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As mentioned before, China is becoming more or a marketplace as it continues it's economic boom so I'm just curious as to which would be the more useful dialect to learn? Most Chinese in the Uk speak Cantonese but Mandarin is the official language so any hints/tips appreciated.

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Definitely go for Mandarin. It's the official language in China and Taiwan. Chinese dialects are very different, and speaking only Cantonese would be very limiting. There are also some people from the older generation as well as some younger people who are of Chinese descent who have never learned Mandarin but who may speak some of their ancestral dialect which they learned at home from their parents or grandparents.

I'll tell you the Chinese dialects that I have heard so far on my travels: London has a large number of Cantonese speakers mostly from Hong Kong. Paris has large numbers of Wenzhou and Chaozhou dialect speakers (both of these dialects are as different from each other and from Mandarin as Portuguese, French and Romanian ). New York has large numbers of Fuzhou speakers (this is one of the toughest dialects for Cantonese and Mandarin speakers to understand). LA used to have many speakers who spoke Toishan dialect (a variant of Cantonese) although they are being replaced by Cantonese speakers from Hong Kong. I even encountered an enclave of Beijing Mandarin speakers in Northeast Italy!

So to put it simply, I suggest some Mandarin would be useful.

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First time heard of Toishan language, sounds interesting, hehe. I just knew People of Guangdong speak Cantonese, not sure what language Wenzhou people speak, but it's well known that Wenzhou people are very good in business, and most of them are very rich, in China or world wide.

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First time heard of Toishan language, sounds interesting, hehe. I just knew People of Guangdong speak Cantonese, not sure what language Wenzhou people speak, but it's well known that Wenzhou people are very good in business, and most of them are very rich, in China or world wide.

Toishan is one of my favorite dialects because it is so close to Cantonese in grammar and word choice yet the phonology is quite bizarre. They replace a lot of the common consonants in Cantonese with other sounds. They drop the "s" and change it to what linguists call a lateral fricative (it's very common sound in Welsh, where it's written "ll" as in Llanelli. Get a Welshman to pronounce "Llanelli" for you to hear what the "ll" sounds like). They drop all the voiceless dental D sounds so "big" ("daai" in Cantonese or "da" in Mandarin) becomes "aai". The aspirated T sound becomes a H. So "Toishan" in Cantonese is pronounced Hoillaan in the local Toishanese accent.

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As a Chinese-Canadian that can speak both Mandarin and Cantonese, I'd say that Mandarin is definitely the more useful one. As a poster above has mentioned, Mandarin will be known by basically all Chinese people, however Cantonese will only be known by a subset.

Take Hong Kong for example, many street vendors will speak Cantonese, however they'll have functional Mandarin at the very least because it's the de facto standard when it comes to bridging language barriers across various dialects.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Mandarin for sure. Some small town area though,speak their own dialect instead of Mandarin. Chinese has a lot of dialect. I grew up with two Chinese dialects that are called 'Tiong Hua' and 'Khek' (that's how we call it in my dialect,not sure what they call it in mainland China) . I also have friends who speak Hakka. My parents speak Mandarin fluently but never speak them with us because, for a while Indonesia banned Chinese being taught at school.

My English Teacher told me,a lot of people from Thailand speak 'Tiong Hua' dialect so he was pretty happy when he visited there.

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I am from Guangzhou (Guangdong province), which is also known as Canton in English. I immigrated to Canada when I was about only 5 years old. Within that five years in China, however, I was lucky to be living in a place where school was taught bilingually in both Mandarin and Cantonese. Since my parents are not from Guangzhou, they speak Mandarin at home with me all the time (but they've learned how to speak Cantonese from all the time living at Guangzhou). Within these five years, I grew up juggling both Mandarin and Cantonese, but I must say that my Mandarin is stronger than my Cantonese. At school, I would actually talk to my classmates in Mandarin and some would respond to me in Cantonese.

It really isn't hard to learn both of these languages; all you really need to do is get accustomed to the different pronunciations and sometimes different phrases used in Cantonese. If you were to only learn one of the two languages, it would have to be Mandarin as it is the main language used by China (and Taiwan) and it is used by the majority of the Chinese population. If you have the dedication and time, I would suggest you to expand your Chinese to both Mandarin and Cantonese, as many Chinese immigrants in other countries such as USA, Canada, and the UK are from Hong Kong or southern China. If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask! ^^  :wink:

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I have studied Mandarin for about one and a half year by myself with books and audiotapes I bought in Amazon. I progressed nicely and I think the grammar (or it's almost absence) is fairly simple, but I got lost with the characters. After a while, I took a few lessons on Missão de Macau here in Lisbon and I realized I wasn't making a correct pronunciation, so learning it alone was probably not the best option... :nerd:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Even though I'm a Cantonese speaker, I'd have to say Mandarin is more useful. Mandarin is used universally. Cantonese is useful if you want to live in Hong Kong, Macau, etc., but even those places are quickly being populated by Mandarin speakers.

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Mandarin is definitely the one to go with. Ask any Cantonese person!

Cantonese is a fun and interesting language and I wish I knew it better, but it is not comparable to Mandarin in terms of usefulness.

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  • 1 month later...

It depends on where you live. I grew up speaking Cantonese because that's the language I speak to my parents. I learned Mandarin when I was in Kindergarten. I live Oregon, United Stbates, where most Chinese people speak Cantonese. I think Mandarin is more complicated to learn because the dialogue is far more different than Cantonese.

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