Cantonese phrasebook

Sourced from Wikivoyage. Text is available under the CC-by-SA 3.0 license.
David Yan
Cantonese (广东话/廣東話 Gwóngdūng wáh, 广府话/廣府話 Gwóngfù wá or 粤语/粤語 Yuht yúh) is a widely spoken Chinese language. It is the local language in current use within the province of Guangdong in China, official language in the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, and used in many overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, with Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) being two places where Cantonese is the dominant language in a Chinese community that is in turn huge and influential. Cantonese is also the main dialect spoken by overseas Chinese in most English-speaking countries. The form of Chinese spoken by many inhabitants of eastern and southern Guangxi province is often referred to as a form of Cantonese as well.
Chinese languages are mutually unintelligible, with difference ranging from that between Italian and French to that between German and Swedish, which we would call "related languages" rather than "dialects".
All Chinese languages, in general, use the same set of characters in reading and writing in formal settings, based on standard Mandarin. A Cantonese speaker and a Mandarin speaker cannot talk to each other, but either can generally read what the other writes. However, there can be significant differences when the "dialects" are written in colloquial form. For example in Cantonese as used in Hong Kong, more informal phrasings are used in everyday speech than what would be written. Thus, some extra characters are sometimes used in addition to the common characters to represent the spoken language and other colloquial words. For reading most writing in Cantonese-speaking areas, use the Chinese phrasebook.
There are different local languages in Guangdong that are sometimes considered Cantonese dialects, but in fact are separate languages, such as Taishanese, spoken in Taishan, Kaiping, Jiangmen and the surrounding areas. However, most people throughout Guangdong know how to speak standard Cantonese (Guangzhou dialect) and Hongkongers and Macanese speak standard Cantonese with slight influences from Western languages, especially from English in Hong Kong. The Cantonese spoken in Singapore and Malaysia also differs slightly due to Malay influences.
Virtually all younger Cantonese speakers in mainland China are able to speak Mandarin, so learning Cantonese is not necessary to communicate. Moreover, some of the Cantonese-speaking cities in mainland China are prosperous cities that are full of migrants from other parts of China who speak Mandarin but not Cantonese. However, Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong, Macau and overseas Chinese communities often do not speak Mandarin, and in the former, the use of Mandarin is a touchy political issue. Foreigners living in the Cantonese-speaking parts of mainland China usually choose to learn Mandarin instead as it is much more widely spoken, while those living in Hong Kong often choose to just speak English instead.
Cantonese is written with simplified Chinese characters in mainland China, and with traditional Chinese characters in Hong Kong and Macau. In this phrasebook, where differences exist, the simplified characters are written before the slash (/), and traditional characters after it.

Pronunciation guide

Phrase list