Mandarin vs Cantonese

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  1. #1

    Mandarin vs Cantonese

    Hello,

    I was wondering would be better to learn?! I am informed that Mandarin is meant to be slightly easier to learn as there are less tones and also that Cantonese is the dialect that is spoken in HK (& a few other places).

    However, I am unsure which would be better to learn! Both in terms of day-day living but also (probably more importantly) in terms of the commercial sector and impressing employers?

    Is Mandarin MUCH easier to learn than Cantonese or are they really about the same?

    Thanks,
    Loveglitter.


  2. #2

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    Mandarin - Lot easier to learn (4 tones) and more importantly speak, more commonly used in China (main language), easy to adapt to learn Cantonese later, not as good but still usable on a day to day basis in HK, probably impress a mnc or global company more than Cantonese (the world speak Chinese (Mandarin as the business language in mainland China).

    Cantonese - More difficult to learn and speak, more commonly used in Macau & HK / some of Southern China (nowhere near as much in China), easy to adapt to Mandarin, very useful in these places on a day to day basis unlike Mandarin much less so elsewhere, will impress local companies a great deal but much fewer mncs unless for local operations only.

    Personal recommendation unless you're HK centric and have no intention of engaging with China mainland learn Cantonese otherwise Mandarin is a much more sensible idea for you hth and regards, Squid1

    Last edited by Squid1; 13-07-2009 at 10:01 PM.

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    For the OP, the trouble with learning Mandarin in Hong Kong is that outside the classroom you will be hearing Cantonese, so this will limit your opportunities for practice unless you make frequent journeys across the border.

    Last edited by drumbrake; 13-07-2009 at 10:10 PM.

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    Hi Drumbrake - apologies was editing as you replied - original response was toy long I think the new repsonse is better and I agree with you as the ops needs determine which language is better to learn.


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    If you are going to live in Hong Kong learn Cantonese.

    In 4/5 months of being here I've only heard people talking in mandarin once or twice, English is actually much more common. I recently had a friend visit me from the UK who speaks pretty decent Mandarin, and he tried to use this around HK but you could tell it was not appreciated a lot of the time. Also, regardless of whether they looked happy or annoyed to be talked to in Mandarin, locals seemed to understand Mandarin but not actually be able to talk back, instead replying in Cantonese (which my friend doesn't understand a word of).
    Overall, I'd say 75% of his conversations involved the locals replying to his Mandarin with Cantonese, and looking slightly irritated to be talked to in Mandarin. 20% of the time the local HKers did not understand Mandarin, and the other 5% they understood and happily talked back in Mandarin! (Rough estimates of course... something like that).

    As for difficulty, I don't think there's really any difference. Apparently English speakers are good at pronouncing Mandarin, and Mandarin has many many more learning resources than Cantonese. But, the fact Mandarin has less tones makes no difference in my opinion. You have to remember exactly how to say something to be understood no matter which of the two it is. The biggest factor will be motivation, and if you are in HK hearing Cantonese all day long you would find it a lot easier to find the determination to stick at Cantonese!

    Last edited by kryzlowski; 13-07-2009 at 10:14 PM.

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    I get the impression that Mandarin isn't very 'cool' to use here amongst the locals because Hong Kongers are snobby about anything China related and will react less favaourably than say if you spoke English.
    This might be different if you are caucasian and speak Mandarin because at least you are not a mainlander !


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    Would you go to Germany to learn Italian.....?


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    Personally i found for Cantonese words the initials and finals(an initial is the "in" bit on "initial" and a final is the "al" bit ) much easier to learn than Mandarin as they are coarser sounding in Canto and so easier for a native English speaker to pronounce

    also the trad Canto characters much easier to learn as the characters have more differentiation between them than the simple Mnado characters -a good example is to compare the trad and simple characters for "car"

    the tones about the same degree of difficulty once you know 4 tones the step to 6 in Canto is no difference and in my opinion the more tones gives greater differentiation to the words--fewer homophones(pare/pear/pair are english homophones)to deal with

    it was counterintuitive to me initially as well but Canto much easier to learn for this gwailo--i have completely given up Mando now as too difficult


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    Quote Originally Posted by hongkong7:
    Personally i found for Cantonese words the initials and finals(an initial is the "in" bit on "initial" and a final is the "al" bit ) much easier to learn than Mandarin as they are coarser sounding in Canto and so easier for a native English speaker to pronounce

    also the trad Canto characters much easier to learn as the characters have more differentiation between them than the simple Mnado characters -a good example is to compare the trad and simple characters for "car"

    the tones about the same degree of difficulty once you know 4 tones the step to 6 in Canto is no difference and in my opinion the more tones gives greater differentiation to the words--fewer homophones(pare/pear/pair are english homophones)to deal with

    it was counterintuitive to me initially as well but Canto much easier to learn for this gwailo--i have completely given up Mando now as too difficult
    For me too. For native English speakers Canto seems much easier to pronounce.

    I think the micsonception that Mandarin is easier comes form the locals who all say Mandarin is easier to learn. That because it IS EASY FOR THEM. Not necassarily for native English speaker to learn.

  10. #10

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    funny that locals say Mandarin is easy. I have never met any local adult who speaks great Mandarin. Many westerners speak better Mandarin.

    I speak Mandarin with locals. 80% of the time they can understand me. Of course I speak perfect standard Mandarin. They don't seem to be irritated by me speaking Mandarin as one earlier post suggested. Hong Kong kids can speak very good Mandarin. My landlord, who is a not well educated lady, uses her daughter as an interpretor when she talks to me.

    I think Hong Kong people will be bi-dialect in the future like most Chinese. Most Chinese speak their local dialect and Mandarin.

    Quote Originally Posted by smelly:
    For me too. For native English speakers Canto seems much easier to pronounce.

    I think the micsonception that Mandarin is easier comes form the locals who all say Mandarin is easier to learn. That because it IS EASY FOR THEM. Not necassarily for native English speaker to learn.
    Last edited by pizzalover; 14-07-2009 at 09:35 AM.

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