What to study? Cantonese or Mandarin?

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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2007
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    HK
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    Question What to study? Cantonese or Mandarin?

    Hi there,

    I'm moving to HK within 3 or 4 months and I intend to learn some Cantonese or Mandarin, not a clue which would be more helpful. Can somebody give some advice? Other expats who move to HK, did you study any?

    Thanks in advance


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Sai Kung, N.T.
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    73

    It really depends on where you want to use the language. If it's for conversing with the locals (your neighbours, in the shops, etc) - Cantonese is the best. If you want it for business and communication with those outside of HK - Mandarin is probably the most useful.

    All the more power to you for deciding in advance to get a handle on at least one of these languages. Whichever you choose (for whatever application) - it'll be a great asset to you.

    Judy


  3. #3

    Join Date
    Aug 2005
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    238

    Mandarin is more commonly spoken in the Chinese world, but Cantonese is the native dialect in Hong Kong and parts of Southern China.

    I don't think there's a need to learn Cantonese. It's more difficult than Mandarin and most people in HK can speak some level of English (and many seem more comfortable speaking English with foreigners).


  4. #4

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    Nov 2006
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    Yuen Long
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    197

    If you are going to work and live in Hong Kong then I would recommend learning Cantonese. Mandarin is not used much in Hong Kong, many local people don't speak Mandarin.

    Cantonese is more difficult to learn compared with Mandarin as Mandarin has 4 tones whereas 9 tones are used in Cantonese.

    It is extremely satisfying even when using the simplest of Cantonese in a shop etc, as many people seem pleasantly surprised to hear a foreigner speak Cantonese.

    I am learning Cantonese and did the same as yourself, I got a teach your Cantonese book with CD's and started from there, before I moved out here. Good luck.


  5. #5

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    Jan 2007
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    HK
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    Thumbs up :) Many thanks

    I really appreciate your answers. 9 tones!? it sounds like quite difficult but why not give a try...


  6. #6

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    Jul 2006
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    17

    If u come to hong kong, cantonese is more useful. Some locals here have bad understandings about Mandarin.


  7. #7

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    Nov 2005
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    183

    Mandarin is by far the more useful and widely spoken dialect. Even in Hong Kong, employers are more interested in mandarin speaking candidates (unless the company is catering to the local market). Cantonese is only recommended if you're keen to interact with the few locals you'll encounter who don't speak any English. I speak Cantonese and find that when I do, I'm liable to get fawning attention (you're so clever!) or alternatively the person responds to me in English, ignoring that I addressed them in Chinese. It's only useful to hear what people are saying when they think they're talking behind your back.


  8. #8

    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    2

    Easy to learn the language that where live

    I agree that Mandarin is more popular, but it will be easier for you to learn Cantonese if you stay in HK.


  9. #9

    Join Date
    May 2006
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    1,072

    Cantonese isn't so hard once you have mastered the basic (i.e. pronunciation). It is evolving and so may once have had 9 tones, now only about 6 are used these days, some have merged because there isn't much to distinguish between them. Certainly a lot of people use it as an excuse not to try learning. Grammar is easy and sentence structure usually follows English quite closely - at a basic level at least.

    Only problem with Cantonese is that its international currency is fading as Mandarin becomes more popular. If you are in in HK for any length of time then Cantonese can be rewarding to learn as locals can be very friendly once they know you can speak a bit. It can open up a whole new world in HK.

    If you want to learn a language that will be very useful in the future (but no so much in HK at the moment) then invest your time in Mandarin. Its use and popularity will continue to grow.


  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Hong Kong
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    105

    I've been here in Hong Kong 2 weeks now and wasn't interested in learning Cantonese before I got here. But now that I am here, I have bought a book with some CD's to start learning the basics!!

    My impression from home was that because English was an official language of Hong Kong, that most of the transactions (shops, banks etc) would occur in English. However, to my surprise, most of the talking goes on in Cantonese - except of course they speak English to the foreigners. I also find a lot of people's command of English isn't that great. Its really difficult in Taxi's too if you are not going to the main places (ie: Central, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay - places they expect a foreigner to be visiting), because the drivers don't speak much English.

    From my understanding, Cantonese is useful for here in Hong Kong to converse with the locals and Mandarin would be more useful for business / work if having to deal with China.


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