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I'd like to learn Cantonese, does anyone know some good resources (books, websites) that provide a thorough introduction into the language? I know that the pronunciation is a lot harder than in Mandarin, so the resource should contain audios as well.

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Zero, you can take inspiration from this topic if you want, so it's more organized. – Alenanno Jan 21 '13 at 10:49
It's not often pointed out that the phonology of Hong Kong Cantonese is actually less alien to most English speakers than Standard Mandarin. The only sounds which aren't present for many speakers of English are the vowels [y] and [œ], and marginally also syllable-initial [ŋ] (which young HK speakers drop anyway). Standard Mandarin has the retroflex and palatal series, as well as [ɤ], which pose problems for a lot of learners. There are indeed 6 tones in Hong Kong Cantonese, but on the other hand there isn't tone sandhi like there is in Mandarin. – jogloran Jan 22 '13 at 0:44
Actually there are a couple of tone sandhis, but they are not codified and taught formally, alas... eg 廣東話 gwong2 dung1 waa6*2: waa6 to waa2. Happens also with tone 3: 卡片 kaat1 pin3*2, and tone 4. – dda Jan 22 '13 at 5:01
@dda: They are tone changes, but aren't considered tone sandhi. Sandhi specifically refers to systematic tonal changes in particular phonological environments. In the case of Cantonese, these tonal changes are morphologically motivated (see, and their occurrence is more akin to Mandarin's erhua (兒化). – Claw Jan 22 '13 at 19:32
@StumpyJoePete: The best resource I've found on pin3jam1, as the phenomenon is sometimes called, is in Bauer & Benedict (1997) "Modern Cantonese Phonology". To answer your question, it's not regularly triggered by anything. The comparison to erhua is appropriate; like it, pin3jam1 has among its functions a non-productive noun->verb derivational affix, a verb->noun derivational affix and a marker of familiarity. – jogloran Jan 22 '13 at 22:26
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I agree with others who say you should work with a native speaker to help you with pronunciation. However, having a grammar book will be immensely helpful as well, since many native speakers are often unaware of their own language's grammar (many will often say "that's just how you say it" without knowing why; I've also heard native speakers assert that Cantonese doesn't have grammar).

For this, I recommend the series of books by Virginia Yip and Stephen Matthews. Basic Cantonese and Intermediate Cantonese are very good in my opinion. They also have a more comprehensive reference that covers almost any question you may have about the intricacies of Cantonese grammar; it would be an excellent study companion.

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There isn't much in terms of (good) teaching materials for Canto, unfortunately. The best/least crappy is probably CUHK's Yale-China Chinese Language Centre (CLC)'s coursework, but it is not publicly available -- ie you have to attend the classes to get your hands on the books and CDs.

I would anyway recommend against attempting to learn the basics of Cantonese unsupervised. While learning the grammar and vocabulary from a textbook is doable, there's no way you can learn the pronunciation without a (trained) native speaker making your life miserable until you manage to pronounce something that might sound like Cantonese -- and more importantly who'll train you to distinguish the 6 tones. And just be happy that it's only 6 and not 7 like 50 years ago (the high-falling tone, while still mentioned in some dictionaries, has fortunately gone the way of the Dodo).

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As my girlfriend is Cantonese, I have someone that could check my pronounciation. Unfortunately she doesn't have enough time in order to give me a thorough introduction. – zero-divisor Jan 22 '13 at 17:59

Some resources for learning Cantonese,

Good starter sites:

  • - This has a good collections of beginner words in useful categories.
  • - This site has some tips and tricks for beginner and a collection of mnemonics for absolute beginners.

Best online dictionary:

  • - best online dictionary for cantonese learners out there. Includes characters, pinyin, and jyutping.

Audio files:

  • - take the characters from cantodict over to forvo to get audio files. Sometimes there are even multiple.

Fun and Games:

  • tilespeak - simple mahjong game that says the words and begins your familiarization with characters.
  • - has some hong kong movies on it.

even more...

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Surprised no one mentioned Pimsleur ...

I took 1 year of Cantonese at my Jr. College back in 2001. These audio CD's could help a BIT with pronunciation, but there really is no replacement for native speakers and conversation (over dim sum?)

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Try out Just type the Chinese Characters in Traditional Chinese. The reading will be displayed along with tone contour.

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also learn how to use by visiting – Hoy Cheung Dec 30 '14 at 5:00

Its probably too late but try CJK Viewer, an Android app that romanizes Chinese to Cantonese. Copy and paste any Chinese text articles from the web and learn to read Cantonese through Jyutping.

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