of Standard Cantonese. The major systems are Barnett–Chao, Meyer–Wempe, the Chinese government’s Guangdong Romanization, Yale and Jyutping.

systems of romanization of cantonese

The lastest romanization system is Jyutping.

Jyutping (Cantonese pronunciation: [jyːt̚˨ pʰɪŋ˧], sometimes spelled Jyutpin) is a romanization system for Cantonese developed by the Linguistic Society of Hong Kong (LSHK) in 1993. Its formal name is The Linguistic Society of Hong Kong Cantonese Romanization Scheme. The LSHK promotes the use of this romanization system.

When you decide to buy some Cantonese learning material, you may come across with Yale, Sidney Lau, Jyutping system. They are similar to each other. If you start to learn Yale system in the beginning, you can also use books with Jyutping system. (What you may need is a comparison table for Yale and Jyutping) I can assure you it won’t be complicated.

I teach Cantonese, I have reference book on both system, it is not a big matter. The aim of having romanization is to help memorization of the pronunication, but never rely too much on them, a natural conversation never reply on romanisation, it is just naturally out of our brain and month, without the process of going to the romanisation. Therefore, treat the romanisation as a tool to help understand the phonetic system. We master the tone by listening, it comes easier and more naturally.

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