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Quick question about the language

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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Sep 2013
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    Quick question about the language

    How much will I get away with when using English? Should I make the effort to learn Cantonese or Mandarin? Also not quite sure which one. I heard Cantonese is the main language there, but a Chinese friend of mine told me to learn Mandarin as everyone there speaks it and then I can use it in China too.

    If I can get by with English then that would be good. I don't mind learning another language, but am teaching myself Japanese at the moment so it would be hard!


  2. #2

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    Most expats have negligible amounts of Chinese. It is rarely a problem.


  3. #3

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    Far far away from everyone in Hong Kong speaks Mandarin. Canto is the lingo to get around. But English is fine too.


  4. #4

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    Learn the name of your building, the name of your office building, and the name of your pub in Cantonese. That's all you 'need' really. Many don't even know those three.

    chris_yang22 likes this.

  5. #5

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    Cantonese is useful, makes things easier, but it's not essential

    flameproof and scrambler like this.

  6. #6

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    I've been here just over a year and don't know a single word of Cantonese. I started to take some Mandarin lessons, but i never used it. You will be fine with English. I have a taxi app on my phone that will show the address in Chinese if I need it. If I'm shopping like say in a hardware store or something I bring a picture of what I need, so I don't need to rely on language as much.


  7. #7

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    I was in McDonalds once and there was a mainlander in front of me trying unsuccessfully to order in mandarin. The cashier snapped 'can you speak english?!' at him.

    chris_yang22, Gatts and Azuremain like this.

  8. #8

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    Apr 2005
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    English is one of the official languages in HK, nuff said. Amazing how foreigners consider learning the local language Cantonese but the Chinese from PR China come here and expect everyone to speak their Putonghua. No surprise Hongkongers welcome foreigners but hate their brethren from Commi China.

    jimbo, closedcasket and Gatts like this.

  9. #9

    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gruntfuttock:
    Most expats have negligible amounts of Chinese. It is rarely a problem.
    Except when you hop onto a taxi and want to get to a place and the taxi driver don't know how to get there because he doesn't understand your English address....

    For expats who will only be in HK for a relatively short and fixed time (i.e. 1-2 years at most), then it might not be worth the effort. But if you are planning to stay longer, it would'nt hurt to learn some cantonese. At any rate, it makes buying groceries easier (as the vegetable stall folks don't really have such a great command of English). More importantly, it helps to expand your social circle away from just the expat world on midlevels. You will be able to know more about local culture that way as well.
    chris_yang22 and chingleutsch like this.

  10. #10

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    Oct 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by usehername:
    I was in McDonalds once and there was a mainlander in front of me trying unsuccessfully to order in mandarin. The cashier snapped 'can you speak english?!' at him.
    Mainland tourists rarely speak English.

    I always get them approach me asking for directions and they get annoyed when I answer in English that I can't help them unless they speak English.
    Azuremain likes this.

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