How to Learn Cantonese: 6 Easy Ways to Learn Cantonese Quickly

Kelsey Wetherbee Published on January 6, 2023

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Do you want to learn Cantonese but you can’t find high-quality resources to study with?

In this article, I’ll show you the best ways to learn Cantonese and the best products that can teach you the language. I’ve included everything from the best Cantonese apps and courses to the best Cantonese books, YouTube channels, and podcasts. If you’re more interested in taking private or group lessons, I’ve also included the best places to find Cantonese tutors.

The team here at Langoly has over 5 decades of combined language learning experience, and we’ve personally tested and reviewed over 600 language products. We’re experts at helping our readers master new languages, and after reading this article, you’ll be well on your way to speaking Cantonese with ease!

Best Cantonese App

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Best Cantonese Course

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Best Cantonese Tutors

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How to Learn Cantonese: Use These Methods to Become Fluent Fast!

Cantonese might seem like a difficult language to learn, but with patience and persistence, you’ll be speaking in no time. The most important key to improving quickly is studying consistently (at least a few minutes every day). It’s also a good idea to use a variety of study tools. Different methods help you master different skills, so using a variety will help you improve all skills faster.

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Finding high-quality resources can be really difficult though, especially for a language like Cantonese. To save you time, our team tested a lot of Cantonese resources following our strict methodology. This allowed us to create the list you see below. By using these tools, you can spend your precious study time on actually learning the language instead of wasting it on low-quality products.

Use the Best Cantonese Apps

Using a language app to learn Cantonese is one of the most popular ways to study. They are convenient and you can study whenever you can access your phone. Most apps keep the lessons short and simple, so you can do a few every day. Pimsleur, Drops, and Glossika are well-known language apps that have some of the most effective and well-developed Cantonese lessons.

Commitment: Low
Price: Low-Medium
Convenience: High

See more Cantonese apps

Pimsleur

Pimsleur is the best app to learn Cantonese because the focus is on speaking. The audio lessons walk you through useful, everyday conversations. I enjoy Pimsleur because you listen to a full conversation between native Cantonese speakers at the beginning of each lesson, and by the end, you understand every word of the conversation. Cantonese is a tonal language, and that can be difficult to learn. Pimsleur makes it easy though, and you also learn a lot of important vocabulary along the way. You can try Pimsleur for free for 7 days or learn more about it in this Pimsleur review.

Drops

The Drops app is the best choice if you want to learn a lot of Cantonese vocabulary quickly. The lessons are quick and interactive and there are hundreds of word lists to choose from. I recommend Drops because it includes topics that most apps ignore, like food preferences, chatting with coworkers, and even ordering food for delivery. You can use Drops free for 5 minutes every day, and you can read this complete Drops review to learn more about the app.

Glossika

Glossika’s premise is straightforward: You listen to a native speaker pronounce a phrase, and then you repeat it aloud. It emphasizes repetition and you will repeat the sentences several times throughout your study session. This helps you absorb the grammar, vocabulary, and speaking rhythms by mimicking the audio. I like Glossika because learning with repetition is effective, and the app helps you speak more confidently. You can try Glossika for free for 7 days, or click on this Glossika review to learn more about the app.

Take an Online Cantonese Course

If you prefer a more structured approach to learning Cantonese, an online Cantonese course is an excellent option. They provide clear guidelines and take the guesswork out of learning the language. In addition to live classes or prerecorded videos, many courses also include independent study material to reinforce what you learned during the lessons. Udemy, FSI Cantonese Basic Course, and Hills Learning are the most effective courses that will help you speak Cantonese quickly.

Commitment: High
Price: Medium-High
Convenience: Medium

Udemy

Udemy is a massive online learning platform that teaches all different subjects, and it has over 130 Cantonese courses to choose from. The majority of the courses are for beginners, but you can find courses that teach intermediate and advanced levels, as well as Cantonese writing courses. I recommend Udemy because you can read course reviews to see how helpful each course was to previous students. You can also preview each course for free. Check out this Udemy review to learn more about the platform.

FSI Cantonese Basic Course

The Foreign Service Institute language courses have been around for a long time and US diplomats study them to learn the languages of their host countries. To be honest, the FSI Cantonese course isn’t very engaging, but it does work if you’re patient enough to complete it. It’s available on Audible and is divided into 30 lessons. Each one includes explanations, drills, and conversations. You can also follow along with the free FSI textbook to see how Cantonese is written. To access the audio lessons, you can try Audible for free for 30 days.

Hills Learning

Hills Learning offers online Cantonese courses for different levels. They are live classes with a maximum of 7 students. Classes are taken on Zoom and there are assignments between lessons to reinforce what you learned in the class. I recommend Hills Learning because you also have the option to take private classes that follow a more flexible curriculum. You can learn more about the classes available and take a free level test on the Hills Learning website.

Find an Online Cantonese Tutor

The best way to practice speaking and conversational skills is with a native Cantonese speaker. Even if you don’t know anyone that speaks the language, you have the option to take online classes with a Cantonese tutor. This can give you the one-on-one conversation practice that will take your fluency to the next level. italki, Verbling, and Amazing Talker are all reputable and safe platforms that have qualified Cantonese tutors available to teach 1-on-1 lessons.

Commitment: Medium
Price: Medium-High
Convenience: Medium

italki

The italki platform connects Cantonese learners and tutors around the world. There are currently over 110 Cantonese tutors to choose from. Since the classes are 1-on-1, you can study exactly what you want and your teacher can create a personalized curriculum. I love italki because you can take lessons anytime and the platform is safe to use. Most teachers also offer a discounted trial lesson to see if they are a good fit for you. You can learn more about the platform in this italki review.

Verbling

Verbling is similar to italki. There are currently only 9 Cantonese teachers available on Verbling, but they all have excellent ratings from past students. You can search the tutors’ profiles to watch an introduction video, see their qualifications, and check availability. Most teachers offer a free trial class, so you can see if you enjoy their classes risk-free. This is my favorite part of Verbling. You can learn more about the platform in this Verbling review.

AmazingTalker

AmazingTalker is a platform based out of Hong Kong and it offers private 1-on-1 tutoring with native Cantonese teachers. You can choose a tutor based on what you want to learn such as Business Cantonese, conversation, and even Cantonese for children. You can browse the tutors’ profiles to learn more about them. I included AmazingTalker in this list because the tutors are all qualified and professional. Most tutors also offer a discounted trial class. Find tutors and learn more about the online courses on the AmazingTalker website.

Study with High-Quality Cantonese Books

Books are a common way to learn Cantonese and that’s because they are proven to be effective. Most in-person language classes use books to help guide students. Now there are many books available for self-study, as well. In addition to practice questions and answers, many books also incorporate additional online practice that allows you to hear how Cantonese is spoken. Complete Cantonese, Learn to Speak Cantonese I, and Get Started in Cantonese are my favorite choices for books to learn Cantonese.

Commitment: Low
Price: Medium
Convenience: Medium

Complete Cantonese

Complete Cantonese is a self-study book and it can take you from a complete beginner to an intermediate level. Through the 26 units, you practice all the most important language skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The book also includes progress tests and downloadable audio tracks to hear how Cantonese is spoken. My favorite part of the book is the cultural notes it includes about China. These enhance your learning beyond the language. You can see more about the book here.

Learn to Speak Cantonese I

Learn to Speak Cantonese I quickly teaches you the basics needed to start speaking. The 10 chapters follow the story of Gabriel, who needs to learn Cantonese to speak to his girlfriend’s mother. I recommend this book because it teaches the basics of conversation in an easy and approachable way. You can also download audio and flashcards from the website that complement what you learn with the book. See if this book is right for you here.

Get Started in Cantonese

Get Started in Cantonese places a large emphasis on communicating in Cantonese, even from the very beginning. I enjoyed this book because each unit has clear goals established at the beginning, and a self-check at the end of the unit to make sure I understood. It also includes cultural points, vocabulary-building activities, conversations, and more. I found the pronunciation guide to be particularly helpful. You can read more about the book here.

Watch Cantonese YouTube Videos

We all like watching YouTube videos, so why not watch them to learn Cantonese? It’s a great way to hear how the language is spoken and you can watch videos directly from Cantonese creators. Some channels focus on teaching the language in a traditional format, while others focus on Cantonese culture. The channels on this list each have hundreds of videos for you to check out.

Commitment: Low
Price: Low
Convenience: High

5 Minute Cantonese

5 minute cantonese youtube

Amanda is from Hong Kong and, as a language learner herself, she wants to help others learn Cantonese. She makes short videos teaching the language in bite-sized chunks. Every video is less than 10 minutes and focuses on a topic or phrase. She also has a few videos about grammar and some vlogs entirely in Cantonese. I like that she explains everything in English and then she helps you practice the Cantonese pronunciation. There are over 100 videos to check out, and she uploads a new video every week.

Cantonese Corner

The Cantonese Corner channel has a variety of entertaining videos. There are videos that teach Cantonese language topics like vocabulary, pronunciation, and even Mahjong scoring! The host, Sue, also has videos in English about Cantonese culture. As of May 2023, Sue is no longer posting new videos. However, the Cantonese Corner already has over 100 videos to help you learn the Cantonese language and culture.

Mama Cheung

Mama Cheung is a food vlogger who posts videos of her cooking traditional food from Hong Kong. Not only will her videos make you hungry, but you’ll also learn tons of vocabulary related to food and cooking. Her videos are entirely in Cantonese, but you can turn on English subtitles if you want. I love watching these as a way to immerse myself in the Cantonese language. She has hundreds of videos for you to watch and posts a new video every Thursday.

Listen to Cantonese Podcasts

Podcasts are another versatile way to learn Cantonese. Since they are audio-based, you can listen anywhere and anytime or even while you’re doing other activities. Podcasts let you hear exactly how Cantonese is spoken and you can focus on perfecting your pronunciation and comprehension. CantoneseClass101, Cantonese Pod, and Learn Cantonese Daily have thousands of hours of material for you to listen to.

Commitment: Low
Price: Low
Convenience: High

CantoneseClass101

cantoneseclass101 homepage

CantoneseClass101 has podcast-style lessons that feature conversations by native Cantonese speakers. You can find lessons that use text, audio, and video to study useful topics like working and going to school. CantoneseClass101 is also one of my favorite tools because there are new lessons every week. CantoneseClass101 has a free lifetime subscription, and it also has a 7-day free trial to test out it’s premium features.

Learn Cantonese Daily

Learn Cantonese Daily has mini podcast lessons that teach you Cantonese in less than 10 minutes. Each lesson focuses on a simple topic, such as summer activities or Mother’s Day. You learn vocabulary related to the topic and then use the words in sentences. I think the PDF transcripts it offers are extremely helpful because you can see how to write the words in Cantonese. There are 150 lessons available, and you can try the first 50 lessons for free to see if you enjoy this podcast.

Chatty Cantonese

Chatty Cantonese is a good option for intermediate and advanced learners. Each episode is a conversation between two Cantonese academics. They talk about tips for learning the language, culture, news, and more. It’s entirely in Cantonese, so it’s best for learners who already understand how the language is spoken. After adding this podcast to your learning routine, you’ll notice a huge improvement in your listening comprehension skills. You can find transcripts and English translations on their website as well, and you can listen to all of the episodes for free.

How to Learn Cantonese: Final Thoughts

Cantonese doesn’t have to be difficult to learn, but you do need the right tools for the job. Using high-quality resources, such as the ones on this list, can help you improve and make learning an enjoyable experience. With persistence and dedication, you’ll be speaking Cantonese before you know it!

Want to learn more? Check out our Cantonese resource page.

How to Learn Cantonese: FAQ

How long does it take to learn Cantonese?

The US Department of State considers Cantonese to be a very difficult language for English speakers to learn and estimates that it takes 2200 class hours to reach a proficient level. But this amount of time is only an estimate and depends on other factors such as your natural ability to acquire languages and if you already know a language that’s similar to Cantonese.

To see how long it will take you to learn Cantonese, check out this Fluency Calculator.

How can I learn Cantonese quickly?

To learn Cantonese quickly, you’ll need to dedicate a lot of time to studying and have a consistent learning routine. Another way to learn quickly is to use a variety of resources since each one has its own strengths. For example, podcasts can help your listening and understanding, but using a language app might be better for learning vocabulary and grammar.

How do I learn Cantonese at home on my own?

There are many options to learn Cantonese at home, but one of the most popular is to learn with a language app. Apps are convenient and can be a fun and effective way to study. Once you reach an intermediate level, you can take online classes, either privately or in a group. There are also new more flexible options, such as watching YouTube videos and listening to podcasts.

How hard is it to learn Cantonese?

Cantonese is considered to be an exceptionally difficult language for English speakers to learn. This is because there are significant linguistic differences between the two languages. The most notable differences are the writing systems and pronunciation. For example, Cantonese is a tonal language, whereas English is not.

How do I learn Cantonese fluently?

To learn Cantonese fluently, you must study it consistently and use high-quality resources, like apps and books. Immersing yourself in the language through podcasts and YouTube videos will also teach you how native speakers use the language. To perfect your speaking, you can find a language exchange partner on an app like Tandem or HelloTalk.

How do I learn Cantonese for free?

There are many ways to learn Cantonese for free, including podcasts and watching YouTube videos. Some language apps offer some or all of their content for free, such as Duolingo and CantoneseClass101. You can also find authentic Cantonese material such as websites and newspapers for free.

Kelsey Wetherbee

Kelsey is the Content Manager and Editor of Langoly. She is a TEFL-certified English teacher with more than eight years of classroom experience in three different countries. She’s an avid language learner with an advanced level of Spanish and is currently studying French. Whenever possible, she loves to travel and enjoys meeting people from all over the world. Connect with Kelsey on LinkedIn.

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