SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of China and Inner Asia

Elementary Spoken Cantonese (PG)

Module Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year


At least one year of intensive Mandarin Chinese. The course is intended primarily for students with a good grasp of Mandarin grammar.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  • knowledge and understanding of basic Cantonese grammar
  • knowledge and understanding of essential Cantonese vocabulary
  • knowledge and understanding of the appropriateness of basic Cantonese structures and expressions in a given context
  • the ability to understand spoken Cantonese and to engage in short spoken discourse on everyday topics
  • knowledge and understanding of the role of language in general, and Cantonese in particular, in language-based scholarship and research (specific learning outcome for PG students)


A total of 22 weeks teaching with 3 hours classroom contact per week.  In addition Masters students will receive an additional 6 hours of lectures and an additional 6 hours seminars/tutorials in total over the course.

Scope and syllabus

The course provides an introduction to Cantonese language with emphasis on practical spoken Cantonese. The course covers phonology (including tone patterns and tone changes), sentence patterns and basic grammar. Communicative practice is established through learning language around dialogues dealing with a range of everyday situations, including travelling, buying and selling, and urban and rural family life.

The course provides students with a basic knowledge of Cantonese and practice of using Cantonese in a variety of everyday situations. It allows students to interact with Cantonese speakers in Cantonese. This provides students with a basis to approach research topics relating to Cantonese language and the histories, societies and cultures associated with Cantonese.

A series of special PG lectures with associated seminars structured around the six themes Structure, Texts, Identity, Society, Translation and Transformation (provided for PG students studying different languages) introduces students to general questions of the role of language in language-based scholarship and research and provides them with the critical and methodological skills to relate their language acquisition to the thematic aspects of the studies.

Method of assessment

An essay of 3,000 words to be submitted on Friday week 1, term 3 (30%); an essay of 2,500 words to be submitted on Friday week 1, term 3 (20%).

Mid-year oral examination (week 2, term 2) 10 minutes duration (20%). End of year oral (week 3, term 3) 20 minutes duration (30%). 

Suggested reading

The course will be based on:

  • Hugh Baker & Pui-Kei Ho: Cantonese. A Complete Course for Beginners (London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., 2003)
  • additional materials which will be made available throughout the course.

Additional Cantonese References:

  • Li, Charles N. & Sandra A. Thompson: Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1989
    Matthews, Stephen & Virginia Yip: Cantonese: A Comprehensive Grammar. London: Routledge, 1994
    Norman, Jerry: Chinese. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988
    Ramsey, S. Robert: The Languages of China. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1987


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules