Learning Chinese (part 2): Learn the pronunciation and tones

When speaking of Chinese, many people often refer it as one language. However, Chinese has two standard forms: Mandarin and Cantonese. Mandarin is the standard Chinese which is used by the majority of the population in China and Taiwan, while Cantonese is used in Hongkong, Macau – the special administrative regions of China, Guangdong and Guangxi provinces, and the overseas communities.

I chose to learn Cantonese for three reasons. Firstly, I love watching Cantonese television drama series since I was a kid, I’ve been dreaming of watching them without subtitles. Secondly, since Cantonese is mostly spoken by Chinese overseas communities, back to when I lived in Toronto, I lived right in Chinatown and I was surrounded by Cantonese more than English. I have developed my love to Cantonese since then, I don’t know exactly why, I just know that when I hear someone speaking Cantonese, I feel it sounds close to my native language – Vietnamese.

Considering the fact that Chinese, in general, is one of the most difficult languages to learn. The big question: Where should I start? I find WikiHow is a very good source for me to find the answer to this question. WikiHow is a website that you can search for how to do anything, I like the way it shows how to do something step by step with the infographic, as I am a visual learner, I find it very easy to understand. I decide to learn how to speak Cantonese only and within the timeline of 3 – 4 months, I set a goal that after this I will be able to have Cantonese conversation.

According to WikiHow, learning Cantonese should start with learning to pronounce the tones, this is different than learning English where I learned grammar first. There are 6 tones in Cantonese, I learned how to pronounce them through this Youtube video, first I listened to how they pronounce them then I repeated several times until I found I am satisfied with my pronunciation.

Then I practiced counting from 1 to 10. When counting from 1 – 10, I can practice pronouncing each tone in each of the numbers.

So now when I could be able to grasp the basic of Cantonese’s pronunciation by learning to pronounce the tones. I realized I need an interactive Cantonese learning website to practice to do self-quizzes and do pronunciation exercises then I found Memrise. Memrise is a popular interactive language learning website where you can not only learn a language but connect to other learners. With Memrise, I can practice Cantonese pronunciation with a lot of quizzes and I like the fact that I can be able to track my learning progress with this website. My goal for today is to learn to pronounce the first 28 words with Memrise.

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(Memrise’s interactive learning tools)

 Learning how to pronounce 6 tones of Cantonese first is very important. It sets the foundation for Cantonese speaking. With Cantonese, speaking in monotone also means no one will understand what I am talking. I would spend more time on practicing tones before progressing to learn basic vocabulary. That’s it for the first stage of learning Cantonese. Next post I will show how I used some of the techniques to learn basic Cantonese vocabulary. Goodbye for now!


8 thoughts on “Learning Chinese (part 2): Learn the pronunciation and tones”

  1. Hi, Nam Lee,
    What an interesting post, I was in an assumption that the whole China speaks Mandarin language and now I know the language has two standard forms. Thanks to your blog post videos I tried pronouncing Cantonese and learned counting numbers. Good job, looking forward to your next post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent post, your enthusiasm for your learning project shows throughout your post. The videos provides us with a glimpse of what you are learning. I look forward to following you on your learning journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations on taking this on. I remember trying to learn Korean some years ago, and it took a lot of effort. Huge payoff though! I know you’ll be

    How are you finding Memrise? Have you tried connecting to other learners yourself?
    Is there an element of play to the website?

    Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Joe,
      I am trying to connect with the learners on Memrise, it’s like a small online community there. What I like about Memrise is that I can take many quizzes and track my progress. I am a visual leaner where I learn better by seeing images, graphics, and videos, with Memrise and I find Memrise is a learning tool that meets my needs as a visual learner.


  4. Hi Nam Le, I asked one of my Chinese students to show me the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin by saying the same work on both languages. I was not able to recognize the difference! HAHAHAHAH Then, she told me about the six tones… Certainly, not an easy language to learn. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

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