Cantonese Transcription

I'm slowly attempting to learn Cantonese, which is hard because it's a tonal language that uses traditional Chinese characters. There are six main tones used in Cantonese, which are normally identified by number:

So, for example, maan6 is the word "maan" spoken at a low tone.

These numbers are what is called the Jyutping system for transcribing Cantonese. They make it relatively easy to try to speak a word or phrase, but unfortunately not everyone uses Jyutping. The most common alternative system is called the Yale system. This uses accents and additional characters to identify the tones. For example, the Cantonese phrase 你叫咩名, which means "what is your name?" has the following pronunciation in Jyutping:

nei5 giu3 me1 meng2

In the Yale system, it would be written as:

néih giu mē méng

For a long time, Yale was like black magic to me — it just didn't make any sense. But then I found a great Cantonese textbook that uses Yale, and I decided to figure it out. So I made this table to convert from Yale transription back into Jyjutping:

Yale Jyutping
ā a1
á a2
a a3
àh a4
áh a5
ah a6

(Note that à (the falling high tone) isn't significant in Cantonese so I've ignored it).

I still find Yale hard to read, but at least I can convert it now. I keep a copy of this table printed out in front of me whenever I'm working through a book or article that uses the Yale system.