My thoughts on Learning Cantonese tones and romanisations for beginner

Quick POINTS :

  1. Learn faster by avoiding confusion in the beginning
  2. Start to use the language rather than being annoyed by confusion
  3. See romanization as a tool
  4. Someone can speak a language without knowing the “system” of romanisation
  5. The difference between using the language and knowing the language

When it comes to Cantonese tones and romanisations, some learners feel quite confusing and hard to master. Many learners and teachers hold different views about it, I would like to share my view and I hope this would give you some ideas, thus easier to enjoy the language instead of feeling confused or spending too much time on understanding different romanisations, which probably the hardest element of the whole Cantonese learning.

→ NEVER put the biggest obstacle when you start learning a new language. Avoid confusion.

We need “positive rewards”, in another words, we need to first be motivated, the romanizations ( Yale system : 19 initials, 52 final, 6 tones) will bring you a thousand of unfamiliar sounds at once, some negative feelings and even FEAR.

A better approach is to learn to make sentences / phrases that you can use immediately, make your daily life easier

What about learning to say a simple sentence “I want three oranges” in the wet market, rather than some meaningless, confusing sounds.

After finishing a task like buying oranges in wet market, you will feel [Yeah! I can speak Cantonese! positive reinforcement].

You can see the difference between “using the language” or “cramming the knowledge of the language”?

I will teach daily phrases / simple sentences / grammar / vocabulary relevant to students at the same time, helping you to know more about tones and romanizations through real dialogue or tasks.

For example : for English speaking learners, the first lesson probably will learn “How much is it?”, “I (want to) buy this” [for shopping scenario], we will be able to speak “buy” “this” in Cantonese, then you can buy apples from the wet market right away.  Finally I will point out “maai3” = buy, “ne1 go3” = this if you need some help with romanization. Even though we are not a baby, but we still have the ability to memorize sound without the help of romanizations.

So what is the importance of learning romanization? For example, if you are English speakers, you definitely do not know how to pronounce some sound in Cantonese, romanization is a way to help you understand how to pronounce the sounds “physically”, how to air flow in your vocal chord etc. It is NOT a must to learn romanization and if you can only understand 50% of it, this will not affect your understanding of the sound.

 

RECAP

  1. Learn faster by avoiding confusion in the beginning
  2. Start to use the language rather than being annoyed by confusion
  3. See romanization as a tool
  4. Someone can speak a language without knowing the “system” of romanisation
  5. The difference between using the language and knowing the language

I wrote a ongoing essay on “How to learn Cantonese” clearing explaining what is the most important steps and content to learn in the beginning  [for more, please see reference below]

Thank you for making you read such a long passage and hope you get some idea. This is an ongoing essay, so if you have any suggestions, corrections or advice, please contact me at carine@chinese-tutors.online

Reference

 

How to learn Cantonese for foreigners (by Carine)

 

Learners’ sharing / learning tips of Cantonese

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