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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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Aliza | USA
Intensive One on One Chinese Classes

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.

Ben | USA
Small Group Chinese Class

My first semester that I studied at another school, and the pressure there was pretty high, the classroom hour was long, and the homework was pretty tedious. Since I came to Keats, I found I have a lot more opportunities to speak in the classroom. My classmates all are fluent and love speaking and participating in the class. We have great classroom dynamic.

Martine | France
Intensive One on One Chinese Classes

I really enjoy this place because we have private Mandarin lessons. I took the 6-hour program, 4 hours in the morning, 2 in the afternoon. Even though it is quite a lot, the teaching is complimentary. This is very helpful because I could review what I did before and learn new things. My 2 teachers are fantastic. We live in the school, so it is convenient. It is interesting to me to meet people from all over the world.

星河明 | Japan
Intensive One on One Chinese Classes

I took the one-on-one Intensive Chinese class for 6 hours a day. The classes are very interesting. The teachers are caring and the content the teacher teaches me is suitable for my level. It is an easy way to learn Mandarin. I have a lot of time practicing Chinese in class. The food is great here. I have improved my Chinese through this program at Keats.

嶋田京子 | Japan
Intensive One on One Chinese Classes

Kunming’s scenery is very beautiful. It is the best place to study Chinese in China. My favorite learning method at Keats School is one-on-one because it is suitable for everyone. My teacher is very good, very caring, and lovely. My life when learning Chinese in Kunming is very good and the weather is very good. The air is very good. It is good for the elderly’s body.

Sarah | Dubai
Intensive One on One Chinese Classes

My teachers are all excellent. They trained the teachers so professionally. I feel like I learn very quickly with my teacher. They are very serious about their students and I know every teacher is like this. I would highly recommend that you come to Keats if you are looking for the best Chinese school in China.

杜文宇 | Netherlands
Intensive One on One Chinese Classes

So during my first week at Keats, I didn’t dare to speak any Chinese words. I found out that my Chinese level quickly improved since then. Although I have many options to study in China, for example, some other schools have homestay, I found I could immerse myself and fully focus on learning Chinese by staying at Keats.

Nicholas | Canada
Intensive One on One Chinese Classes

At Keats, I have a lot of opportunities to practice what I have learned. I really like this school, because I can learn Chinese in one-on-one style, so I think this is the best immersion program in China and my teacher is the best teacher. I feel that without my teacher, my Chinese will definitely not improve so much. I’m very happy because, at Keats, I have improved my Chinese significantly.

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