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Learn Cantonese with Henry Tang 跟唐英年學粵語


The Hong Kong Chief Executive election is a good excuse to improve your Cantonese skills while watching some light entertainment. The series of gaffes, lies and scandals that have emerged during the election have been strange and humorous; for an outsider at least. For translations of articles relating to HK news and netizen reactions check out this blog. The most recent video posted is of a debate between the election candidates. The speech is slow, clear and highlights a few differences between MSM (Modern Standard Mandarin) and Cantonese, of which I highlight below.

  • At 0:35 Henry Tang says 有定冇? jau5 ding6 mou5 (有還是沒有? : Did you or didn’t you?; Yes or no?)
‘定’ or ‘定係’ is the Cantonese equivalent of the Mandarin ‘還是’. It is used as the ‘or’ in a question.
For example, 你要大定細?  nei5 jiu3 daai6 ding6 sai3? (Do you want big or small?)
  • Then at 0:40 Tang replies with 你呃人 nei5 ngaak1 jan4 (你騙人 : You’re deceiving people; You’re tricking people)
In Mandarin and Taiwanese, ‘to trick somebody’ is 騙, but in Cantonese it is ‘呃’ (can be said with the initial ng like Tang or without). The person editing the video repeats this sentence a few times… good listening practice!
  • This is followed immediately by 唔好講大話 m4 hou2 gong2 daai6 waa6 (不要撒謊 : Don’t lie)

There are two points here. First, Cantonese doesn’t use ‘不要’ or ‘別’; for the meaning of don’t ‘唔好’ is most commonly used. This can also be shortened to 冇 mou5.  Second, ‘to lie’ in Cantonese is ‘to say big words’ or ‘講大話’ unlike the Mandarin ‘撒謊’ or ‘說謊’.

From → Cantonese

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