With more and more parents wanting to pass on Cantonese to the new generation, there is an increasing demand for Cantonese resources, including Colloquial Cantonese print resources. This is especially true for those who grew up in countries where Cantonese is not the community language, and while they may be heritage speakers, they are not necessarily native speaking or fluent. They may find it difficult to read Standard Chinese, and translate it to Cantonese on the fly when reading to their child(ren), and they are looking for something to help them read to their child.
Although I can read Chinese, and translate (some) on the fly, I decided to purchase some of Colloquial Cantonese books to understand better what they are about, and to support those who developed these resources. I did find them quite beneficial to read to my child:
- increased repetition helped reinforce the vocabulary
- she could link the vocabulary to the pictures
- the romanization helps prompt her to remember what the vocabulary is.
- it helped her understand better that the difference between Colloquial Cantonese and Standard Chinese.
Since the books were so helpful, and I have seen so many parents looking for such books, I’ve looked for what books are available, and compiled a list below. Where possible, I have included previews of the insides, so that you can make an informed decision.
These Colloquial Cantonese books available on the market now can loosely be placed into two categories:
- Visual Dictionaries/ Vocabulary Books 圖解字典
- Storybooks 故事書
I decided to separate the books into two posts, as it was getting too long. (That’s a good sign, it means that more and more of such books have been written. )
Cue Immersion Cantonese Audio books are probably the pioneer of Colloquial Cantonese books. These were created by Kapo Szeto, founder of Cue Cantonese Immersion, an early Cantonese learning program for children ages three to six in Vancouver.
The first set of five books was published in 2017:
- 溫溫暖暖過冬天 Dressing Warm for Winter
- 多變的天氣 The Everchanging Weather
- 我的心情 The Way I Feel
- 餐具 Eating Utensils
- 誰在森林裡? Who’s in the Forest?
The next set of five books was published
- 我的日常生活 My Daily Routine
- 齊齊食點心 Let’s Have Dim Sum
- 新年快樂! Happy Chinese New Year!
- 中式餅店 Chinese Bakery
- 陪我環遊世界 Travel the World with Me
The books include a story (based around the themed vocabulary) and a glossary at the back in bilingual Cantonese (with Jyutping) and English. There’s a QR code where you can scan for the audio – the book narrated in alternating Cantonese and English. You can check out the website for a preview of the inside pages and audio. If you wish to read more about her story, there is a write-up in the local Chinese papers.
List price: CDN $29.35 each, with free international shipping (to a number of locations) on orders over CA$80.00 (at the time of this post
Available: from the Cue Cantonese Immersion website
These are more expensive than most of the other options, so I didn’t purchase them, as we are past this stage of Cantonese learning, but I have read some very positive reviews of them in the forums.
My First Words in Chinese: Cantonese with Jyutping
This is a large format picture book (21.59 x 27.94 cm or 8.5 x 11 inches) filled with over 400 words are written in traditional Chinese, Jyutping and English translation. It comes with audio via a QR code. It covers lots of topics including Animals, Insects, Ocean life, Transport, Colours, shapes, Numbers (up to 一億 or 100 million), Feelings, Telling Time. etc.
It retails for £9.99 on Amazon UK (as of May 2021). It is also available on other Amazons, and various bookstores. This is only available in paperback, and not kindle.
I really like this book. I have an older kid, so we look for more in-depth vocabulary, and this book provides both depth and breadth for a non-native speaker. I even picked up a few phrases myself.
Learning Conversational Cantonese for Kids
This is a series of vocabulary books, and there are four published books to date. :
- Animals in Cantonese-English book 979-8649958752
- Daily Vocabulary in Cantonese-English book 979-8673881378
- Food & drink in Cantonese-English book 979-8654148407
- My House in Cantonese-English book 979-8693627154
Each book has 40 pages, and is approximately 15.24 x 22.86 cm or 6″ x 9 “. Each word or phrase is written in traditional Chinese characters with Jyutping pronunciations and English translations. Sentences are colour-coded to both the Jyutping and English translation to help learn about sentence structure. Interesting facts about the language are also included in the footnotes for adult learners. There are accompanying audio files (accessed via QR code) to guide you through the pronunciation. There are lots of useful essential vocabulary in these books. Lots of brightly coloured photos and illustrations.
I liked this series, and eventually bought three out of the four of the books (I didn’t buy animals, as we had other animal books). I found the layout and colors of the inside pages are prettily done up and very soothing to look at. What I also liked was that the photos were very inclusive of various races.
The paperback version retails for approximately £8.99 and Kindle version for £4.99 on Amazon UK (as of May 2021). It is also available on other Amazons, and various bookstores. This is only available in paperback, and not kindle. You can see more of the inside pages on Amazon.
Book cover and preview inside pages provided by Little Canto Learning
I also love this author, because she also provides lots of wonderful and free resources on her Little Canto Learning website
This is a series of vocabulary books, and there are four published books to date. :
- My First Everyday Words 978-0999273036
- My First Animals 978-0999273005
- My First Colors 978-0999273050
- My First Book of Things that Go 978-0999273074
The books are have large photographs, and large fonts, that will appeal to young children. These books are targeted at non-fluent speakers, and each phrase is accompanied by both Jyutping as well as a ‘Simplified phonetic English’.
The books range from 29 – 32 pages long and the dimensions are 21.6 x21.6 cm or 8.5″ x 8.5″. If you are buying off Amazon, please note that some books have a Mandarin version, so please choose carefully.
I bought the older edition of My First Everyday Words and My First Book of Things that Go, and I do like them. (Author assures me that there were only minor edits).
Each book is based on a certain theme, and the one that I have ‘My First Book of Things that Go’, do go in-depth into certain vocabulary, so now I know the Cantonese (and English) terms for backhoe, dump truck, excavator, sea plane etc, which is perfect if you have a vehicle loving child. I have only seen preview pages of My First Colors and My First Animals, so I cannot comment at length, but from the preview pages, they do look inviting.
Book cover and preview inside pages provided by Karen Yee
ISBN-13 : 978-1700654298
I found this book on Amazon, and I am glad I bought it. There are lots of vocabulary in it, hence it may suit older children and even adults.
It is a large format picture book (20.32 x 25.4 cm) and there are 53 pages. There are over 400 phrases, each with Jyutping and English translation. Each page spread covers a different theme. e.g. To see the doctor, classroom, etc
5. Interesting Cantonese for Kids by Susanna Ng
I came across this book many years ago at Eslite in Hong Kong. It follows a series of Interesting Cantonese books for adults. It has 175 pages, and approximately 3,000 commonly used words and sentences. It measures approximately 27 cm x 21 cm or 10.6″x8.25″. It also comes with a CD.
The illustrations are mostly hand-drawn, though some chapters have photos, and the words hand written. It had a very quaint feel, though may not be everyone’s cup of tea. I like that they have lots of vocabulary.
This was published a few years back, and today, it is harder to find. I found it on Bookzine (HK) for HKD225 or China Sprout for USD39.95. I have not used either retailers, so I can’t vouch for them.
These books are not strictly for kids, but older kids might like it.
- 《 Illustrated Hong Kong Cantonese 》Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean and English 978-988-15733-5-3
- 《 Illustrated Hong Kong Cantonese 》(Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, Bahasa Indonesia and English) 圖解港式廣東話 – 廣普菲印英 978-988-15733-7-7 340
There are 5 language translations in each book (as you can see from the title), hence it is very busy. Cantonese phrases are in Traditional Chinese with romanisation (not Jyutping. Possibly Yale?) , and Mandarin phrases are in Simplified Chinese with pinyin,
Each book is divided into 5 categories: ‘Basic’, ‘Eating’, ‘Living’, ‘Shopping’ and ‘Having fun’, covering a vocabulary of over 2000 words and covering a wide spectrum of living experiences in Hong Kong.
The books are beautifully illustrated and shows so much of Hong Kong that I am feeling homesick. I would buy this book, just for the illustrations.
With the 《 Illustrated Hong Kong Cantonese 》Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean and English, you can choose to also purchase a reading pen (which I have no experience with, and cannot comment. With the《 Illustrated Hong Kong Cantonese 》(Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, Bahasa Indonesia and English), there is a QR code that you can scan to access online audio clips.
You can also click on the above links to see [review pages, and learn more about the contents,
- 《 Illustrated Hong Kong Cantonese 》Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean and English HKD230
- 《 Illustrated Hong Kong Cantonese 》(Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, Bahasa Indonesia and English) HKD 170
Each book has over 300 pages, and the dimensions of each book are approximately 22.6 x 17 x 1.8 cm
Their YouTube channel also has alot of useful videos.
This is a book by Steaming Happiness, an online shop that creates a variety of gift items inspired by Cantonese culture, ranging from stationery to badge reels to books.
The dimensions are 6″ by 6″ and is locally printed in the US. This retails for USD 11, and can be purchased from their website.
This book is written in English and traditional Chinese characters with Yale Romanization and comes with a complimentary audio reading as well to help with pronunciation! This is locally printed in California, by another small business with an ecofriendly printer.
There is another version in Simplified Chinese on Amazon that is 8.25″ by 8.25″. A traditional Chinese version is in the works.
Photo provided by Steaming Happiness.
8. My First Bilingual Cantonese – English books by Oasis Chinese books
There are three books in this series
- My First Bilingual Cantonese – English Animals: Cantonese for kids 978-1794667815
- My First Bilingual Cantonese – English Emotions: Cantonese for kids 979-8603735979
- My First Bilingual Cantonese – English Fruit & Vegetables: Cantonese for kids 978-1726446785
The books range from 32-38 pages and the dimensions are 21.6 x21.6 cm or 8.5″ x 8.5″.
I had only bought the emotions books as we had other resources for animals and fruits and vegetables.
There were 12 page spreads covering an emotion each (see above pix for two of them), and another page spread consolidating the vocabulary. It is more basic and would suit younger children more than older ones, but it is not a board book, so you have to be mindful for children that have not yet learnt to be gentle with books.
The author, Ann Hamilton, has also written a Colloquial Cantonese storybook under Mooli Press, which will be covered in the next blogpost about Colloquial Cantonese storybooks.
This is a range of books by Richard Carlson, who has developed lots of books in many different languages. These are the ones available for Cantonese:
- English-Chinese Traditional Cantonese Numbers Children’s Bilingual Picture Dictionary
- English-Chinese Traditional Cantonese Home / 家 Children’s Bilingual Picture Dictionary
- English-Chinese Traditional Cantonese Bilingual Children’s Picture Dictionary Book of Colors
- English-Chinese Traditional Cantonese Clothes Bilingual Children’s Picture Dictionary
- English-Chinese Traditional Cantonese Bilingual Children’s Picture Dictionary of Animals
- English-Chinese Traditional Cantonese Fruits and Vegetables Children’s Bilingual Picture Dictionary
- English-Chinese Traditional Cantonese Jobs/工作 Children’s Bilingual Picture Dictionary
- English-Chinese Traditional Cantonese Outdoors/戶外 Children’s Bilingual Picture Dictionary
- English-Chinese Traditional Cantonese Vehicles Children’s Bilingual Picture Dictionary
- English-Chinese Traditional Cantonese Tools Children’s Bilingual Picture Dictionary
- English-Chinese Traditional Cantonese School Children’s Bilingual Picture Dictionary
- English-Chinese Traditional Cantonese Time Children’s Bilingual Picture Book
- English-Chinese Traditional Cantonese Trouble Children’s Bilingual Picture Book
This is quite a wide range of books. There are also numerous other languages to choose from, and the author mentions that the books are translated by “Professional human translations by OneHourTranslation.com “.
I didn’t buy any of the books, as I prefer books that are specifically written in Cantonese, rather than translated. But they offer a free PDF download of one of the books, English-Chinese Traditional Cantonese Clothes Bilingual Children’s Picture Dictionary. From what I can see, there are clipart pictures, English and Traditional Chinese, but without any romanization.
The Amazon description list each book as 8″ x 10″ and is has approximately 24 pages.
Update: I just realised that there are also Italian-Cantonese books available on Amazon.
This is on Kickstarter – Board books for young children, customized with 2-4 languages. You can select from 80+ languages and dialects, and is targeted at babies & toddlers learning first words or children starting to read. Poly Polly is a women & minority-owned, small independent publishing company.
I read that they had Cantonese, so I wrote in to their Facebook page to inquire if their Cantonese books will be in Colloquial Cantonese or Standard Chinese, and if they will come with Jyutping, and if the Chinese version comes with pinyin and/or zhuyin. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a reply a few hours later that “Hi! They are colloquial Cantonese and can come with jyutping (displayed right below) if you want. For Chinese, you can choose to have pinyin displayed. We do not offer zhuyin. Hope this helps! For example: in Cantonese, strawberry is displayed as 士多啤梨 instead of 草莓”. ”
The Kickstarter campaign has ended, but you can follow their Facebook page for more updates.
11. My first book of Cantonese words by Sibey Nostalgic
I thought this book deserves special mention. A friend bought this for me on her travels, on hearing that I was teaching Cantonese to my kid. This book has phrases in Singapore Cantonese, which I have learnt is a little different from Hong Kong Cantonese. I really liked the story of how the creator came up with the Cantonese book and other books – to help his nephew converse with his grandparents. I have been reading about how isolated many grandparents in Singapore are, as they speak other Chinese languages (In Singapore, these are referred to as dialects), but the grandchildren only speak English and Mandarin, and the language barrier prevents a connection. So I am heartened to see that there is a revival, starting with books such as these.
This is a board book with 56 glossy pages, and measures 18.5 cm x 18.5 cm.
This iBook is free, and is brought to you by Innovative Languages, the same people who brought you Cantonese101. This interactive iBook requires Apple Books to read. Each of the phrases come with audio, jyutping, and English translation. There are approximately 70+ pages. Do note there is a Chinese version, which is in Simplified, and comes with hanyu pinyin. If you don’t have any Apple device and cannot download the book, you can always opt to download their visual flashcards, which has even more vocabulary.
Have I missed anything?
And stay tuned for the next blogpost Colloquial Cantonese Books for Kids Part 2: Storybooks
You might also enjoy reading:
- Free Colloquial Cantonese Kid’s Educational Resources and Printables
- Where to find free eBooks and e-Magazines in Traditional Chinese for Kids
- Cantonese Storytime and Book Reading on YouTube
- Free Online Chinese Textbooks and Course Materials
- Free Online Resources for Learning Cantonese
- Where to Buy Traditional Chinese Kids Books
- Reading in Cantonese to Your Child – Storytelling (口語) or Story Reading (書面語)?
- How To Read To Your Child When Your Cantonese Is Not Fluent
- Your Ultimate Guide to Free Sagebooks Resources 基礎漢字500 on the Internet
- Free Online Cantonese Literature