Discover more from Cantonese + Mandarin
A carefully curated list of all the learning materials we have used to assist our children - and ourselves - in Cantonese language learning. Any and all opinions stated on this site are ours alone.
BIRTH - 4 YEARS OLD
奇世界，奇音乐: We subscribe to this YouTube channel for the fun variety of nursery songs that are available. Both our toddler and baby enjoy watching and singing along to the Cantonese lyrics. It helps that many of the songs borrow their melody from common English nursery rhymes, so there's familiarity. The lyrics are not direct translations, so the "London Bridge" song could be sung about some birds falling into the water and washed away by the current.
天晴童谣 SUNSHINE NURSERY RHYME: This YouTube channel provides an assortment of songs and lessons that introduce Hong Kongnese culture to its audience of toddlers and preschoolers. We subscribe to it for some of the classic Cantonese nursery songs that the grandparents grew up with (i.e. 小太阳，小时候), which is also very visually attractive, melodic, and calming to our toddler. Perhaps, later on, our kids will be more interested in the lessons that introduce Chinese holidays or some storytime...we'll see.
CANTONESE FOR FAMILIES: This website is specifically tailored for biracial families (like us) with learning materials that are suitable for toddlers to middle school-ish. They include some religious-based content as well. It's definitely loaded with resources, but quite a lot to sift through, so a few run-ins with expired links, but still very comprehensive.
EVERYDAY CANTONESE FOR PARENTS: This little pamphlet-sized handbook captures many of the moments during the early stages of parenting - and enables the reader to communicate with their little ones in Cantonese. It caters to parents who are not native speakers themselves but want to speak it with their children nonetheless. Be warned: there are a few typos and mistranslations, but overall useful and comprehensive for years 0-3.
5 - 12 YEARS OLD
樂語路故事列車 “SPEAK ALONG STORY TRAIN”: This is one of several apps created by the Chinese University of Hong Kong. It had staying power because of the gamification of Cantonese learning that played well with the series of short stories that are easily explainable to our 5.5-year-old. It also captivated our soon-to-be 4-year-old boy, who has a one-track mind devoted to the love of trains. Great for parents who need a break via screen time. The only downside is that instructions are all in traditional Cantonese characters, so if you/your kids are trying to navigate the app for the first time, it may take a few tries.
冚唪唥粵文 HAM6BAANG6LAANG6 JYUT6MAN4: This community collaboration packs in a ton of learning materials for ALL ages, but it's most captivating perhaps after the kids stop relying on cartoons and animations to stay interested...when their attention span can last a bit longer. We donate and purchase their little pamphlet-sized books to read along as we watch the videos, but because the videos are pretty much slideshows, it's more for reading along than entertainment. Perfect for parents to learn with the kids!!
老夫子 OLD MASTER Q: This mini-series is based on a mega series of hilarious, classic, comic strips by Hong Kong author/illustrator, Alfonso Wong Kar Hei. The comedy is pretty slapstick for the most part, and NOT PC or text-heavy (hence better for older kids), but it has withstood the test of time and comic strips have been passed down from generation to generation in both Hong Kong and Mainland China. The comic books make for entertaining and lighthearted coffee table readers and are also great for introducing Cantonese humor.
TEENAGE YEARS (13 - 19)
BRAINSCAPE CANTONESE FLASH CARDS: Not the most organized stacks of Cantonese cards, but gets the job done and is accessible / interactive enough to keep a teenager's attention. Generally organized according to conversation topics. The most popular stacks, near the top of the page, will have pronunciation recordings embedded in the flash cards (click the play icon to the right). The work in progress or podcast-based flash cards do not yet have recordings embedded. Maybe someday. Needless to say, the Mandarin deck is way more organized and has its own downloadable mobile app.
MISC. TOOLS & ALL AGE GROUPS
ROUTLEDGE COLLOQUIAL CANTONESE: These FREE audio files start with practicing the various tones that make up the Cantonese dialect, so if you know them, start with Track 13. The pronunciation is clear, precise, and very standard Cantonese, and the book seems to be catered towards people looking to live / work in Hong Kong or Guangzhou. Overall pretty comprehensive and enables its readers to be functional, but colloquial Cantonese, spoken in the right context, is not that easy to learn without some kind of environmental immersion. So I think selling it to zero beginners is kind of a stretch. The content is still a bit more textbook than colloquial, great for professionals trying to function in Cantonese.
*We are constantly adding to the list and welcome recommendations from near and far, but we don't take compensation for any resources listed. If it sticks, it gets listed along with a brief review.