One of the basic questions anyone who is going to travel or do business in China should ask themselves, if they want to study the language they will need to ask “Should I learn Mandarin or Cantonese?”
The People’s Republic of China, also known as mainland China, has many different languages. Some linguistic experts estimate that there are 296 separate Chinese languages in that Asian country. Two of the most widely spoken languages are Mandarin and Cantonese.
Mandarin, also called standard Chinese, is spoken by 1 billion people. This language is associated with the northern regions surrounding Beijing, which has been the center of government since the days of the Chinese empire. Emperors of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) mandated that Mandarin become the primary language, but the language did not become the primary language until the late 19th century and early 20th century. Because of the pervasive nature of Beijing’s influence on all of the regions of China, it is no surprise that the language of officials became the official language. Mandarin is also the official language of Taiwan, and is one of the official languages of Singapore. It is so predominant in modern times because it is the language school children learn in classrooms, by the government, and in the media.
Cantonese is the language which emerged from the southern regions of China, like the Guangdong and Guangxi provinces, and Hainan Island and is the official language of Hong Kong and Macau. It is also spoken in Malaysia and many Chinese communities around the world. There are about 66 million Cantonese speakers worldwide. Chinese tutor helps when it comes to learning various dialects in China.
So, with these facts in mind, it should be easier to answer: “Should I learn Mandarin or Cantonese?” There still are aspects to consider when deciding to learn Chinese. If you are doing business in a region that speaks Cantonese, would it be better to learn that language? In fact, it may be better to learn Mandarin. Because Mandarin is predominantly used in the Chinese educational system, there are more learning materials in that language. Mandarin has a standard form of Romanization – the transcription of Chinese words into a Western alphabet – where Cantonese does not. Mandarin is more prevalent in overseas Chinese communities. And, more and more, Cantonese speakers are learning Mandarin.
Most experts argue that Mandarin should be the language of choice because of its prevalence throughout China. A basic online search will find that according to many online forums addressing the question “Should I learn Mandarin or Cantonese?” A lot of Cantonese speakers encourage the impression of learning Cantonese first, because for many non-Chinese language speakers, Cantonese is an easier language. Many other forum participants argue that Mandarin is actually easier, because it has fewer tones to master. Many Cantonese speakers also argue that non-Chinese language speakers should learn both languages. Forum participants also point out that it may depend on where the student will be visiting or doing business, whether Mandarin or Cantonese is a better choice.
Should I learn Mandarin or Cantonese-Which One is Easier Over The Other
In order to answer whether Mandarin or Cantonese is easier, it is also necessary to understand some of the basic differences between the two languages. Experts point out that Cantonese has 6-10 tones, and Mandarin has four tones. Those tones help differentiate the meaning of the same word. No plural words, tenses or conjugations are present in Mandarin. The Mandarin speaker does not have to worry about subject/verb agreement and the numbering system, conditional sentences and prepositions are all very simple. The pronunciation of the two languages is entirely different. A common funny saying in Hong Kong is that Cantonese and Mandarin speakers talking to each other sound like “the chicken talking to the duck,” an idiom for not knowing each other.
Another aspect of answering “Should I learn Mandarin or Cantonese” is that if you know how to speak Mandarin, you can be understood even in traditionally Cantonese areas because more and more Cantonese speakers are learning Mandarin, and Mandarin is still the prevalent language even in these areas.
One of the primary groups who want to learn to speak a Chinese language are business people. Chinese manufacturing offers one of the lowest costs in the global marketplace because the labor rate is so low. Business people trying to determine whether to speak Mandarin or Cantonese will invariably choose Mandarin, because they are trying not only to communicate with manufacturers, but also with government officials on issues of customs and export. Learning Chinese is also important for these business people because they need to gain insight into Chinese culture, to understand the best way forward and to reduce the possibility of misunderstanding.
Should I Not Or Should learn Mandarin or Cantonese?
For travelers, the question of Should I not or should I learn Mandarin or Cantonese is a different one. A student of anthropology, for example, who will be talking to rural people in region where Cantonese is prevalent, would naturally focus on that language. A traveler relying on officials, state transportation, and officials at historical and cultural landmarks would be more likely to need Mandarin.
China offers many places to visit, many different things to see and do across that sprawling Asian country. Knowing at least one language make your trip much more enjoyable whether you plan to fly, or travel by train, car or boat. Paying for necessities or dealing with a bank is much easier to do if you learn Mandarin. You can also save money by not needing a translator for every single activity if you know enough about the language to do simple things like shopping or booking a hotel reservation.
The average person who does not speak Chinese has many variables to consider in choosing a language – who they will be speaking to, what they will need the language for, where they will be going, when they will be needing to utilize a language and why they will be using the language – to determine the answer to the question “Should I learn Mandarin or Cantonese?”
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