Stuck at home during the pandemic, I haven’t been reading as many Japanese books because I’ve been spending some extra time learning my family’s heritage language, Cantonese. You can read about how I got started here. There are not near as many resources available for learning Cantonese as there are for Japanese or English, so it takes a bit of extra effort. I hope to get back to writing about Japanese books eventually, but today I would like to introduce three resources that I find especially valuable.
Cantonese With Brittany
Brittany is a Canadian Youtuber who has been creating high quality videos, completely in Cantonese, that are targeted to both beginner and intermediate learners. Each video includes clear audio with jyutping, written Cantonese, and English Subtitles.
I love that the videos are completely in Cantonese. Many videos targeted to English speakers contain mostly English with just a few phrases in Cantonese. I want to immersed and want to listen to videos many times. If a video is not completely in the target language it takes a lot of effort to skip over English parts for repeat listens.
The creator of this excellent content is on Patreon, so please join, because I want her to keep making these videos!
This language learning platform simply allows you to read and listen at the same time, which is the holy grail of language learning for me. This setup is extremely hard to find in Cantonese because the most common written form of the language is very different from the spoken language.
The LingQ website doesn’t mention Cantonese on the front page, so it may not be obvious how useful the platform can be for Cantonese learners. It is only a beta language, but that said, it still contains the fifty mini-stories complete with English translations. I have seen some issues, a couple of stories use simplified characters, some of the written Cantonese is different from the audio, and some of the Jyutping is missing or incorrect. I find this to be no problem at all, and I feel like listening to the fifty mini-stories, then reading along, has been extremely valuable.
You can get considerable value out of this platform without joining the paid tier. The biggest thing missing is the ability to look up words without leaving the app. If you come to this app having already done a fair amount of studying, you won’t need to look up too many words, so I haven’t had a problem jumping back and forth between Lingq and Pleco.
Pleco Chinese Dictionary
I think that Pleco is the gold standard for a Chinese -> English dictionary in general, but with some adjustments to the default settings it becomes an incredibly useful tool for Cantonese, and I use it every day.
First you need to make sure to add the WHK dictionary, which is free, and put it at the top of the list for dictionary results. Also, make sure that Jyutping and Cantonese audio is enabled.
On iOS, probably also Android, there is a feature available where you can open a reader with what’s in the clipboard. You can add a paragraph or two of a news story or web novel and then look up words you don’t know inline, within the Pleco reader. You can also purchase graded readers and read without leaving the dictionary app if you are learning Standard Written Chinese alongside Cantonese, like me.
You can use this app for free, but I have found that purchasing the flash card add-on is very helpful. When I watch a Youtube video, I create a category for the video and add all the words I look up. You can set up the flash cards to quiz you based on the Cantonese audio, then flip the card to see the characters, Jyutping, and meaning. I find that it takes almost no extra effort, besides the word lookups I would be doing anyway, to create an audio-enabled flashcard deck. It has been well worth it for me.
There have been more and more resources for learning Cantonese available recently. These are only the top three resources that I have been using. One thing I didn’t mention that has been essential, is working with a tutor from iTalki. I would have introduced iTalki, but it is well covered elsewhere. I have also been listening to online radio, watching various YouTube channels and Netflix shows, reading web novels, graded readers and more.
There has never been a better time to learn a new language, especially Cantonese. 加油！