Stories of the time you pantomimed the "iceman dance" at the Kowloon Star ferry terminal are still being told in bars throughout the New Territories. So while we know people speak quickly in Hong Kong, this is a lesson on preserving dignity. In it, we'll teach you how to get people to calm down and speak more slowly, without the need for theatrics.

In our third Critical Adjectives lesson we cover all the Cantonese you need to get the frenetic citizens of Hong Kong to slow down and speak at a more comprehensible speed. We'll teach you how to say fast, slow and busy, and cover some high frequency sentences containing these adjectives. And as a bonus, we'll also cover the basics of asking questions with adjectives. Much like scientific experiments which slow the speed of light, this podcast traps the Cantonese language in a form suitable for study and reflection. We hope you like it.
 said on
January 25, 2011
You can also say 唔該, 你可唔可以講慢啲呀?m-goi, nei ho m ho yi gong maan di a? if you want to ask someone to speak slowly. This, I think is more polite.

With question phrases I would use 呀(a) or another particle at the end of the sentence if 嗎 is not used. Is this more colloqial? e.g. 忙唔忙呀?好唔好呀?

美宝
 said on
January 25, 2011
@woaibento

Hi 美宝,

Yes, you're right. And there are many other ways. e.g. 麻煩你講慢啲吖,唔該。(Please speak slowlier, please.) 唔好意思,你介唔介意講慢啲啊?(Excuse me, do you mind speaking a bit slowlier?) The reason we teach 唔该講慢啲 here is because it's the simplest yet a polite one to form this request, and that it would make a good sample sentence that combine the words we teach together.

As for the "X唔X" phrases, we're only teaching the simplest form now for the same reason, also because there are a few particles that go with this question, e.g. 啊(a3),咖(gaa3),zek1, each suggesting different tones, while 嗎 cannot be used together with these phrses. It's subject to context which one to use or not. We'll cover those more in depth in future lessons.

多謝你嘅意見!

nicole
 said on
January 25, 2011
So I was reading a book on a Cantonese, and it says that among the 6 tones there is a low falling tone, which I guess is the 5th tone, for words like tauh (head) and sihng (city). I can sort of understand this, because the 5th tone does sound like it drops a little. You guys of course teach it as a flat tone at the bottom of the range.

So my question is-- does the 5th tone drop a little? Maybe just too little to distinguish it as a falling tone?
 said on
January 26, 2011
I think what you're talking about is the 4th tone!

Actually I've been wondering about this myself ever since Nicole and Brendan labelled it as a "flat tone at the very bottom of your range", basically like the 6th tone, just even lower.

Now other source that I consulted all state that the 4th tone is a low falling tone which starts where the 2nd, 5th and 6th tone starts, i.e. the "level 2" if you divide your range into 5 levels, and then drops a little bit all the way to "level 1" or the bottom of your range (whereas the 6th tone stays at "level 2". I have to say that my ear definitely agrees with this and when I try to imitate the tone it's sounds closest to Nicole when I let it drop a little bit. I think the reason Nicole says it's low and flat is because of its official Cantonese name: 陽平

The sources that I talked about are:

http://cantonese.ca/tones.php

Then I checked what Wikipedia has to say to this and unfortunately only the English and German editions even talk about the tones.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantonese_phonology#Tones

describes the 4th tone as "low falling, very low level".

The most detailed description however is on the German version:

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kantonesisch

Now this is worth checking out even I you don't speak German because it talks about the various patterns that are possible due to dialects.

In the table where on the left it says "Verlauf", which loosely translates into "progression", it states two numbers for every tone (along with possible deviations, "oder" = "or") according to the 5 levels I talked about.

I'm looking forward to hearing what Nicole and Brendan have to say about this. By the way: Great podcast. Could have been a little more dense for my taste though.

-Philipp

 said on
January 26, 2011
@ Nicole,

I agree 唔該講慢啲 is the simplest form. Look forward to more advanced lessons.

Tones is a difficult topic in Cantonese (aka yut6yu5 粵語). Even my parents can't tell me how many tones there are. I was never taught tones.

However, I found this page...

http://zh.wikipedia.org/zh-tw/%E7%B2%A4%E8%AF%AD (which is in Chinese), but I google translated to see if I was reading it right. It says there are 8 to 10 tones in Cantonese. One Cantonese dialect has 8 tones, another has 9, but standard Cantonese has 6 to 7 tones.

Very confusing!

美宝
 said on
January 26, 2011
Actually it's not that confusing really...

The different amount of tones simply depends on how you count. More specifically if you

a) take into account that the 陰平 was for some characters historically a high falling tone but is now pronounced like high flat by most native speakers and has become undistinguishable from regular 陰平s. This is sort of what happened with sh- and s- as initials merging into s (same for c,ch,z,zh and so on). You COULD pronounce them differently because their roots are different but the fact seems to be that nobody DOES. This is why Jyutping as well as some simplified versions of Yale only use 6 tones.

The reason some people say there are even as many as 9 or 10 is that

b) you can treat the tones on the syllables with occlusives (that is ending on -p, -t or -k) as separate tones. These are called entering tones (陰入,中入 and 陽入) and do not "progress". Instead the only have a level on which they "enter". Phonetically there is a reason why you cant change the pitch these kind of syllables even though it seems possible at first. If you really try (for example to pronounce "maak2") you will have to admit that what you will really end up doing is a maa2 and then add a -k. Again, this is why phonologists or people who want to brag about having learned a language with 10!!! tones will treat them as separate tones. To mark them however you simply don't need to because their level of entry is equivalent to tone 1, 3 and 6 respectively.

Hope this helps! God I love this nerdy *§%&!
 said on
January 27, 2011
Thanks Benrose! Hahahah. I looked at the table with the 1, 3 and 6 in brackets, which means that 7, 8 and 9 uses 1, 3 and 6 entering tones respectively - this is why I was a bit confused.

My cousin said there is definitely 9 tones - he showed me this website:

http://www.rthk.org.hk/elearning/bettercantonese/listenpro.htm

(More for advanced listeners/readers), lesson 9 explains how to memorise the tones and lesson 12 explains tones 7, 8 and 9, (as you have explained above in b)).

Don't know what the 10th tone is!
 said on
January 27, 2011
It's all there dude! ;)

Just read a) from my last post... they count two 1s!

6+1 + 3 = 10!
 said on
January 27, 2011
@Daniu

Hi 大牛,I agree with Philipp @Benrose on the falling tone in Cantonese: the fourth tone, which I described as low and level, just like its Chinese name 陽平(level). There used to be two falling tones in Cantonese (still are, in some varieties), high falling (the 1st tone) and low falling (the 4th tone). But in modern Cantonese the high falling is merged into the high flat, and the low falling is often pronounced as low flat, especially when it's in a multi-syllable word or in a sentence. It drops a little when it's pronounced quick and short and at the end of a sentence, but very little and hardly noticeable to my ear.

Hope it answers your question. If not, please let us know.

@Benrose

You're so 认真 (jing6 zan1) :) And the 5-level chart is really useful on distinguishing the tones, both in Cantonese and in Chinese. It helped me a lot in school. Thank you for offering explanations. They're so helpful. 唔该晒你!

Glad that you liked the podcast. 多谢支持(do1 ze6 zi1 ci4)!Thanks for your support.

One thing, I think 美宝 @woaibento is not a "dude".

@woaibento

When it comes to the amount of tones, it depends on how you define tones. I'd lean towards "pitch" and stick with 6 tones. 入声 are really not tones but focus on the construction of the syllables, or the ending consonants, -p, -t, -k. Therefore they have 9.

Like Phillip said, the 10th tone is the high falling tone, where the first tone drops a bit at the end. We don't do that anymore in conversation but you can hear them from the black and white Hong Kong movie(粤语残片,jyut6 jyu5 caan4 pin2).
 said on
January 27, 2011
@ Nicole and Phillip,

Heheh, thanks. And I'm definitely not a dude, I'm a dudette. ^_^

I finally understand the Cantonese pitch/tones now!
 said on
January 27, 2011
Ah yes, I switched the 4th and 5th tone. Anyway, to my mandarin-trained ear, that very bottom flat tone sounds like a falling tone, perhaps because it's being pronounced slowly. Americans pronounce many T's as D's, unless they are speaking slowly/carefully (e.g water/wader).

I'd like a make a suggestion, especially for critical phrases. At the end of every item, you include a normal/fast repetition. This shouldn't replace the slowly, carefully spoken repetitions, but supplement them. My Hunanese students freak out when I tell them "I'm gonna go," because they were taught the awkward "I am going to go." Likewise, In Beijing, to a beginner hearing "Gao'r ni" sounds rather different than "gaosu ni."

I also realize that slow, grammatically correct language sounds better than fast gibberish, but there is a middle ground. Things like tone Sandi and contractions are used at normal speaking speeds. If only for our listening comprehension, let us hear some more quickly-spoken stuff.
 said on
January 27, 2011
@美宝

對唔住! Sorry for calling you a dude! I really didn't think about it!

My Engineering program at my university is a giant sausage-fest... sometimes I just forget there is another gender haha! Again: Apologies!
 said on
January 28, 2011
@Phillip

No offence taken la! ^_^
 said on
February 7, 2011
As a Mandarin learner it's hard to put your hands on totally new pronunciation, looking at the same characters :D
 said on
February 8, 2011
@Benrose Speaking of occlusives, I find them troublesome! In particular, I can't seem to distinguish between 8 and 100, respectively baat3 and baak3. Some explanations distinguish the two through their lengths and through the size of their mouth opening but I'm still having a difficult time hearing the difference.
 said on
February 13, 2011
@yuriy

Yeah, that reminds me of when I began to learn Mandarin...

@neehnahw

八baat3 and 佰baak3 are real tongue twister. The length difference between them are almost neglect-able to me. I mean they're both glottal stops with "aa" being the core vowel and can be pronounced both as long. It's the size of their mouth that matters. 佰baak3 has a bigger mouth because of the ending -k, while 八 is smaller as a result of the ending -t.

Have you tried practicing 八佰 800 and 佰八 180? They could kill you.
 said on
April 29, 2011
Hi.

You know that to say "more slowly" is maan6 di1, so how would you say "a little/a bit slow"?

Like, if I wanted to say "He is walking a bit slow" (rather than "he is walking slower" - I assume that would be something like keiuh5 bou6 hang4 maan6 di1. Please correct me if I'm wrong), how would I do that?

Thanks,

Kim
 said on
April 30, 2011
@kim_h

Hi Kim,

Good question. First of all, both "more slowly" and "a little slow" are 慢啲(maan6 di1). But if you would like to differentiate or to state clearly, "a bit slow" can be 有啲慢(jau5 di1 maan6, literally, to have a bit slow). This 有啲(a bit) is actually very useful and common to describe an adjective or an adverb, like, 呢個有啲貴(ni1 go3 jau5 di1 gwai3), "this is a bit expensive".

So, "He is walking a bit slow" can be either 佢行得慢啲 (keoi5 haang4 dak1 maan6 di1), which could mean "he's walking slower" and requires context to tell, or 佢行得有啲慢(keoi5 haan4 dak1 jau5 di1 maan6), which is more clear.

Another translation for the "a bit" sentences uses the past tense marker 咗zo2 and isn't exactly talking about the past, but rather, stressing the state. For example:

佢慢咗啲 (keoi5 maan6 zo2 di1)"he is a bit slow"

呢個貴咗啲 (ni1 go3 gwai3 zo2 di1) "this is a bit expensive"

Hope it answers your question.
 said on
April 30, 2011
@nicole

Thanks so much for the answer. That really helps.
 said on
May 3, 2011
@kim_h

唔使客氣!