The differences between Mandarin and Cantonese

Both Mandarin and Cantonese are parts of the Chinese language. They share almost the same written characters, yet they are very different as a spoken language. Let’s read on to find out what the differences between those two are.


Where is the language spoken?

Mandarin is the primary spoken language of China. It is used widely in many areas including Beijing, Shanghai, Taiwan and even Singapore. On the other hand, Cantonese is the main dialect in Guangdong and Guangxi provinces.

What are the differences between each dialect?

Both Mandarin and Cantonese are tonal languages where one word can have different meanings depends on its tones. The pronunciation of the two dialects is completely different that people who can only use either Mandarin or Cantonese cannot understand each other by talking – Cantonese has nine tones while Mandarin has five. In addition, Cantonese speakers use different expressions in their daily Cantonese conversations. Fortunately, they still can communicate by writing, since they use the same written characters, though there are still some exceptions.

Which one should I learn?

I would suggest Mandarin. First of all, there are more people speaking Mandarin than Cantonese. While Mandarin speakers can be understood in many areas in China and Taiwan as well as Singapore, Cantonese is just popular in Guangdong and Guangxi.  Also, Mandarin with only 5 tones is considered to be easier than Cantonese. Finally, there are more Mandarin learning materials available, and you will have more chances to practice your skills with the native speakers.

However, it depends on the place you go to and the people you communicate with that you decide which choice is best for you.

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