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Cantonese: How Do You Say – Delicious Cooked Food

Listen to Podcast | Cantonese: How Do You Say – Delicious Cooked Food

Psst… You can find our How Do You Say Podcasts on Spotify too! Head to Spotify – LearnDialect.sg or search for LearnDialect.sg on Spotify.


New Words 

EnglishCantoneseJyutpingOur Romanization
Food (formal)食物Sik6 mat6Sek mat
ThingsJe5Yeh
Buy買(买)Maai5Maai
CookZyu2Ju

Podcast Transcript | Cantonese: How Do You Say – Delicious Cooked Food

Hello everyone! My name is Eugene and thanks for tuning into our Cantonese – How Do You Say Podcast. In this session, we will be touching on one topic that Singaporeans hold very close to our hearts – food!

While the term “food” can be translated into Cantonese as 食物, it is rather uncommon to use it when speaking in Cantonese. Instead, food is often expressed using a combination of 食 (which means “eat”) and 嘢 (which means “things”). Let me give you some examples:

  • To express the English phrase “Have some food”, Cantonese speakers will say 食啲嘢.
  • To express “Buy some food”, Cantonese speakers will say 买嘢食.

Now, I would suggest for you to keep the word – 嘢 – in mind, as you’ll soon find that it is a very versatile word. In fact, I’ll encourage you to observe how this phrase is commonly used in Cantonese conversations and try to pick up the different ways of application!

So how do we say “Food is delicious” in Cantonese then? We do so by saying 嗰嘢好好食, where 好好食 means “delicious” or “yummy”. Of course, if you have a specific food item in your mind, you can simply replace 嗰嘢 with the dish name. For example, 雲吞面好好食 means “Wanton noodles is delicious”.

Now, I’m a big foodie myself and when I come across a dish that is really yummy, I’ll like to give credits to the person who cooked it, be it the chef or my loved ones. After all, I know that cooking is not easy! Well, for a simple praise, I’ll say 你煮嗰嘢好好食. This means “the food that you cook is really delicious”. A quick recap of what we have learnt today:

  • Food is often expressed by combining 食 and 嘢;
  • 嗰嘢好好食, which means “food is delicious”; and
  • 你煮嗰嘢好好食, which means “the food that you cook is really delicious”.

There you go. Hope these phrases are useful for your next conversation over a good meal! My name is Eugene from LearnDialect.sg and see you next week!


Our Philosophy for Learning Cantonese in Singapore

At LearnDialect.sg, we want to make learning Cantonese fun, easy and practical for daily conversations in Singapore. As such, rather than figuring out which of the 10 or more Cantonese romanization system to use (e.g. JyutpingYale or Cantonese Pinyin etc.), we encourage you to form your own phonics, so that you make an association with these Cantonese words in the quickest way possible. To illustrate, the romanization of the English word, “eat”, is “Sik” using Jyutping and “Sihk” using Yale. However, in our “Have You Eaten?” podcast transcript, you’ll find that we use “sek”, which we think relates to us better. That said, you may use other romanization (e.g “sake”, “xig”, etc), as long as it helps you to make sense of what you hear. 

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Cantonese: An Introduction, and its Singaporean Context

I am a third generation Singaporean born to a Cantonese family on my dad’s side and a Teochew family on my mum’s. Growing up, I was surrounded by these languages (I hate calling them ‘dialects’!), but because my paternal grandparents were more insistent on “handing down” the ability to speak Cantonese, I grew up with a pretty good grasp of the language. My mum worked closely with the Hong Kong branch at her old office; so, with some help from my dad, she picked up Cantonese along the way as well. She tells me that taxi drivers would sometimes assume we were from Hong Kong. This piece thus comes, in many ways, from the heart. I hope to give a concise but informative introduction to Cantonese and its presence in Singapore. By the end of this piece, I hope readers will find – or begin to find – Cantonese interesting, cool, and relevant.

1. Introduction

For the sake of concision, I will continue to refer to Cantonese (and other Southern Chinese varieties like Hokkien and Teochew) as ‘dialects’, even though they are really languages in their own right. In fact, some linguistic analyses have shown certain Chinese varieties differ more from each other than between European languages like English, Dutch and German! We can thus see that there is no clear-cut or definite distinction between ‘language’ and ‘dialect’, and our common view of ‘languages’ and ‘dialects’ is a result of the interactions between various complex historical factors. In addition, I will use ‘Chinese’ to refer to Standard Chinese, which is the standardized register of Mandarin (itself a ‘dialect’!) that is taught to people of Chinese-speaking world in school.

A. Varieties of Chinese languages, and Cantonese’s place within them

The linguistic diversity of Chinese (or Sinitic) languages is popularly divided into seven groups:

  1. guan (Mandarin varieties)
  2. wu (includes Shanghainese and the Wuxi dialect)
  3. min (includes Hokkien, Teochew and Hainanese)
  4. xiang (spoken in Hunan)
  5. gan (includes the Nanchang dialect)
  6. 客家kejia (Hakka)
  7. yue (includes Cantonese)

Of these, perhaps the least well-known in Singapore are the 湘 and 赣 dialect families. But we are interested in Cantonese. Cantonese is known by several names: 广东话, 粤语, 白话, 广州话, and (this is what I am used to calling it) 广府话. After Chinese, Cantonese arguably has the most developed and standardized written and spoken form amongst all other dialects. Hong Kong definitely takes the credit for this.

A common (but as yet unproven) story that Cantonese speakers love to tell is that it almost became the official language of China. It is said that when the leaders of the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty (the last dynasty of China) gathered to decide on the new official language of the republic, Cantonese lost out only by a few votes. In a parallel universe, we could all be speaking Cantonese now, calling it ‘Chinese’, and relegating Mandarin to a mere northern dialect! Today, Cantonese, in its more standardized form, is spoken in many parts of Guangdong, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore and various overseas Chinese communities in the US and Europe.

B. Features of Cantonese

Cantonese, along with many other southern dialects, preserves many features of Middle Chinese (the Chinese spoken in the time of the Tang dynasty, and also the language that everyone’s favourite Tang poems were composed in) that have been lost in modern Chinese. It is thus in many ways more ‘archaic’ than Chinese. It has 6 tones, and includes words with -p, -t, and -k endings (入声 ru sheng, or checked tones), and -m endings, all of which are not found in Chinese. It also uses a completely different set of grammatical particles, which are arguably the most important words for the beginning Cantonese learner to grasp. Some of the more common examples include:

Chinese
(Pinyin)
Cantonese
(Jyutping*)
Function
(English Equivalent)

de

ge
Possessive particle
-no equivalent-

shi

hai
Copula
(is/are/was/were)
沒有
mei you

mou
Negation of existence
(do not have)

bu

m
Negative particle
(is/are/was/were not)

*I have modified the Jyutping used in this piece very slightly to help readers guess at what it sounds like more accurately. The main modification would be to convert the ‘j’ and ‘jy’ in Jyutping into ‘y’ to more closely reflect what they sound like.

2. Singaporean Cantonese

When I speak about a ‘Singaporean’ Cantonese, I believe I speak more for my ‘Chan family’ Cantonese. There is no standardized ‘Singaporean’ Cantonese, but I can point out some features I have observed:

Singaporean Cantonese evolved separately from Hong Kong Cantonese. The majority of Cantonese speakers/families in Singapore can trace their ancestry to Cantonese speakers in Malaysia, and ultimately, from Guangzhou. There are two major differences, in my opinion:

1. ‘Lazy’ pronunciation (懒音 lan yin). Hong Kong Cantonese is notorious for its distortions of what some intellectuals and linguists consider the ‘proper’ way to pronounce certain words (notorious enough to spark a 正音正读 – roughly equivalent to ‘Pronounce Words Correctly’ – movement in Hong Kong). For example:

  • ‘ng’ sounds are often omitted. E.g. 我 is pronounced ‘o’ instead of ‘ngo’.
  • n’ sounds are often confused with ‘l’ sounds. E.g. 难 is pronounced ‘laan’ instead of ‘naan’.
  • w’ sounds are often omitted in ‘gw’ or ‘kw’ initials. E.g. 国 is pronounced ‘kok’ instead of ‘kwok’.

With the exception of the third type of ‘lazy’ pronunciation stated above, Singaporean Cantonese tends to lack these “mispronunciations”, and spoken words are closer to their “actual” pronunciations. The ‘n’/ ‘l’ interchangeability still exists, however, to a small extent. One thing that Singaporean Cantonese speakers do not pronounce well, though, is the “oe” diphthong, found in words like 香,两,长 (hoeng, loeng, zoeng respectively). We often pronounce them as heong, leong, zeong instead.

2. Loanwords from other languages. Hong Kong Cantonese incorporates a lot of English vocabulary, due to their history as a British colony, the strong emphasis on English in their education system, and their very Westernised culture. Meanwhile, Singaporean Cantonese incorporates some Malay and Hokkien vernacular. For example:

  •  Instead of 全部 cyun bou, we say soma (a distortion of ‘semua’)
  • Instead of 仲意 zung yi (meaning喜欢), some older speakers will say something like “suka”.
  • Most significantly, our word for ‘want’ is not 要 yiu as in Hong Kong Cantonese, but 愛 oi, likely borrowed from either Hokkien or Teochew’s 愛ai  for ‘want’.

3. Cantonese in Action

A. Hawker Culture

In Singapore, you would most likely hear Cantonese when ordering food from the following types of stalls:

  • Dim sum
  • Wanton noodles
  • Cantonese roast
  • Economical Rice
  • Tze char

The first three are typical Cantonese food stalls (and therefore run by Cantonese people) that you can find in Singapore. The reason you hear Cantonese from the last two types of stalls is because they are often staffed by Malaysian Chinese people. Unlike in Singapore, the “main” dialect in Malaysia (especially in places with a significant Cantonese population like Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh) is not Hokkien, but Cantonese.

B. Singlish

Some Singlish words that we use on a daily basis have their origin in Cantonese:

SinglishMeaningCantonese
(Jyutping)
Kanchiong To be anxious / overly-eager紧张
gan zoeng
Lupsup Dirty, sleazy, or shabby (referring to dressing)垃圾
laap saap
Wok heilit. ‘breath of the wok’, the unique flavour food acquires when stir-fried in a wok镬气
wok hei
Zhor deng To be in the way阻定
zo deng
Lor sor Describes a person who constantly repeats him/herself, usually referring to nagging啰嗦
lo so

C. Singaporean surnames

Did you know that your surname is often how your Chinese surname is pronounced in your dialect? You can often identify someone’s dialect group based on their surname. Some common Cantonese surnames include:

  • Chan 陈 can
  • Wong 黄 wong
  • Leong 梁loeng
  • Hui 许 heoi
  • Tang 邓dang
  • Fung 冯 fung
  • Yeong 杨 yoeng
  • Lum 林 lum
  • Ng 吴 ng
  • Ho 何 ho
  • Lee 李 lei

4. Why Learn Cantonese in Singapore

If you are reading this, you perhaps already have your own reasons for learning Cantonese in Singapore. But allow me to offer one more, perhaps more controversial, reason (especially if you are Cantonese): you should learn it because it is your mother tongue. You might say, “hang on. Isn’t my mother tongue Chinese?” I am saying it need not be. The ancestors of Chinese Singaporeans were all from southern China and none of them spoke a single word of Mandarin. Singapore’s linguistic landscape was dominated by only dialects until the Speak Mandarin Campaign of 1979 gradually eroded dialects away. Lee Kuan Yew himself acknowledged that if not for the fact that “no single dialect is the predominant mother tongue in Singapore, […] it would be most difficult to get Mandarin accepted other than as a stepmother tongue”. This points to an awareness of the fact that Mandarin was not our original mother tongue, for Singaporeans first had to accept it. Mandarin is not the language of our forefathers. To be in touch with your dialect is to know your history.

It allows you to communicate with the Cantonese community worldwide, especially in Hong Kong (a global financial centre much like Singapore) and Guangzhou (one out of the four Tier 1 cities in China, alongside Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen).

Learning Cantonese can also improve your Chinese, especially if you learn it through Chinese. Cantonese utilises a lot more Literary/Classical Chinese – Chinese more often seen in formal articles and older literature – in its everyday vocabulary. Hence, learning these words can help improve your Chinese as a whole.

5. Bonus: Cantonese and Chinese Poetry

I would like to illustrate, with a translation and analysis of a poem, my favourite aspect of knowing Cantonese (and southern dialects in general): it makes the reading of classical Chinese poetry a joy – poems rhyme better and sound more beautiful in Cantonese because Cantonese is closer to the original Middle Chinese that these poems were composed in.

Chinese
江雪
(柳宗元)

千山鸟飞绝
万径人踪灭
孤舟蓑笠翁
独钓寒江雪

*****

Pinyin (Hear it here)
Jiang Xue
(Liu Zong Yuan)

qian shan niao fei jue
wan jing ren zong mie
gu zhou suo li weng
du diao han jiang xue

*****

Jyutping (Hear it here)
Gong Syut
(Lau Zung Yun)

cin san niu fei zyut
man ging yan zung mit
gu zau so lap yung
duk diu hon gong syut

*****

English Translation by Hugh Grigg
River Snow

In a thousand mountains, the flight of birds is not seen;
on ten thousand paths, human footprints have vanished.
On a lonely boat, in straw cloak and bamboo hat, an old man,
fishing alone, in the cold river snow.

*****

river snow cantonese mandarin english

This famous Tang dynasty poem has inspired many paintings with its vivid evocation of a scene at a river in the winter. Not only does it sound more beautiful in Cantonese, the presence of 入声 (the above-mentioned ‘checked tones’) at the end of every line, create an auditory effect that more closely matches the meaning of the rhyming words at the ends of lines 1, 2 and 4. 绝, 灭, and 雪 – meaning disappear, extinguish, and snow respectively – are all pronounced with checked tones ending with -t in Cantonese. This creates a sudden stoppage of sound which reflect the finality of disappearing and vanishing, as well as the harshness of the frigid cold and the loneliness of the old man.

Is Cantonese not beautiful?


Contributed by Jason Chan


Have an interesting article to contribute? Get in touch with us at hello(at)learndialect.sg.

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Cantonese: How Do You Say – Country Names

Listen to Podcast | Cantonese: How Do You Say – Country Names

Psst… You can find our How Do You Say Podcasts on Spotify too! Head to Spotify – LearnDialect.sg or search for LearnDialect.sg on Spotify.


New Words 

EnglishCantoneseJyutpingOur Romanization
Singapore新/星加坡San1 /sing1 gaa1 bo1San/sing gaa bor
Malaysia馬來西亞
(马来西亚)
Maa5 loi4 sai1 ngaa3Maa loi sai aa
Hong Kong香港Hoeng1 gong2Hoeng gong
Taiwan台灣(湾)Toi4 waan1Toi waan
China中國(国) / 唐山Zung1 gwok3 / Tong4 saan1Zung gwok / Tong saan
Japan日本Jat6 bun2Yat bun
Australia澳洲Ou3 zau1Ou zau
Europe歐(欧)洲Ngau1 zau1Au zau
America美國(国)Mei5 gwok3Mei gwok

Podcast Transcript | Cantonese: How Do You Say – Country Names

Hi there! Welcome back to our Cantonese – How Do You Say Podcast. My name is Eugene from LearnDialect.sg. As promised, I will be touching on names of various countries in today’s podcast. Here we go! 

To begin, let’s start off with where LearnDialect.sg is based – Singapore. Singapore, in Cantonese is pronounced as 新加坡 but sometimes, you may hear older generation Cantonese speakers pronouncing it as 星加坡, possibly due to the five stars on our nation’s flag. This difference is more pronounced in Cantonese versus Hokkien or Teochew. Next, we have Singapore’s neighbour, Malaysia, otherwise known as 馬來西亞. It is also usually pronounced as 馬來西 to serve as a shortcut.  

Now, learning Cantonese is very useful for your travels in Hong Kong, pronounced as 香港, given that it is the language most spoken by the locals there. And, just a short flight away is Taiwan or 台灣 in Cantonese, where people speak Hokkien, otherwise known as Southern Min language locally. 

Cantonese, similar to Hokkien and Teochew, originated from China. China is known as 中國 but you may also hear senior Cantonese speakers still referring to the country as 唐山, literally translated as the “Tang mountain”. This is due to the prominence of the Tang dynasty in Chinese history where Chinese culture is widespread. China, is also regarded as a prosperous country during the Tang dynasty. This is why Chinatowns in countries outside China are often known as 唐人街 in Mandarin, literally translated as “Tang people street”. 

Personally, my favourite country for travel within Asia is Japan or 日本 in Cantonese, as it has a good balance of city life, nature and good food. Looking outside Asia, I would consider travelling to Australia, Europe or America, respectively known as 澳洲, 歐洲 and 美國 in Cantonese. This would allow me to experience and interact with people of a different culture. 

Hope the above list covers a country that you like. If not, please leave a comment and share with me the country that you would like to travel to. My name is Eugene from LearnDialect.sg and see you the next week! 


Our Philosophy for Learning Cantonese in Singapore

At LearnDialect.sg, we want to make learning Cantonese fun, easy and practical for daily conversations in Singapore. As such, rather than figuring out which of the 10 or more Cantonese romanization system to use (e.g. JyutpingYale or Cantonese Pinyin etc.), we encourage you to form your own phonics, so that you make an association with these Cantonese words in the quickest way possible. To illustrate, the romanization of the English word, “eat”, is “Sik” using Jyutping and “Sihk” using Yale. However, in our “Have You Eaten?” podcast transcript, you’ll find that we use “sek”, which we think relates to us better. That said, you may use other romanization (e.g “sake”, “xig”, etc), as long as it helps you to make sense of what you hear. 

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Cantonese: How Do You Say “Favourite Country for Travel”

Listen to Podcast | Cantonese: How Do You Say “Favourite Country for Travel”

Psst… You can find our How Do You Say Podcasts on Spotify too! Head to Spotify – LearnDialect.sg or search for LearnDialect.sg on Spotify.


New Words

EnglishCantoneseJyutpingOur Romanization
MostZeoi3Zeoi
Country國家
(国家)
Gwok3 gaa1Gwok gaa

Podcast Transcript | Cantonese: How Do You Say “Favourite Country for Travel”

Arrgh… would you agree with me if I say that holidays are always too short? So how do you usually spend your holidays? Personally, the one thing that I look forward to during holidays is to travel and experience different cultures. Speaking of travelling overseas, do you know how to ask someone what is their favourite country for travel? My name is Eugene from LearnDialect.sg and in today’s Cantonese – How Do You Say Podcast, we will be exploring more on this topic. 

So first up, here are some new words that you will be learning today –  

最 which means “most”; and  

國家 which means “country”.  

To ask someone where is their favourite country for travel, I would tap into words we have learnt on the podcast previously and say,  

你最鍾意去邊個國家玩? This translates literally into “You most like go which country play?”

Now, we’ve learnt 鍾意 in one of our earlier How Do You Say “I Love You” podcast. Just a quick recap for you, 鍾意 means “like” or “love”. Combining this with the new word – 最 – we literally get “most like” and hence, 最鍾意 is one way to express “favourite” in Cantonese!  

By the way, did you know that  鍾意 started as a term unique to Cantonese speakers to indicate fondness? If you are keen to learn more about the unique language features of Cantonese, let me sidetrack a little and shamelessly throw in an ad here… do join us on our Cantonese Course for Beginners. Just visit our website at LearnDialect.sg and look under the tab on “Upcoming Classes”. 

Ok, back to today’s podcast. “Where is your favourite country for travel?” translated to Cantonese will be 你最鍾意去邊個國家玩?

We’ve learnt the word – 玩 – in our previous episode. In case you have missed it, it means “play“. Well, so why did we use the same word – 玩 – to infer travel in this scenario? This is simply a colloquial language shortcut. After all, similar to playing, you’ll be having lots of fun travelling to a country that you like, isn’t it? 

So I really want to know, 你最鍾意去邊個國家玩? Please share with me in the comments. In our next podcast, I will teach you the names of some countries in Cantonese. My name is Eugene from LearnDialect.sg and see you the next week! 


Our Philosophy for Learning Cantonese in Singapore

At LearnDialect.sg, we want to make learning Cantonese fun, easy and practical for daily conversations in Singapore. As such, rather than figuring out which of the 10 or more Cantonese romanization system to use (e.g. JyutpingYale or Cantonese Pinyin etc.), we encourage you to form your own phonics, so that you make an association with these Cantonese words in the quickest way possible. To illustrate, the romanization of the English word, “eat”, is “Sik” using Jyutping and “Sihk” using Yale. However, in our “Have You Eaten?” podcast transcript, you’ll find that we use “sek”, which we think relates to us better. That said, you may use other romanization (e.g “sake”, “xig”, etc), as long as it helps you to make sense of what you hear. 

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Cantonese: How Do You Say “School Holidays”

Listen to Podcast | Cantonese: How Do You Say “School Holidays”

Psst… You can find our How Do You Say Podcasts on Spotify too! Head to Spotify – LearnDialect.sg or search for LearnDialect.sg on Spotify.


New Words

EnglishCantoneseJyutpingOur Romanization
School學校
(学校)
Hok6 haau6Hok haau
Holidays假期Gaa3 kei4Gaa kei
GoHeoi3Heoi
Study讀書
(读书)
Duk6 syu1Duk xu
PlayWaan2Waan

Podcast Transcript | Cantonese: How Do You Say “School Holidays”

As a child, don’t we just love the June and December school holidays? It’s a time when we can look forward to a long break from school, head out for the latest movies during weekdays and travel overseas to our dream destination. Hi there! If you are still studying, how has your school holidays been? I’m Eugene from LearnDialect.sg and in today’s Cantonese – How Do You Say Podcast, we will be learning how to say a few school-holiday related phrases in Cantonese. 

Well, many years ago, my next-door neighbour was a nice Cantonese family – Uncle & Aunty Chan as well as their son, Aaron. I recalled whenever it came to the school holidays, I would always ask Aunty Chan, “學校假期唔使去讀書, 我可唔可以同Aaron去玩?” Do you know what I’ve just said? 

Let me break it down for you.  

Firstly, 學校 means “school” while 假期 means “holidays”. Combining them together, we’ll get 學校假期, that is, “school holidays”. 

唔使去讀書 literally means “no need to study”.  

Thus, putting them together, the first half of the phrase becomes 學校假期唔使去讀書. This literally translates to “school holidays no need to study”.  

Now, the second half of the phrase – 我可唔可以同Aaron去玩? – means “Can I play with Aaron?” 

There you go! Here’s how you ask for permission in Cantonese – 學校假期唔使去讀書, 我可唔可以同Aaron去玩? Do it with a nice smile and I’m sure you’ll pretty much get your way! 

Now, suppose I would like to ask for Aunty Chan’s permission to head out and have a meal with Aaron instead. Do you know how to say that in Cantonese? Pause the audio and have a think about it. When you are ready, play the audio again and listen to how I would say it.  

Ready? Ok, I would make a tweak in the latter part of the phrase by saying 我可唔可以同Aaron去食嘢? So here’s the full sentence for you – 學校假期唔使去讀書, 我可唔可以同Aaron去食嘢? Did you get it? 

Before we end the podcast today, here’s a quick recap of the new words that we’ve learnt today: 

學校假期 means “school holidays”;  

讀書 means “studies”; and

玩 means to “play”. 

Hope you have picked up a phrase or two from this Cantonese podcast. The team at LearnDialect.sg wishes you happy school holidays! 


Our Philosophy for Learning Cantonese in Singapore

At LearnDialect.sg, we want to make learning Cantonese fun, easy and practical for daily conversations in Singapore. As such, rather than figuring out which of the 10 or more Cantonese romanization system to use (e.g. JyutpingYale or Cantonese Pinyin etc.), we encourage you to form your own phonics, so that you make an association with these Cantonese words in the quickest way possible. To illustrate, the romanization of the English word, “eat”, is “Sik” using Jyutping and “Sihk” using Yale. However, in our “Have You Eaten?” podcast transcript, you’ll find that we use “sek”, which we think relates to us better. That said, you may use other romanization (e.g “sake”, “xig”, etc), as long as it helps you to make sense of what you hear. 

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Cantonese: How Do You Say “No Problem”

Listen to Podcast | Cantonese: How Do You Say “No Problem”

Psst… You can find our How Do You Say Podcasts on Spotify too! Head to Spotify – LearnDialect.sg or search for LearnDialect.sg on Spotify.


New Words

EnglishCantoneseJyutpingOur Romanization
No problem / No questions冇問題
(没問題)
Mou5 man6 tai4Mou mun tai

Podcast Transcript | Cantonese: How Do You Say “No Problem”

Hi everyone! My name is Eugene and once again, welcome to Cantonese – How Do You Say Podcast on LearnDialect.sg. In today’s podcast, we will be covering a useful Cantonese phrase for daily conversations that has dual meaning. This Cantonese phrase is 冇問題. Once you learn how to pronounce this phrase, you can either use it to express “no problem” or to indicate that you have “no questions”. Talk about killing 2 birds with 1 stone!  

Now, let’s start by learning how to express “no problem”. For example, if I wasn’t able to help you buy wanton noodles, but yet you are totally fine with it, this is how our conversation would sound like,  

I’ll say 對唔住, 我冇买你要食嘅雲吞面.

You’ll say 冇問題!

Well, by now, you should be quite familiar with this word – 冇 – as I’ve taught it a couple of times. 冇 means “no” and 問題 – the new phrase today – refers to “problem”. So 冇問題 literally means “No problem”. 

Or the next time someone tells you that he/she is running a little late but you are ok to wait, you can practise saying 冇問題! 

Besides referring to a problem, another meaning for 問題 is “question”. So sometimes, you may hear someone asking 有冇問題? This translates into, “Any questions?” If yes, you can respond by saying 有. However, if you have no further questions, you will say 冇問題.  

So how? 有冇問題? I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s Cantonese – How Do You Say Podcast. Feel free to share with us your thoughts by leaving us a comment. My name is Eugene from LearnDialect.sg and see you the next week! 


Our Philosophy for Learning Cantonese in Singapore

At LearnDialect.sg, we want to make learning Cantonese fun, easy and practical for daily conversations in Singapore. As such, rather than figuring out which of the 10 or more Cantonese romanization system to use (e.g. JyutpingYale or Cantonese Pinyin etc.), we encourage you to form your own phonics, so that you make an association with these Cantonese words in the quickest way possible. To illustrate, the romanization of the English word, “eat”, is “Sik” using Jyutping and “Sihk” using Yale. However, in our “Have You Eaten?” podcast transcript, you’ll find that we use “sek”, which we think relates to us better. That said, you may use other romanization (e.g “sake”, “xig”, etc), as long as it helps you to make sense of what you hear. 

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Teen actor, Ivan Lo, on learning dialects: Never be afraid!

Celebrity Interview with Ivan Lo, 卢楷浚

Barely 16 years old, Ivan Lo is already a familiar face in Singapore’s entertainment scene. Ivan has starred in many television dramas (Mind Matters, Playground, etc) and several movies, including Jack Neo’s, We Not Naughty. One of his latest show is the popular dialect drama, Ho Seh Bo. With the younger generation speaking less of dialects in Singapore, we asked Ivan for his secrets to pick up dialects quickly.

LearnDialect.sg: Can you tell us more about your dialect background? Do you speak dialect frequently at home or with your peers?

Ivan Lo: My father’s a Cantonese and my mother’s a Teochew. In my household, we usually speak in Chinese and English but, from time to time, we will mix in a bit of Cantonese, Hokkien and Teochew in our daily conversations.

How did you feel when you first knew that you will be acting in the dialect drama, Ho Seh Bo, as Dai Zhengxiong?

At first, I was a bit worried as I thought I would need to converse entirely in dialect. However, I was also very elated to know I would be acting in this show as it would be mostly in dialects. The show has an interesting concept as it connects with the older generations.

In Ho Seh Bo, you acted alongside Chen Li Ping who speaks mainly in Teochew and Zhu Houren who speaks mainly in Hokkien. Did these different languages pose as an additional challenge for you when preparing for your role? How did you overcome it?

Luckily for me, I didn’t have to speak full sentences in either Teochew or Hokkien in the show. As such, speaking wasn’t the main problem. The main problem, I guess, was not being able to fully understand what they were saying. This resulted in me not knowing when it was my turn to speak. I overcame this by trying my best to remember what the end of each sentence sounded like, so that I would be able to continue with my lines.

How do you feel about learning dialect? Was it easy for you to pick it up? Are there any interesting or funny stories that you can share when you were learning dialect?

For me, it wasn’t that difficult to learn to speak in dialect as my father and my aunt would sometimes converse in their dialect. Throughout the duration of filming the show, I was able to better understand Hokkien and Teochew. I don’t really think I have many funny stories when I was learning dialect. The only thing that comes to mind is that my pronunciation is very off and my Hokkien and Teochew mixes up very easily.

Can you leave some words of encouragement for young people like yourself to pick up their dialect?  

All I can say is that you really have to pay attention when someone speaks in dialect. Try to converse in dialect with someone whom you know can speak really well in dialect. Never be afraid that your pronunciation is wrong. Basically it’s just practice and you’ll eventually get better and better.

Image Credits: Ivan Lo’s Instagram and Facebook

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Cantonese: How Do You Say “Slower” and “Faster

Listen to Podcast | Cantonese: How Do You Say “Slower” & “Faster”

Psst… You can find our How Do You Say Podcasts on Spotify too! Head to Spotify – LearnDialect.sg or search for LearnDialect.sg on Spotify.


New Words

EnglishCantoneseJyutpingOur Romanization
Slower慢慢Maan6 maan6Maan maan
Faster快啲
(快点)
Faai3 di1Faai di

Podcast Transcript | Cantonese: How Do You Say “Slower” & “Faster”

Hello everyone, welcome back to our Cantonese – How Do You Say Podcast on LearnDialect.sg. If you have been listening to our podcast, 你有冇學咗乜嘢? 有冇乜嘢要我講多一次? 你明唔明我講咩? Was I speaking too fast or slow for your liking? How do you ask someone to talk slower or faster in Cantonese then? My name is Eugene and let’s find out how to do that today! 

Cantonese people use the word 慢 to mean “slow”. Hence, to emphasize the need to slow down, you can repeat the word twice. For example, 慢慢講 means “speak slower”, 慢慢行 means “walk slower” and 慢慢食 means “eat slower”. On the contrary, if you need someone to be faster, Cantonese use the words – 快啲. As such, 快啲講 means to speak faster, 快啲行 means to walk faster and 快啲食 means to eat faster.  

Now, here’s a fun fact for you. Did you know that while Cantonese, Hokkiens and Teochews in Singapore use similar Chinese characters to represent “slower”, they have different ways of expressing “faster”? If you are keen to find out how Hokkiens and Teochews in Singapore express “faster”, do check out our Hokkien and Teochew podcasts too! 

So in today’s podcast, we have learnt 慢 means “slow”, 快 means “fast” while 慢慢 means “slower” and 快啲 means “faster”. Try using and practising these words in your daily Cantonese conversations. My name is Eugene from LearnDialect.sg and look forward to seeing you next week! 


Our Philosophy for Learning Cantonese in Singapore

At LearnDialect.sg, we want to make learning Cantonese fun, easy and practical for daily conversations in Singapore. As such, rather than figuring out which of the 10 or more Cantonese romanization system to use (e.g. JyutpingYale or Cantonese Pinyin etc.), we encourage you to form your own phonics, so that you make an association with these Cantonese words in the quickest way possible. To illustrate, the romanization of the English word, “eat”, is “Sik” using Jyutping and “Sihk” using Yale. However, in our “Have You Eaten?” podcast transcript, you’ll find that we use “sek”, which we think relates to us better. That said, you may use other romanization (e.g “sake”, “xig”, etc), as long as it helps you to make sense of what you hear. 

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Cantonese: How Do You Say “Understand”

Listen to Podcast | Cantonese: How Do You Say “Understand”

Psst… You can find our How Do You Say Podcasts on Spotify too! Head to Spotify – LearnDialect.sg or search for LearnDialect.sg on Spotify.


New Words

EnglishCantoneseJyutpingOur Romanization
Understand明白Ming4 baak6Meng baak

Podcast Transcript | Cantonese: How Do You Say “Understand”

Hello everyone, welcome to our Cantonese – How Do You Say Podcast on LearnDialect.sg. Well, would you agree with me that during conversations, the last that we want is miscommunication? To minimize any misunderstandings, I think it’s great if we can make an effort to check if everyone is on the same page. Now what are some Cantonese phrases that we can use? My name is Eugene and in less than 5 minutes today, we will explore some ways to ask whether someone understands what is going on in a conversation. 

First, you may want to ensure that the other party can hear you audibly, especially if your background is noisy. You’ll ask 你聽到冇? which means “Can you hear me?”. The response to this question is either 聽到 (which means “I hear you”) or 聽唔到 (which means “I can’t hear you”).  

Now, during the conversation, if you want to ask, “Do you understand?”, you’ll express it as 你明唔明? If someone understands fully, then the response would be a simple 我明. If not, you’ll hear 我唔明.  

I’ll like to highlight that the Cantonese equivalent for the word “Understand” is actually 明白. However, Cantonese speakers tend to be more efficient when speaking. As such, instead of asking 你明白唔明白?, they’ll express it as 你明唔明? Similarly, they will say 我明 and not 我明白 as well as 我唔明 instead of 我唔明白. Are you still following me? 

To sum up, the Cantonese phrases today are: 

你聽到冇? and 

你明唔明?

I hope the above is useful for you to reduce any miscommunication in Cantonese. Once again, I’m Eugene from LearnDialect.sg and if 你唔明, feel free to let us know any questions you may have and we will do our best to answer. See you the next week!


Our Philosophy for Learning Cantonese in Singapore

At LearnDialect.sg, we want to make learning Cantonese fun, easy and practical for daily conversations in Singapore. As such, rather than figuring out which of the 10 or more Cantonese romanization system to use (e.g. JyutpingYale or Cantonese Pinyin etc.), we encourage you to form your own phonics, so that you make an association with these Cantonese words in the quickest way possible. To illustrate, the romanization of the English word, “eat”, is “Sik” using Jyutping and “Sihk” using Yale. However, in our “Have You Eaten?” podcast transcript, you’ll find that we use “sek”, which we think relates to us better. That said, you may use other romanization (e.g “sake”, “xig”, etc), as long as it helps you to make sense of what you hear. 

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Cantonese: How Do You Say “Sorry”

Listen to Podcast | Cantonese: How Do You Say “Sorry”

Psst… You can find our How Do You Say Podcasts on Spotify too! Head to Spotify – LearnDialect.sg or search for LearnDialect.sg on Spotify.


New Words

EnglishCantoneseJyutpingOur Romanization
Sorry對唔住
(对不起)
Deoi3 m4 zyu6Deoi mm ju
BuyMaai5Maai
Made a mistake搞錯Gaau2 co3Gaau cor
No such intention / Excuse me冇意思
(没意思)
Mou5 ji3 si1Mou yi si

Podcast Transcript | Cantonese: How Do You Say “Sorry”

Hi there! My name is Eugene and welcome back to our Cantonese – How Do You Say Podcast on LearnDialect.sg. In your daily conversations, how often do you have to apologize? For me, I apologize all the time as I am rather clumsy, often knocking things over. As such, knowing how to say sorry is rather important for me. 

In Cantonese, we express sorry as 對唔住. For example, 對唔住, 我冇买你要食嘅雲吞面 which translates into “Sorry, I did not buy the wanton noodles that you wanted”. I would say 對唔住 represents a more serious manner of apology. If the situation is not too serious, you can use 冇意思 to express your apology. For example, 冇意思, 我冇Facebook. By saying 冇意思, you convey a sense of embarrassment or shyness too. Or if you want to admit that you are wrong, you can say 冇意思, 我搞錯咗. 

Typically, I would use 冇意思 together with 唔該, especially when I am asking for directions. For example, 冇意思, 唔該, 請問你, MRT點行? You’ll find that in such context, 冇意思 serves as a polite prelude to 唔該 which means “Excuse me”.  

Once again, apologies can be expressed by Cantonese people via: 
對唔住; and 
冇意思. 

Hope you find the varying degrees of apologizing in Cantonese useful. Feel free to share with us your thoughts by leaving us a comment. I’m Eugene from LearnDialect.sg. See you the next week! 


Our Philosophy for Learning Cantonese in Singapore

At LearnDialect.sg, we want to make learning Cantonese fun, easy and practical for daily conversations in Singapore. As such, rather than figuring out which of the 10 or more Cantonese romanization system to use (e.g. JyutpingYale or Cantonese Pinyin etc.), we encourage you to form your own phonics, so that you make an association with these Cantonese words in the quickest way possible. To illustrate, the romanization of the English word, “eat”, is “Sik” using Jyutping and “Sihk” using Yale. However, in our “Have You Eaten?” podcast transcript, you’ll find that we use “sek”, which we think relates to us better. That said, you may use other romanization (e.g “sake”, “xig”, etc), as long as it helps you to make sense of what you hear. 

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