Why Learning a Romanization System?

In this lesson

  • Two reasons for learning a Romanization system

One of our goals in this course is to learn to read and write Romanized Cantonese. But why do we need to learn a Romanization system? We can still learn to speak Cantonese without knowing a Romanization system. So why learning it?

Reason 1: Romanization systems are a useful tool for learning Cantonese.

Most Cantonese learning materials (like textbooks, grammar books and dictionaries) use Romanization systems to represent Cantonese sounds. Knowing how to read Romanized Cantonese will allow you to use those materials.

Also, there will probably be some situations in which you want to write down Cantonese speech. For example, you hear a new word and want to write it down. Using English spelling is not always a good idea because it is difficult to use English spelling to represent some of the Cantonese sounds. A Romanization system has a specific letter or letter combination representing each Cantonese sound and lets you write down Cantonese sounds in a more systematic way.

Reason 2: Learning a Romanization system helps you understand the sound system of Cantonese better

When learning a Romanization system, you will know what vowels, consonants and tones exist in Cantonese. This would be particularly useful when some sounds don’t exist in your native language. You will know what new sounds you need to pay more attention to.

Also, it would help you avoid mixing up similar sounds. When two sounds are represented by separate letters in Romanized Cantonese, you will know that they are two different sounds in Cantonese, and you will need to distinguish between them.

Learning all these will help you develop the sensitivity to Cantonese sounds. This sensitivity will help you produce and recognize Cantonese sounds better and ultimately enhance your speaking and listening skills.

Hopefully you now have some idea why it is good to learn a Romanization system. See you in the next lesson!