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Hakka phrasebook

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Hakka (客家话; Kèjiāhuà in Mandarin) is one of the main seven or so Chinese languages. It is spoken across several provinces in Southeast China including Taiwan and Hainan and Hong Kong.

Brief Overview

The Hakka (客家 Kèjiā, IPA: [hak₃ ka₃₃] ) people are said to have migrated south from Northern China over the centuries to settle in southern Jiangsu and Hunan, western Fujian, eastern Guangdong, and various other areas, due to wars, famine, natural disasters, and political persecution. Hakka comes from the words '客' "guest" and '家' "families" which derives from an official term during the Qing Dynasty for the program of resettlement of the coastal areas of Guangdong after evacuation orders imposed during the reign of Emperor Kangxi. These settlers whose language seemed different to the original inhabitants were given this appellation to show they were not indigenous to the areas they became settled in. Most indigenous inhabitants occupied the more fertile basins, whilst the incoming Hakka became settled in the more inaccessible valleys and mountainous or hilly terrain. The Hakka language (客家话; Kèjiāhuà) is shares a common vocabulary with Southern languages such as Min and Yue, and there are regular sound correspondences to the historical sound system of Middle Chinese.

Pronunciation guide

The most accessible Hakka speakers are found in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Most of them will be dual language speakers, in Hong Kong, they are able to understand and speak Cantonese, whilst on the mainland of China and on Taiwan, they will also speak Mandarin. There is no standard form of Hakka and regional variations in local dialects can be surmounted by understanding the gist of the spoken sentence and knowing some sound correspondences that the user will encounter.


Vowels

The vowels can be long or short. Long vowels occur in open syllables, where there are no endings. Short vowels occur in syllables which end in nasals (-m, -n or -ng) or stops (-p, -t or -k).

Vowel Sound Length Varies with Syllable Endings
Romanised Vowel IPA Long Vowel
(syllable ends in a vowel)
IPA Short Vowel
(syllable ends with
-m, -n, -ng, -p, -t, -k)
a [ aː ] a in car [ ɐ ] a in pat
e [ ɛː ] ai in hair [ e ] e in pet
i [ iː ] ee in been [ ɪ ] i in pit
o [ ɔː ] or in core [ ɒ ] o in pot
u [ uː ] oo in boot [ ʌ ] u in put

In some dialects there is a vowel which we represent as ii, which does not occur in standard English. It is a retroflex i, the closest sound is almost like ir in "shir" when saying English 'sure'. In the Hong Kong dialect, these sounds become -i or -u.

Initial or Consonant

Consonant Sounds in Hakka
b p m f v
[ p ] [ pʰ ] [ m ] [ f ] [ ʋ ]
almost like b in boy almost like p in pot like m in man like f in far almost like v in van
d t n l
[ t ] [ tʰ ] [ n ] [ l ]
almost like d in dart almost like t in star like n in no (in most Hakka dialects) like l in low
g k ng h
[ k ] [ kʰ ] [ ŋ ] [ h ]
like g in gone like k in kin like ng in singer like h in how
z c s y
[ ts ] [ tsʰ ] [ s ] [ j ] [ ˀ ]
like ts in tests like t in too like s in sow like y in yew A slight closing of the throat before syllables that begin with a vowel

Rimes

Syllable Rimes in Hakka
a ai au am an ang ap at ak
[ a ] [ ɐj ] [ ɐu ] [ ɐm ] [ ɐn ] [ ɐng ] [ ɐp ] [ ɐt ] [ ɐk ]
far eye how ham an fang lap sad hag ]
ia   iɐu iɐm   iɐng iɐp   iɐk
[ ja ]   [ jɐu ] [ jɐm ]   [ jɐng ] [ jɐp ]   [ jɐk ]
yarn   yow yam   yang yap   yak
e   eu em en   ep et  
[ ɛ ]   [ eu ] [ em ] [ en ]   [ ep ] [ et ]  
hair   eow em en   epic bet  
ie   ieu iem ien   iep iet  
[ jɛ ]   [ jeu ] [ jem ] [ jen ]   [ jep ] [ jet ]  
yeah   yeow yem yen   yep yet  
i     im in   ip it  
[ i ]     [ ɪm ] [ ɪn ]   [ ɪp ] [ ɪt ]  
bee     dim tin   dip ] lit  
ii     iim iin   iip iit  
[ ʐ ]     [ ʐm ] [ ʐn ]   [ ʐp ] [ ʐt ]  
fur     firm fern   burp bird  
o oi     on ong   ot ok
[ ɔ ] [ ɒj ]     [ ɒn ] [ ɒŋ ]   [ ɒt ] [ ɒk ]
core coy     con kong   cot cock
io ioi     ion iong   iot iok
[ jɔ ] [ jɒj ]     [ jɒn ] [ jɒŋ ]   [ jɒt ] [ jɒk ]
yore yoy     yon yong   yot yok
u ui     un ung   ut uk
[ u ] [ uj ]     [ un ] [ uŋ ]   [ ut ] [ uk ]
woo wee     bun bung   but book
iu       iun iung   iut iuk
[ ju ] [ jʌj ]     [ jʌn ] [ jʌŋ ]   [ ʌt ] [ ʌk ]
you youeille     'yun young   yut yuck
      m n ng      
      [ m ] [ n ] [ ng]      
      mmm nnn ung      

Tones

Tones in Hakka
# IPA Tone Letter Character Romanisation Syllable in IPA Meaning
1 33 ˧ pi1 [ pʰi˧ ] quilt cover
2 11 ˩ pi2 [ pʰi˩ ] skin
3 31 ˧˩ pi3 [ pʰi˧˩ ] that, there, those
4 53 ˥˧ pi4 [ pʰi˥˧ ] nose
5 3 ˧ pit5 [ pʰi˧ ] bolt of cloth; counter for horses
6 5 ˥ pit6 [ pʰi˥ ] flying mammal called a bat

The tone changes known as sandhi does occur, but the change in the pitch is not as great as found in other Chinese languages.

Phrase list

Basics

Common signs

OPEN 
CLOSED 
ENTRANCE 
EXIT 
PUSH 
PULL 
TOILET 
MEN 
WOMEN 
FORBIDDEN 


Hello. 
. ( )
Hello. (informal
. ( )
How are you? 
 ? ( ?)
Fine, thank you. 
. ( )
What is your name? 
 ? ( ?)
My name is ______ . 
______ . ( _____ .)
Nice to meet you. 
. ( )
Please. 
. ( )
Thank you. 
. ( )
You're welcome. 
. ( )
Yes. 
. ( )
No. 
. ( )
Excuse me. (getting attention
. ( )
Excuse me. (begging pardon
. ( )
I'm sorry. 
. ( )
Goodbye 
. ( )
Goodbye (informal
. ( )
I can't speak name of language [well]. 
[ ]. ( [ ])
Do you speak English? 
 ? ( ?)
Is there someone here who speaks English? 
 ? ( ?)
Help! 
 ! ( !)
Look out! 
 ! ( !)
Good morning. 
. ( )
Good evening. 
. ( )
Good night. 
. ( )
Good night (to sleep
. ( )
I don't understand. 
. ( )
Where is the toilet? 
 ? ( ?)

Problems

Leave me alone. 
. ( .)
Don't touch me! 
 ! ( !)
I'll call the police. 
. ( .)
Police! 
 ! ( !)
Stop! Thief! 
 ! ! ( ! !)
I need your help. 
. ( .)
It's an emergency. 
. ( .)
I'm lost. 
. ( .)
I lost my bag. 
. ( .)
I lost my wallet. 
. ( .)
I'm sick. 
. ( .)
I've been injured. 
. ( .)
I need a doctor. 
. ( .)
Can I use your phone? 
 ? ( ?)

Numbers

( )
( )
( )
( )
( )
( )
( )
( )
( )
10 
( )
11 
( )
12 
( )
13 
( )
14 
( )
15 
( )
16 
( )
17 
( )
18 
( )
19 
( )
20 
( )
21 
( )
22 
( )
23 
( )
30 
( )
40 
( )
50 
( )
60 
( )
70 
( )
80 
( )
90 
( )
100 
( )
200 
( )
300 
( )
1,000 
( )
2,000 
( )
1,000,000 
( )
1,000,000,000 
( )
1,000,000,000,000 
( )
number _____ (train, bus, etc.) 
( )
half 
( )
less 
( )
more 
( )

Time

now 
( )
later 
( )
before 
( )
morning 
( )
afternoon 
( )
evening 
( )
night 
( )

Clock time

one o'clock AM 
( )
two o'clock AM 
( )
noon 
( )
one o'clock PM 
( )
two o'clock PM 
( )
midnight 
( )

Duration

_____ minute(s) 
( )
_____ hour(s) 
( )
_____ day(s) 
( )
_____ week(s) 
( )
_____ month(s) 
( )
_____ year(s) 
( )

Days

today 
( )
yesterday 
( )
tomorrow 
( )
this week 
( )
last week 
( )
next week 
( )
Sunday 
( )
Monday 
( )
Tuesday 
( )
Wednesday 
( )
Thursday 
( )
Friday 
( )
Saturday 
( )

Months

January 
( )
February 
( )
March 
( )
April 
( )
May 
( )
June 
( )
July 
( )
August 
( )
September 
( )
October 
( )
November 
( )
December 
( )

Writing time and date

Colors

black 
( )
white 
( )
gray 
( )
red 
( )
blue 
( )
yellow 
( )
green 
( )
orange 
( )
purple 
( )
brown 
( )

Transportation

Bus and train

How much is a ticket to _____? 
( )
One ticket to _____, please. 
( )
Where does this train/bus go? 
( )
Where is the train/bus to _____? 
( )
Does this train/bus stop in _____? 
( )
When does the train/bus for _____ leave? 
( )
When will this train/bus arrive in _____? 
( )

Directions

How do I get to _____ ? 
( )
...the train station? 
( )
...the bus station? 
( )
...the airport? 
( )
...downtown? 
( )
...the youth hostel? 
( )
...the _____ hotel? 
( )
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate? 
( )
Where are there a lot of... 
( )
...hotels? 
( )
...restaurants? 
( )
...bars? 
( )
...sites to see? 
( )
Can you show me on the map? 
( )
street 
( )
Turn left. 
( )
Turn right. 
( )
left 
( )
right 
( )
straight ahead 
( )
towards the _____ 
( )
past the _____ 
( )
before the _____ 
( )
Watch for the _____. 
( )
intersection 
( )
north 
( )
south 
( )
east 
( )
west 
( )
uphill 
( )
downhill 
( )

Taxi

Taxi! 
( )
Take me to _____, please. 
( )
How much does it cost to get to _____? 
( )
Take me there, please. 
( )

Lodging

Do you have any rooms available? 
( )
How much is a room for one person/two people? 
( )
Does the room come with... 
( )
...bedsheets? 
( )
...a bathroom? 
( )
...a telephone? 
( )
...a TV? 
( )
May I see the room first? 
( )
Do you have anything quieter? 
( )
...bigger? 
( )
...cleaner? 
( )
...cheaper? 
( )
OK, I'll take it. 
( )
I will stay for _____ night(s). 
( )
Can you suggest another hotel? 
( )
Do you have a safe? 
( )
...lockers? 
( )
Is breakfast/supper included? 
( )
What time is breakfast/supper? 
( )
Please clean my room. 
( )
Can you wake me at _____? 
( )
I want to check out. 
( )

Money

Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian dollars? 
( )
Do you accept British pounds? 
( )
Do you accept Euros? 
( )
Do you accept credit cards? 
( )
Can you change money for me? 
( )
Where can I get money changed? 
( )
Can you change a traveler's check for me? 
( )
Where can I get a traveler's check changed? 
( )
What is the exchange rate? 
( )
Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)? 
( )

Eating

A table for one person/two people, please. 
( )
Can I look at the menu, please? 
( )
Can I look in the kitchen? 
( )
Is there a house specialty? 
( )
Is there a local specialty? 
( )
I'm a vegetarian. 
( )
I don't eat pork. 
( )
I don't eat beef. 
( )
I only eat kosher food. 
( )
Can you make it "lite", please? (less oil/butter/lard
( )
fixed-price meal 
( )
a la carte 
( )
breakfast 
( )
lunch 
( )
tea (meal
( )
supper 
( )
I want _____. 
( )
I want a dish containing _____. 
( )
chicken 
( )
beef 
( )
fish 
( )
ham 
( )
sausage 
( )
cheese 
( )
eggs 
( )
salad 
( )
(fresh) vegetables 
( )
(fresh) fruit 
( )
bread 
( )
toast 
( )
noodles 
( )
rice 
( )
beans 
( )
May I have a glass of _____? 
( )
May I have a cup of _____? 
( )
May I have a bottle of _____? 
( )
coffee 
( )
tea (drink
( )
juice 
( )
(bubbly) water 
( )
(still) water 
( )
beer 
( )
red/white wine 
( )
May I have some _____? 
( )
salt 
( )
black pepper 
( )
butter 
( )
Excuse me, waiter? (getting attention of server)
( )
I'm finished. 
( )
It was delicious. 
( )
Please clear the plates. 
( )
The check, please. 
( )

Bars

Do you serve alcohol? 
( )
Is there table service? 
( )
A beer/two beers, please. 
( )
A glass of red/white wine, please. 
( )
A pint, please. 
( )
A bottle, please. 
( )
_____ (hard liquor) and _____ (mixer), please. 
( )
whiskey 
( )
vodka 
( )
rum 
( )
water 
( )
club soda 
( )
tonic water 
( )
orange juice 
( )
Coke (soda
( )
Do you have any bar snacks? 
( )
One more, please. 
( )
Another round, please. 
( )
When is closing time? 
( )
Cheers! 
( )

Shopping

Do you have this in my size? 
( )
How much is this? 
( )
That's too expensive. 
( )
Would you take _____? 
( )
expensive 
( )
cheap 
( )
I can't afford it. 
( )
I don't want it. 
( )
You're cheating me. 
( )
I'm not interested. 
(..)
OK, I'll take it. 
( )
Can I have a bag? 
( )
Do you ship (overseas)? 
( )
I need... 
( )
...toothpaste. 
( )
...a toothbrush. 
( )
...tampons. 
. ( )
...soap. 
( )
...shampoo. 
( )
...pain reliever. (e.g., aspirin or ibuprofen
( )
...cold medicine. 
( )
...stomach medicine. 
... ( )
...a razor. 
( )
...an umbrella. 
( )
...sunblock lotion. 
( )
...a postcard. 
( )
...postage stamps. 
( )
...batteries. 
( )
...writing paper. 
( )
...a pen. 
( )
...English-language books. 
( )
...English-language magazines. 
( )
...an English-language newspaper. 
( )
...an English-English dictionary. 
( )

Driving

I want to rent a car. 
( )
Can I get insurance? 
( )
stop (on a street sign
( )
one way 
( )
yield 
( )
no parking 
( )
speed limit 
( )
gas (petrol) station 
( )
petrol 
( )
diesel 
( )

Authority

I haven't done anything wrong. 
( )
It was a misunderstanding. 
( )
Where are you taking me? 
( )
Am I under arrest? 
( )
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen. 
( )
I want to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate. 
( )
I want to talk to a lawyer. 
( )
Can I just pay a fine now? 
( )

Learning more

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