aiyah! need help prounouncing Chinese!
September 5, 2006 3:58 PM   Subscribe

Need help pronouncing some Cantonese (preferably audio)

I'm Chinese, but pretty much as far from Chinese as you can get culturally. I'm too busy to learn any Chinese at all, but I'd like to know how you say and pronounce "Pleased to meet you" in Cantonese. I found out it is this: "Ho Ko Hing Ying Sic Lee", but of course, Canto has like 6 different tones, so I want to know how to pronounce it correctly, hence the need for audio.

It will be useful for me for, say, I meet my future significant other's parents whose native language is Cantonese, and I want to make a good, but totally false FIRST impression =)
posted by beammeup4 to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're so busy that you can't pick up, say, the Pimsleur intro CD set, perhaps your SO can take thirty seconds to teach you a single party trick phrase.

So what happens when they reply in Cantonese? I don't think you're going to get an A for effort there, bud.
posted by kcm at 4:20 PM on September 5, 2006

Also, I think you're going to be much better off taking a few Mandarin classes at night, unless you already speak it. They're easy to find and should serve you well in life as a whole.

Even on the slim chance these parents speak Cantonese rather than Mandarin, a cover story of having basic Mandarin for business purposes is much better than looking like a jackass that picked up their daughter/son with worse Cantonese than mine. They'll probably understand the basics of both if they speak one, especially if Cantonese is their native tongue.
posted by kcm at 4:24 PM on September 5, 2006

But you know, Cantonese people don't usually use that phrase. Even if you pronounced it perfectly, you would still sound like a foreigner. It's more common to say something like "I've wanted to meet you for a long time," which is more complicated.

And that English "translation" is not quite correct. It's actually "Ho (very) Go Hing (happy) Ying Sic (meet/know) Lay (you)." The Ko/Go Lee/Lay are results of sloppy translation that became convention. Just like "Kung hey fat choi" should actually be "Gung hey faat choi."

It's nice of you to try, but I really don't think getting the tones down would make a big difference in your first impression unless you actually speak it fluently.
posted by bread-eater at 4:48 PM on September 5, 2006

Response by poster: what? mefi's can't take a joke? i just simply wanted to learn how to say the darn phrase correctly...
posted by beammeup4 at 4:57 PM on September 5, 2006

Here's my half-assed-left-HK-when-I-was-five, didn't-have-Cantonese-friends-in-Canada old-school-try.
posted by porpoise at 5:10 PM on September 5, 2006

Well it is quite possible that someone might really try that hard to impress. And as I said, Cantonese people don't usually use that phrase, so I didn't think it's worth your time trying to perfect that phrase.
posted by bread-eater at 5:19 PM on September 5, 2006

To be fair, the structure of that sentance is very "formal." It'll depend on how traditional they are.

My sister's boyfriend (immigrant Cantonese but doesn't speak the language very well) kept trying to call my parents Mr/Mrs Porpoise (Porpoise sang, Porpoise Tai) but that just felt obsequious and my parents tried to disuade him against referring to them so formally so he eventually settled for Uncle and Auntie, which is - in Cantonese terms - somewhat acceptable way to refer to them.

Scenario: you and sig-o date for a while, meet parents for first time (as they live in another locality)...

Sig-o Sang, Sig-o Tai. gnho ho hoi sum ley doh yee gah horh yee ying sik lai.
posted by porpoise at 6:09 PM on September 5, 2006

I think it's great that you're trying to learn the phrase! My boyfriend learned how to say Happy New Year, and totally impressed my relatives. Though they were more impressed by the fact he tried than how he actually said it...
Can't give you audio, but a tip for getting the pronounciation, think of the tones like musical notes. So instead of speaking the words, almost sing them. It's a lot easier to remember and will help with tonality. Good luck!
posted by orangskye at 8:17 PM on September 5, 2006

Second bread-eater's observation that this phrase is not used in Cantonese. Why not a simple "lay ho" in Cantonese or "Ni men hao" in Mandarin?
posted by reformedjerk at 8:45 PM on September 5, 2006

ok beammeup4, it's a good joke and I'm drunk now. I just hope you aren't some pasty fat white dude with yellow fever ;)

Replace Wong and Amy with your hypothetical significant other's last (Family/Sur) name, and Amy with the name of your hyopthetical partner.

"Wong Tai (Mrs. Wong), Wong Sang (Mr. Wong), ah Amy (Amy) seng yut tai lei (always mentions you) so ye gnow (so I) ye ga hai (now am) ho hoi sum ley doh (very happy to) sik lei (know you)."

No, don't worry. I'm not teaching you how to say "Hi Mr & Mrs Wong, I assfuck your daughter daily and she still can't feel a thing." ;)
posted by porpoise at 10:57 PM on September 5, 2006

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