Consider for a moment the script with which the Japanese and the Koreans write. Japanese kana are phonetic and original (i.e. the Japanese didn’t borrow western characters to write their words with; they devised their own). The Koreans also created their own script – it is phonetic, and the strokes used for each character even mimic the shape of the mouth as they are spoken. It is therefore very simple to learn both of these scripts; of course, in both cases, Chinese characters are also integrated into writings, but there is always a way of expressing any word using native characters.
Jyutping is the Cantonese equivalent of Pinyin – devised by the LSHK, it is a way of transcribing sounds “phonetically”, using the same alphabet we use in English. Note the carefully inserted inverted commas – it’s not really phonetic at all, for reasons I have yet to fathom.
Take, for example, the word “Jyutping” itself. Guess how to pronounce it. Jutping? Yutping? It’s actually sounds something like Yuet-ping, not that you’d know that without hearing it. Other sounds that can be represented by a “u” on its own are “o” (as in “lock”) and “oo” (as in “boom”). This is very confusing to a student of Cantonese, and adds a pointless extra barrier to mastery.
There are plenty of other anomalies to be found in that particular transcription scheme, and it is typically the vowel inconsistencies that cause most problems. The difficulties are further compounded by other competing romanization schemes, which still don’t do a good job of writing words in an intuitive way. Yale transcribes 墻 as cheuhng – good luck deciphering that.
To add a sense of pointlessness to the whole exercise, native speakers don’t seem to be familiar with either Yale or Jyutping, and instead devise their own transcriptions on the fly if needed. They stare at learners’ (my) textbooks and dictionaries in disbelief at the irregular and incomprehensible notation.
My biggest question then is this: if the Koreans could devise the perfectly regular and wonderfully intuitive Hangul by committee, why the hell couldn’t the LSHK?!