How To Learn Cantonese

10/01/15: I now feel that since Cantonese is primarily spoken language, you should use (almost) exclusively audio-based learning methods. The stuff which is outlined in this post is more applicable, I think, to Mandarin, where written and spoken language is much more similar than it is for Cantonese.

Something that’s asked an awful lot on the CantoDict forums is “How do I learn Cantonese?”.  I think I’m at the stage now where I can share my own recipe for doing so – a selection of steps that, when followed, should lead a learner to Cantonese fluency in the most time-efficient manner possible.

These steps are not the same as those typically handed out on the Interwebs for Japanese or Mandarin – I don’t think that learning characters should be learnt right away, for example.  They’re not set in stone either, it’s just something that works for me.  Anyway, here’s my bullet point list, to be done in this order:

  1. Anki deck for Jyutping/Yale pronunciation (using reading/listening cards)
  2. Anki deck for grammar/vocabulary (using a good textbook, progessive grammar and sentence hacking)
  3. Learn Hanzi using the Heisig method
  4. Learn to read Standard Chinese (may require some Mandarin study) and also learn to sing along to Cantonese songs

That’s it!  All the time, you should be listening to as many podcasts (or other audio) as possible, watching TVB dramas or anime dubbed into Cantonese (or whatever you like to watch, really), and talking with native speakers.  This takes priority over the above points, by the way – studying isn’t all that entertaining, but is necessary to progress as quickly and efficiently as possible.  You can also make listening cards to incorporate into your grammar deck from all the TV you’re watching.

You should also listen to Cantonese music, especially to support step 1) (i.e. learning to interpret and pronounce romanisation), but learning Cantonese songs is best delayed until you’ve got an excellent grasp of spoken Cantonese grammar and vocabulary.  It’s otherwise liable to cause confusion between spoken and written syntax and vocab.

More detail on the bullet points above in future posts – anyone else have a different/superior method for Cantonese?  Do share 🙂

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4 thoughts on “How To Learn Cantonese

  1. Pingback: Notes on “How To Learn Cantonese” #1 « thousand mile journey

  2. Pingback: Notes on “How To Learn Cantonese” #2 « thousand mile journey

  3. Pingback: All Cantonese All The Time « thousand mile journey

  4. Pingback: All Cantonese All The Time « thousand mile journey

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