Cantonese Phrase of the Day – I’m Good

Nei5 hou2 (Hello).

Yesterday we learned to say hello. Actually, we sort of asked a question, “You good?”
Today we will learn the response.

我 好 Ngo5 hou2, or “I’m good”. If you are feeling really well, you can say, “Ngo5 hou2 hou2” – “I’m very good.”

Ngo5 is a low flat tone that sounds a bit like the word “gnaw”. We’ve already looked at hou2, which is a higher, falling tone that sounds like “hoe”.

The “ng” diphthong is common in Cantonese. In fact, ng is a word in its own right. We’ll get to that in the Bonus word. Ng is a nasal guttural, like in the English word “sing”. The “o” in ngo5 sounds a bit like an “a” or “aw”.

Now, if someone greets you in Cantonese, “Nei hou”, you can respond, “Ngo hou”, and start a pleasant conversation having both said hello and stated that you are doing well.

Bonus Word:

I mentioned it above, “ng5” -五. It is the number 5.

In my martial art training, I was taught to count to ten in Cantonese. At least, that is what I was told I was taught. I am becoming increasingly aware of how translation suffers, especially when some in the chain do not carry out any additional research. This would be common for all languages, and all things for that matter.

I was taught: yut, yee, sham, say, mm – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so on.
Sorry folks, that’s all wrong. Mm (m) is a word in itself that has nothing to do with numbers, as you will learn in tomorrow’s Phrase of the Day. Yut, Yee, Sham, and Say are, well, just incorrect.

For now, we will focus on five – ng5, because it employs the common “ng” diphthong. Again, it is a nasal guttural, like the end of “sing”. It sounds a bit like “mmm”, but the lips are not closed. The lips are open, as the tongue closes the throat. Ng5 is a low guttural with a fall at the end. The common English practice of breathing or sounding the tongue’s release is not done. The sound dips and ends just prior to the tongue’s release.

About Sifu Keith Mosher

My new book, "Astro Boy, Sensei, and Me" is available now, as is my Sci-Fi joy ride, "On a Sphere's Edge". I have a Bachelor of Media Arts degree from USC. I have been an Audio Producer / Engineer, a Law Office Manager, and I am currently an Author and a Martial Arts Instructor.
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