Languages in Hong Kong
Above: street side communication spotted in Central, Hong Kong.
| Over 95% of
the people in Hong Kong speak Cantonese, a Chinese dialect. But
you can get by with English quite well since most people understand
some English as long as you speak slowly. But remember that when
someone doesn't understand you, increasing your volume increases
agitation rather than comprehension.
Though most taxi drivers understand some English, it is advisable
for you to have the hotel concierge write down your destination
in Chinese to show the taxi driver. Otherwise, your "Hung
San" rather than "Hong San" may land you at the
wrong place - the former is in south Hong Kong Island, while the
latter is on the northern shore. (2008.11.5)
Above: the Chinese
character for dragon
you will hear people say to you:
Yau mo gao chor - Are you for real? -OR- Can't believe him/her/you!
When you are running for a bus and knock someone's head with your
40 pound backpack, you will hear that from your victim!
Chee sin - crazy!
M T Arlo
MTR (the subway)
K C Arlo - KCR (the train
that goes north into the New Territories)
you can say to people:
Mmm Goy - Yap, you have to pronounce the "Mmm"! It means "no".
The two sounds put together means "thank you". Literally
you are saying to people "you shouldn't do that for me" - a courteous
phrase. But you say this only when someone does something for
you, or in asking someone to do something for you. To thank someone
for giving you something, for instance, a gift, you say "dor
je", which is explained next.
je - this means "thanks". Literally it means
"many thanks". But you only say this when thanking someone for
giving you a gift, not for doing something for you.
chin - this means "how much money". When you go shopping, you can ask the shopper this.
ho sigg - this means "it tastes good" or "they
taste good". Literally it means "good good eat". But then of course
with this phrase, you can easily get the tones wrong and it becomes
"like (fond of) women very much" - with negative connotations
- since Cantonese is a tonal language!
Saw - this may prove to be the most useful
Cantonese phrase you can learn: bathroom!
Of course we only take credit
when you say it right, but if after you utter one of these
phrases, the person chases you with a butcher knife, don't
tell people you learned it here.
If you would like to learn Cantonese
properly, there are educational centers offering courses