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MANDARIN VS. CANTONESE: WHICH LANGUAGE TO LEARN

China has become an economic and cultural powerhouse on the world stage, which means learning the Chinese language should be on your “to-do” list.

Whether you’re a business professional or a student, being able to communicate with potential clients, professors, or future managers, is a skill you’ll never regret gaining.
So, one of the most important questions new Chinese learners must ask themselves is: “Should I learn Mandarin or Cantonese?”

The short answer is that you should learn Mandarin. But, let us explain why in a bit more detail along with the differences between the two languages.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO LANGUAGES?


Mandarin and Cantonese are dialects of the Chinese language, and both are spoken in China. Even though they share the same base alphabet, they are two different languages.

Mandarin is the official state language of China and is the primary spoken language in most countries, including Kunming, Beijing, and Shanghai. It’s also the main dialect in Taiwan and Singapore.

Mandarin has become the language of business, tourism, and education, with more people than ever learning Mandarin as a second language. There are more than 960 million native Mandarin speakers worldwide.

Cantonese is spoken in Hong Kong, Macau, and the Guangdong province. Many foreign Chinese communities in cities like London and San Fransisco speak Cantonese. This is because, historically, many Chinese immigrants came from Guangdong. There are more than 60 million native Cantonese speakers worldwide.

Cantonese is known as a more difficult language to learn compared to Mandarin. Both languages have different tones, but the use of tones in Cantonese is even more challenging because it has between 6 and 9 different tones. Mandarin only has 4.

The characters and grammar are very similar between Mandarin and Cantonese. In fact, reading one language means you will be able to understand the other language a bit. Be warned: some characters will have somewhat different meanings.

While there are these similarities, there are major differences too. The sounds of spoken Mandarin and Cantonese are very different. Just because you can understand both written languages doesn’t mean you can understand or speak both.

WHICH ONE SHOULD I LEARN AND WHY?


You should learn Mandarin.

This is because it’s the official language of China and is taught by most Chinese schools, colleges, and universities.

If your goal is to be widely understood, Mandarin will give you that capability. It’s the most widely spoken language in the world, which means somewhere down the road, you will more than likely run into someone whose first language is Mandarin.

When you decide to learn either Mandarin or Cantonese, consider how you will use it and what language will benefit you the most. When you’re in the process of deciding, consider where you’re going to study the language.

If you’re hoping to head to China to become fluent in Mandarin, consider Keats School.

At Keats, we teach Mandarin to hundreds of people every year who want to gain fluency. Our teachers are professionals who receive ongoing training to help students gain a deeper understanding of the language. We believe at Keats, the language to learn is Mandarin because you can easily practice your Mandarin on the street or in a restaurant in Kunming. As Kunming is the capital city of Yunnan province, almost everyone in Kunming can speak standard Mandarin.

We offer eight different study options, which are all customizable for the student’s needs. We believe that there are many benefits to learning the Mandarin language, and we hope you pick Keats School as the place you will learn this remarkable language. To get started today, visit our courses page, or apply directly online.

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OVER 7300+ STUDENTS HAVE STUDIED AT KEATS

Vanya

Vanya | BULGARIA

Small Group Chinese Class

I found Keats to be very good, teachers are excellent and really take the students seriously. Kunming is the best place to learn Mandarin in China. The environment is awesome, no pollution. The air quality is great, good weather. The people here are very friendly. I come to take classes every day. I feel comfortable studying Chinese at Keats. I learned so many things, although I only studied at Keats for 2 months. I am really satisfied with my teacher. For us foreigners, Keats is the best Chinese school in China. Therefore, I would highly recommend Keats to all of you.

Matteo

Matteo | Italy

Small Group Chinese Class

I really enjoy studying Chinese in Kunming at Keats. The teachers are great and my classmates are awesome. It is an unforgettable experience for me. I also got the chance to travel to other places in Yunnan. Those places are amazing and you definitely need to visit these places when you study Chinese in China at Keats.

Shihori

Shihori | Japan

Intensive One on One Chinese Classes

In the one-to-one intensive Chinese course, you can choose the learning method you like. The small group Chinese class in China at Keats follows the HSK textbook. Teachers often collect feedback from the students, teachers listen to our requirements and opinions. I felt that my oral level is better than before .

Filbert

Filbert | Indonesia

Small Group Chinese Class

Before I came to Keats School, I had no confidence in my Chinese proficiency. I did not have the confidence to speak Mandarin Chinese and chat with Chinese people. However, after 4 months of study at Keats, I become more and more confident in speaking Chinese now. Studying Chinese in China at Keats School has been the best decision I have ever made. There are many games in the class, and my teacher’s teaching methods are also very interesting. My experience at Keats School has changed my view of China and Chinese people.

 

Mike

Mike | Australia

Small Group Chinese Class

I think Kunming is a great city, the weather is really good. I really like Keats school and found it is very organized. The teachers here are very good. They have a coffee shop and new classrooms, a new lounge area here now, so you can chill out with your friends and practice your spoken Chinese with natives. If you’re considering coming to Keats to study, I would really recommend it. It’s the best place to learn Mandarin and I think it will be a great experience for you.

 

Dr. Med. Beatrice

Dr. Med. Beatrice | Austria

Intensive One on One Chinese Classes

I decided to learn Chinese in Kunming because I like smaller cities and I like the climate here. We had four hours a day study here and my dear teacher taught me very much and never lost her patience with me. It was a really wonderful experience to be here and I recommend Keats school and the teachers here to everyone who likes to learn Chinese in China.

David

David | Australia

Intensive One on One Chinese Classes

It has been notable because I have met a lot of people who I met first time last year like me to come back to Keats this year. The teaching has been fantastic. The teachers carefully prepare each lesson. I think this one-on-one approach is really a great way to rapidly increase your level of Chinese and increase your confidence and fluency with the language.

Viktor

Viktor | Switzerland

Small Group Chinese Class

My school is amazing. I recommend Keats School because it is a more convenient way to learn Chinese in Kunming.

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