Cantonese Dictionary

Discussions on the Cantonese language.
rathpy

Cantonese Dictionary

Postby rathpy » Thu Jul 04, 2002 7:50 am

Are there *ANY* good Cantonese dictionaries out there?

- comphrehensive, with phrases
- C-E and E-C
- includes characters, of course
- a popular romanisation scheme (eg. Yale, jyutpin?)
- currently available (in print)
- legible font sizes

Is this asking too much? I've done some searching but can't really find anything.

Regards,
rathpy

rathpy

Re: Cantonese Dictionary

Postby rathpy » Fri Jul 05, 2002 5:10 pm

bump

James Campbell

Re: Cantonese Dictionary

Postby James Campbell » Mon Jul 08, 2002 5:35 am

Yes, but I didn't buy it...next time I'm at the bookstore I'll check the name and what not... It was tempting because I think it had quite a few sample sentences...

rathpy

Re: Cantonese Dictionary

Postby rathpy » Mon Jul 08, 2002 1:29 pm

I would be grateful. The best I could find was a one-way book "Chinese-English Dictionary: Cantonese in Yale Romanization, Mandarin in Pinyin" by Chik Han Man, Ng Lam Sim Yuk, ISBN:9622019226, but it is out of print.

I almost can't believe that there aren't lots of good dictionaries out there, but I have done quite a bit of searching. I turn to my comprehensive 1000+ page English dictionary and think how much easier life would be if there was one Cantonese/English.

Regards,
rathpy

Helmut
Posts: 43
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:53 pm

Re: Cantonese Dictionary

Postby Helmut » Mon Jul 08, 2002 11:22 pm

>>
I almost can't believe that there aren't lots of good dictionaries out there, but I have done quite a bit of searching. I turn to my comprehensive 1000+ page English dictionary and think how much easier life would be if there was one Cantonese/English.
<<

Compared to the abundance of material for European languages with native speaker populations of similar size (e.g. Italian or Polish), the amount of material for Cantonese is very small. This is to a good part caused by the Cantonese people treating Cantonese language as a dialect of Chinese and not as a language. If it were not for Hongkong, there would be even much less around. Then, of the material available, most is for beginners. Good dictionaries are for advanced students, so it is no surprise in the end that there is no real good dictionary around that fulfills all the requirements that you described. You want to learn Cantonese. You will have to be grateful for whatever is there at all.

>>
The best I could find was a one-way book "Chinese-English Dictionary: Cantonese in Yale Romanization, Mandarin in Pinyin" by Chik Han Man, Ng Lam Sim Yuk, ISBN:9622019226, but it is out of print.
<<

I got that one. It is very helpful, especially as you can search it using Cantonese pronounciation. However, Cantonese words more often than not come in two syllables (characters). The book is a character dictionary and is not so helpful, if you need to find words with more than one syllable. (I am searching bookstores for years now for anything useful, but I have yet to see any Cantonese-English dictionary for words instead of characters.)

Other way around (English-Cantonese):
"English-Cantonese Dictionary, Cantonese in Yale Romanization" by Kwan Choi Wah and others. Pretty good, but no characters and often it gives you several possibilities without telling you the difference between them.

rathpy

Re: Cantonese Dictionary

Postby rathpy » Tue Jul 09, 2002 4:07 am

Hello Helmut. Thanks for the books info.

I'm not sure that I agree with you that "Good dictionaries are for advanced students". Everybody can benefit form good dictionaries!

Regards,
rathpy

Mark
Posts: 134
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:53 pm
Contact:

Re: Cantonese Dictionary

Postby Mark » Tue Jul 09, 2002 4:24 am

Helmut: Didn't look a that one yet, however if character compounds are listed under that character that is a fairly similar concept.

James Campbell

Re: Cantonese Dictionary

Postby James Campbell » Tue Jul 09, 2002 6:35 pm

Rathpy,

I have to agree with Helmut saying that good dictionaries are for advanced students. Some of the dictionaries I use, I couldn't have used when I was just learning Chinese. Some of the dictionaries are all in Chinese and are some of my best and favorites (without English definitions). For example all of my Minnan dictionaries and glossaries are this way (all the English translated ones are over 100 yrs old, out of date, and not easy to use--and I don't even both with them). In China, it's rare to find two-way dictionaries. Dictionaries are usually set up (including dialect dictionaries) to be foreign language -> Standard Chinese. And when you do find Chinese -> foreign language dictionaries, they are usually only character entries only.

James Campbell

James Campbell

Re: Cantonese Dictionary

Postby James Campbell » Fri Jul 12, 2002 5:34 am

Ok, the dictionary I saw was an English>Cantonese dictionary in Yale romanization by the Chinese University Press called English Cantonese Dictionary. There are not any characters provided, by I noticed that if you have a working knowledge of Chinese, those characters more often than not are pretty obvious by the pronunciations provided. The ISBN number is 9622019706, website: www.cuhk.edu.hk/cupress, email: cup@cuhk.edu.hk, tel: 85226036692, fax: 85226037355. I don't know if that helps, but I hope it does.

Sounds like Helmut must already have quiet a few dictionaries with all of his studies, so I wouldn't be suprised if he had this one already.

James

Helmut
Posts: 43
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:53 pm

Re: Cantonese Dictionary

Postby Helmut » Fri Jul 12, 2002 10:58 pm

James,

My funds are limited . . ..

Do I have the one you mention? Yes and no. No, because last time I was in HK, it was not yet on sale. Yes, because the one I mentioned in the previous post should be an older edition of the same book. Author (Kwan Choi Wah = Caihua Guan) and publisher are the same, the description fits in detail, and the errors quoted by reviews of that book at amazon.com are the same. Since even the number of pages did not change, I think there should not be a lot of improvements, if any. What changed is the ISBN and the cover.

Exactly, the same thing holds for the other book (Chinese-English) that Rathpy mentioned and my older version of the same thing, except that here the author did not change his name to Mandarin.

Mark,
yes, if it lists all the compounds under the character, we would get what we want. But this book lists just 2-3 examples per character and they are rarely the most important compounds. So it remains a character dictionary.

Rathpy,
sorry, I should be more careful in my wording. Of course, everybody benefits from a good book. However, to my experience, most people buy a dictionary only after having passed the beginner's stage. Even more true for Chinese character dictionaries that are much more complicated than others.
My favorite for beginners:
"Phrases in Cantonese" by Betty Hung. Not a phrase book, but a 4000 word English-Cantonese vocabulary. For a beginner, it is the best E-C dictionary. It gives romanisation and the characters. It tells you only one and usually the best translation per meaning of the English word. Gives also classifiers. Later, for the intermediate student, it becomes a good vocabulary trainer. And it is of small size and cheap.

rathpy

Re: Cantonese Dictionary

Postby rathpy » Sat Jul 13, 2002 5:28 am

Helmut,

Can you please tell me what romanisation scheme the Betty Hung "Phrases in Cantonese" book uses? (I am trying to standardise on Yale during my beginner phase).

Would you suggest that a smaller dictionary is generally better for a beginner? Why, because there are less pages and guff to search through? Don’t you find it frustrating though when a word isn’t there.

Yesterday I ordered:
* Cantonese: A Comprehensive Grammar by Matthews/Yip ISBN:041508945X
* Chinese-English Dictionary: Cantonese in Yale Romanization, Mandarin in Pinyin ISBN:9622019226
* English-Cantonese Dictionary: Cantonese in Yale Romanization ISBN: 9622019706

I am considering swapping the E-C dictionary above for the "Phrases in Cantonese" book you mentioned - I like the fact that it includes characters. Apart from this feature (and it’s price) is there any other reason why it might be preferred to the English-Cantonese Dictionary?

Regards,
rathpy

Helmut
Posts: 43
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:53 pm

Re: Cantonese Dictionary

Postby Helmut » Mon Jul 15, 2002 9:56 pm

Rathpy,

positive. All books of Betty Hung and also of Matthews/Yip that I know use Yale.

No ! I would not say that a smaller dictionary is generally better for a beginner. It is not a matter of size. But here, the small book offers some things that the big book lacks:
1. The E-C dictionary that we talk about would give you several Cantonese meanings for one English word. It would not tell you that one is normally used, the next one rarely used and the third one only in formal writing. So you end up not knowing which of the proposed words is the one that you should apply. Betty Hung gives you only one solution, and usually the one that matters.
2. Not having the Chinese characters makes it also much more difficult to show the word to a native speaker and ask him, because native speakers usually cannot read romanisation. But as a beginner you often need to ask. BH gives you the chars.
3. BH often gives you the classifier, the E-C dictionary does not. This is like a French dictionary not telling you male or female.

Of course, after some time, 4000 words are not enough for a dictionary, but for a start it should be ok.

Why do you want to swap ? Buy them all ! Once past the beginner stage, it is useful to have them both anyway, one as a dictionary, the other as a vocabulary trainer.
Betty Hung's book costs only about HK$ 60-70. Compared with the value of your time spent on learning, this is worth it. There are Cantonese beginner courses in the US that cost you hundreds of US dollars, but this book is really cheap. I bought not only this, but also "The right word in Cantonese" by Kwan Choi Wah, which is the same type of book as "Phrases in Cantonese" (no classifiers though). The vocabulary does not overlap 100%, so I simply got both.

Another suggestion: "Basic Cantonese" by Matthews/Yip. It is a grammar oriented exercise book. To be used best after the beginners course. What I like most about the books of these authors is that they seem to use modern vocabulary. Some books teach you vocabulary that native speakers will tell you is outdated.

Helmut

rathpy

Re: Cantonese Dictionary

Postby rathpy » Tue Jul 16, 2002 12:52 am

Okay then Helmut,

I added "Phrases in Cantonese" to my order. And I'll consider the others after I receive the order of four books.

Thanks,
rathpy

Paul

Re: Cantonese Dictionary

Postby Paul » Tue Jul 16, 2002 4:40 pm

Rathpy,
When I started to learn Cantonese(many many years ago now) I went to an evening class and the teacher used the SPEAK CANTONESE course by Parker Huang. This consists of 3 books quite comprehensive giving a wide coverage of the language it uses YALE Romanization, each lesson had a vocabulary section with both Yale and chinese characters. There was also an accompanying dictionary.(Idon't know if its still in print) I have since progressed onto most of the dictionaries mentioned in other postings.
You can maybe try to locate this language course I'm not sure if there are any accompanying tapes(?)
On the subject of your other posting my wife is from Hong Kong, We have brought our 2 daughters up to be fluent in English and Cantonese. Irrespective of what language we used with each other,we stuck to speaking our own languages to our children from day1. My wife being at home all day with our daughter was unsure wether our daughter could understand English or not(?) an incident happened with our eldest daughter (she tripped over and hit her head)she told my wife in perfect Cantonese and then when I returned home promptly told me in perfect English what had happened. Thus we knew that she had no problems mixing up languages. We did notice that she sometimes knew the word for something in 1 language and not in the other, so an English sentence would suddenly have a Cantonese word inserted in and visa versa.
Carry on the good work with the Cantonese it's a fantastically vibrant language, and well worth learning
Cheers Paul

Miles Crew
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:53 pm

Re: Cantonese Dictionary

Postby Miles Crew » Wed Jul 17, 2002 2:01 am

Man, I'm still skeptical that anything perfect is out there. Good resources are so scant that a true colloquial Cantonese expression and the accompanying characters are treasures to be horded and only doled out to fellow learners for more words and phrases in return.

That said, anyone know where to get the Betty Hung book? I can't find it on Amazon, or anything else decent-looking that I don't already have for that matter.


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