Chinese and English are the official languages of Hong Kong. The dominant spoken language used in daily communications is Cantonese, a variant of Chinese commonly spoken in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and the Province of Guangdong in Mainland China. It is always fun and useful to learn some basic Cantonese before you visit Hong Kong.
Cantonese slang and trending colloquial expressions are delightful to learn. Check out the funny videos by popular YouTuber Carlos Douh, who has previously worked with our partner Eureka and taught English as a Native English Teacher in Hong Kong!
AIYA (OH MAN!) 哎呀
This slang is suitable for everyone; situations like when you are late for work or when you are in pain! (We all have experiences in running late for work, don’t we?)
GONG NI DI (REALLY?!) 講尼啲
This slang has been widely used among people of Hong Kong. You can use this in a lot of different situations, have a look at the video and learn the slang!
GONG JYU BENG (lit. PRINCESS SICKNESS)公主病
Carlos’ impression for a Hong Kong girl is impressive. This slang is used to describe a condition of narcissism, egocentrism and materialism. Interested in learning this slang? Check this video out.
CHOK-YEUNG (FACE) CHOK 樣
Depending on context, if somebody says you are ‘chok’ or trying to ‘chok’, they probably mean you are looking cool (or acting cool, rather). Check out Carlos’ video and see how you can ‘compliment’ someone with the word ‘chok’!
O-JUEIH (JAW DROPPED) O咀
This slang is used to describe the jaw-dropping look on your face when you are really surprised at something that your mouth literally forms an ‘O’ shape.
SIHK LING MOHNG (TO GET REJECTED, lit. TO EAT LEMON) 食檸檬
Don’t you think ‘eating a lemon’ is a very accurate analogy of the feeling you get when someone (especially your love interest) rejects you? Well, watch Carlos’ interpretation and judge for yourself.
Before you travel to Hong Kong, learn the basic phrases below to impress the locals and help yourself navigate the city more easily! Click the audio player beneath each phrase and listen to their correct pronunciation.
Cantonese pronouns work rather differently from English pronouns. Cantonese pronouns are not inflected to indicate whether they are the subject or object of a sentence. Also, gender is not reflected in spoken Cantonese. See the list of Cantonese pronouns below.
As different as Cantonese and English may seem, the two languages share a a number of similarities in terms of grammar and sentence structures. A basic Cantonese statement is in the form of SVO, i.e. a subject is followed by a verb then by an object. However, unlike a typical English question, a Cantonese question also keeps the SVO form. This is similar to English when we state a fact while using a rising intonation. Check out the example sentences below to learn more.
Cantonese: 我ngoh(My) 個goh名meng (name)係hai(is) Sally。
English: My name is Sally.
Cantonese: 我ngoh(I)嚟自lai-ji(come from)英國ying-gwok(Britain)。
English: I come from Britain.
English: Who are you?
English: Where is your home?
Cantonese: 你nei(you)鍾唔鍾意jung mm jung-yee(like or not like)足球juk-kau(football)？
English: Do you like football?
Cantonese: 你nei(you)想唔想seung mm seung(want or not want)跳舞tiu-mou(dance)？
English: Do you want to dance?