Cantonese romanization systems: a complete comparison between Yale romanization of Cantonese and Jyutping

Cantonese romanization systems: a complete comparison between Yale romanization of Cantonese and Jyutping

Introduction

Due to the lack of government-sponsorship, there are numerous amounts of Cantonese romanization systems yet none of them becomes the standard and dominates.  Among these romanization systems, Yale romanization of Cantonese(耶魯粵語拼音)and Jyutping(粵拼)has become the mainstream and have the highest popularity.

To choose between learn with Yale romanization of Cantonese (Yale) and Jyutping is an inevitable problem for every learner.  In this article, we will explain the difference between Yale and Jyutping, helping you make the decision wisely and start learning Cantonese.

The history of Yale and Jyutping

Yale has a much longer history than Jyutping.  Yale was created by Gerard P. Kok and Parker Po-fei Huang(黃伯飛)in 1952 and published in 1958; Yale romanization of Cantonese is one of the four romanization systems created at Yale University for four different East Asian languages.

Meanwhile, Jyutping was created by the Linguistic Society of Hong Kong (LSHK) in 1993.  Therefore, you will not be able to find any materials published before 1993 using Jyutping as their romanization system.

Difference between Yale and Jyutping

Yale and Jyutping is largely similar, differing in their notation of tones and about 19% of the consonants and vowels.  Nevertheless, Jyutping is much more detailed, as it denotes vowels cannot be expressed by Yale.  Therefore, if you start off by learning in Yale, in some point of your study, you will come across words that cannot be romanized.  By then you will have to switch to Jyutping and adopt a new romanization system.

Difference between Jyutping and Yale in tones notation

 JyutpingYale
Tone 1e1ē
Tone 2e2é
Tone 3e3e
Tone 4e4èh
Tone 5e5éh
Tone 6e6eh

 

Difference between Jyutping and Yale in initial consonants

JyutpingYale
zj
cch
jy

 

Difference between Jyutping and Yale in vowels

JyutpingYale
aaa
oeeu
oengeung
oekeuk
eoieui
eoneun
eoteut
eu/
em/
en/
ep/
et/

 

Yale and Jyutping, which one is easier to use?

Jyutping definitely wins in this aspect.  For typing Jyutping, you do not need to use any additional add-ons or programs, as Jyutping is expressed with numbers and alphabets commonly found on a typical keyboard.

Meanwhile, for typing Yale, a Pinyin keyboard has to be used for typing diacritics (i.e. tone symbol), which is quite inconvenient as you need to copy and paste again and again.

Pinyin keyboard

For typing characters with Jyutping and Yale, there are more input methods supporting Jyutping instead of Yale.  Input methods supporting Jyutping is available on Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, Android and Chrome extension.  You may refer to this guide on how to set up your Cantonese input in various platforms.

 

Yale and Jyutping, which one is more popular?

The popularity of Jyutping has increased steadily over the years.  Based on a poll we conducted on our Facebook page, about 60% of the learners are using Jyutping now.

Nevertheless, Yale is surprisingly more popular than Jyutping in some countries.  For example, learners in Japan tend to learn Cantonese with Yale.

What about the modified Yale?

Yale romanization of Cantonese has been updated in 1994, and it is called modified Yale.  In this system, numbers are used to represent tones instead of diacritics, making typing easier.

Difference between Jyutping and modified Yale in tones notation

 JyutpingYale
Tone 1e1e1
Tone 2e2e2
Tone 3e3e3
Tone 4e4e4
Tone 5e5e5
Tone 6e6e6
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Nevertheless, we do not recommend using this system as well.  Being similar with traditional Yale, it is still unable to describe all vowels being used in Cantonese.

Difference between Jyutping and modified Yale in vowels

JyutpingYale
aaa
oeeu
oengeung
oekeuk
eoieui
eoneun
eoteut
eu/
em/
en/
ep/
et/

Conclusion

Whether to use Yale or Jyutping comes down to your personal preference at the end of the day.  However, due to the inconvenience for typing and the limited romanization of Yale, we recommend you learning Cantonese with Jyutping.  If you haven’t already, start learning Jyutping with our lessons now!

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. I first studied Cantonese in GuangZhou, using Guangdong romanization since all the teaching materials are using it. For me I can relate more easily to Yale and JyutPing since Guangdong romanization kind of mix both of them together.

    However, due to the inconvenience for typing, I switched to JyutPing, not only the romanization, but also Chinese characters to Traditional Chinese. I feel proud of it when I type in Traditional Chinese because that’s real Cantonese! You might feel it’s taxing in the beginning but it’s definitely worth your effort!

  2. ⤵️Systematic

  3. By the way, China have a very sympathetic Cantonese phonetic system, why need to create another in Hong Kong?

    1. Sorry which system are you referring to? This question should be answered by LSHK. I guess they have created the new system because of academic reasons.

      If you want a simple layman answer, it is simply because Hong Kong is not China.

  4. I believe Yale phonetic systems is widely used then become combine with Syney Lau tone mark.

    1. Do you mean that Yale can be more popular when it is combined with Syney Lau tone mark?

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