In a previous card we looked at the debate between learning traditional characters and simplified characters. Today we're going to look at the differences between Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese.
Mandarin Chinese is the official language of the PRC and of Taiwan and is one of the 5 official languages of the UN. The most widely spoken language in the world, Mandarin Chinese is also one of the hardest languages to learn for Westerners.
Why choose to learn Mandarin;
+Mandarin Chinese is the lingua franca, it is the standard form of Chinese which is taught across China. This means that regardless of where you go or what the local dialect is, when travelling or doing business if you speak in Mandarin then you will be understood.
+Considering the demand, there is a huge amount of material, both in terms of textbooks and online, with which to study Mandarin Chinese. It is widely taught in universities and is gradually becoming more available in schools.
+The potential for greater employment opportunities is huge. These days, everyone is trying to do business in Asia and a strong foundation in the language is invaluable.
Why choose to learn Cantonese;
+If you're going to be living and working in Hong Kong or in the Guangdong region, then speaking Cantonese is obviously incredibly useful.
+While speaking Mandarin will give you greater employment opportunities, arguably so will Cantonese - especially since most people study Mandarin.
However, problems arise when choosing to study Cantonese.
+There is generally a lack of good learning materials since there is not the same demand which exists for Mandarin.
+In addition, Cantonese does not have a standard Romanization system (like Pinyin for Mandarin). Yale Romanization is most commonly used in textbooks, but it is unknown to native Cantonese speakers.
+Cantonese is heard increasingly less often in Overseas Chinese communities as new Mandarin-speaking immigrants arrive from Mainland China. On top of that, many Cantonese speakers are focusing on learning Mandarin in order to improve their employment potential in the Mainland.
In conclusion, while Cantonese is a fascinating language (and one which I'm seriously considering taking up as a hobby) unless you're planning to live and work in Hong Kong, it's probably in your best interest to opt for Mandarin.
If you're interest in hearing the languages compared, I attached a video too.