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.
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.
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.
I found Keats School and I am so glad that I did. When you learn Chinese in China at Keats, you are fully being taken care of. My teacher is really great and we become lovely friends.
I have studied at Keats for 2 semesters. I highly recommend Keats School. If you are very interested in taking a Mandarin course in China, I would suggest you come to Kunming. Kunming people are very friendly. The weather in Kunming is great. So I recommend that you study Chinese at Keats in Kunming.
All my classmates stay together for one year and we improved so much! The teachers at Keats are all very great. They like to organize a lot of activities to help us learn Chinese. I like Keats! I like Kunming!
One thing I really liked was that I was able to work with my teacher to make an individual plan of study. Another really nice thing is that you live at the school, you feel completely safe. You always have a group of people who are willing to do things with you on the weekends or in the evenings. They are serving you all the 3 meals a day, the food was excellent.
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.
Listening and speaking in the classroom every day has improved my communication skills. After three weeks, my new words and sentences became more and more natural and fluent. Now I am used to thinking in Chinese, and I understand better what other people say, to be able to have real conversations with other people.
We use a lot of games to learn grammar and new words. We have really good teachers, really patient. She helps us a lot. Our class is really nice and we have people from all over the world, different countries. We often discuss topics in Chinese in our class. I live in the dorm of Keats. It is very convenient. I don’t have to spend time traveling. You can just focus on learning Chinese.
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.