How can a school be teaching dodgy romanisations of Cantonese characters? I often see junk like “Ngorr maai boujee” and “lay haai joong gock yaan” all over chat sites or forums. Its actually amazing that people are able to read this rubbish, but the worst is a school that teaches made-up romanised words. A school teaching “Ngorr maai boujee” demonstrates to me they are not capable of teaching correct Cantonese.

In Australia, I spent 20 hours of study at a Cantonese school. I remember the teacher told students to make up their own romanisation because “Cantonese is an oral dialect, so its better to write each word down the way you hear it. There is no proper romanisation system” blah blah rubbish talk. I remember trying to read my notes weeks after and was not able to pronounce what I wrote. In addition, my teacher was not able to specify the correct tone for any words. There are so many native Hongkies (Hong Kong People) around who believe they can teach Cantonese. Some of these “wannabe” teachers demand handsome payment for zero experience, no tone or romanisation knowledge and not capable of constructing a lesson plan. I remember teaching one of my previous tutors the 6 tones and how to romanise Chinese characters. What a teacher, I had to pay and teach him!

Those who think they can learn Cantonese with not knowing any romanisation system is fooling themselves. I believe this potentially can harm your progress by not being able to review previously learnt words, and it slows down the acquisition of vocabulary as learners tend not to hear words clearly. With many words sounding nearly the same such as 怪 gwaai3 = strange and 貴 gwai3 = expensive, I think it is valuable to learn how to write and read a standardised romansiation system. I tend to mispronounce words if I don’t see the exact spelling because certain words have short or long sounds, and end with different characters -p -t -k that sounds the same in rapid speech. I feel that it is hard to learn and distinguish if listening is your only mode of input.

I think the best Cantonese Romanisation developed is JYUTPING 粵拼 jyut6 ping3. The Cantonese Dictionary uses Jyutping and most learners of Jyutping tend to have better pronunciation than those who make up their own romanisation. Some people insist it’s not necessary to learn Jyutping or any other form of romanisation, though I strongly disagree. Learners and teachers who are deadly serious in improving or providing effective delivery of Cantonese must take the 30 minutes to learn the Jyutping pronunciation rules.

Regarding Jyutping, many learners and/or teachers complain about the use of “J” to represent the English sound “Y”. I really don’t like whingers that can’t accept that “J” is pronounced as English “Y”. You only need a short period to get used to it, and besides I’ve never met a German learner who complains that Germans use “J” when pronouncing the sound English sound “Y”. Learning Jyutping has been one of the best investments I’ve made in improving my Cantonese so rapidly.