Did/is anyone learn/learning any Chinese before going to China?
If so, which would be the best choice: Cantonese or Mandarin?
I'm pretty good at picking up languages, so I thought that when I finish my Spanish course (November), I'd enrol in Cantonese or Mandarin, but I want to know which one would be best, or most useful to me.
Any clues?
Mandarin is the most widely spoken/understood language in China, but there are many variations of it depending upon which part of China you happen to be in. Your child may come from a Cantonese-speaking or Mandarin-speaking part, or they may come from a part with a dialect variant of one of the two... and your child may be referred at such a young age that he or she doesn't even understand much of anything no matter what is spoken. If you want to learn the language though, Mandarin is definitely the most widely understood language in China and would be your safest bet.
Thanks for the info, pb86. I was mostly after which language would serve me best in China, and you gave me that info, so thanks!
Honestly, learning any language is not a waste. However, after hearing countless stories of one learning Mandarin and needing Cantonese and vice versus, we have decided to forgo learning either. We will try to learn the basics though.
I am taking a beginner chinese language course in Mandarin. There is no guarantee that my child will speak Mandarin but I definitely think having a basic foundation will help when in China. It is also another nice way to spend the time while waiting.
My agency usually had referrals from Guangdong Province, so before going to China, I took a Cantonese class. When I was in Guangzhou, a group of highschool kids came up to me and wanted to talk. One of them asked me if my daughter's father was Chinese. That was an interesting question! I said yes (I'm single) and then she asked (assuming I married Chinese) if I could speak Chinese. So I counted to 10 in Cantonese. they loved it!
When my daughter was 3, she started Saturday Mandarin play and learn classes and I took an adult class at the same time for about a year.
I would suggest learning Mandarin because you can use it more widely in China. However if you start with Cantonese, Mandarin would be easier to switch to (Cantonese has 6 tones, Mandarin only 4).
I found I learned alot about Chinese culture and history by taking the language classes. Saying a few words (counting to 10, Thank you, hello, good-bye) also made traveling in a foreign country less stressful.
Mandarin is the official language of China. It is the language taught in the schools and used by government offices. As a result, if you know Mandarin, you can probably converse with anyone who has been through the Chinese school system in the past few decades, even if his/her "at home" language is not Mandarin.
The Chinese language is divided into approximately ten subgroups -- scholars organize them differently, which is why I say "approximately" -- and each subgroup may be comprised of hundreds of dialects. There are said to be almost 1,000 dialects of Chinese. In some cases, the dialects are further divided into subdialects, which may be unique to a town or city.
If you are a speaker of one dialect in a subgroup, you can usually understand speakers of other dialects in the same subgroup, but you usually will not be able to understand speakers of dialects in another subgroup.
In other words, if you speak the Guangzhou dialect of Yue (Cantonese), you will probably be able to understand speakers of the Foshan dialect of Yue. However, you will not be able to understand a speaker of the Beijing dialect of Mandarin, unless you went to the Chinese schools and learned Mandarin there.
Since most people who speak Cantonese also speak Mandarin, if they went to school, while most people who speak Mandarin DON'T speak Cantonese, it would probably be best for you to learn Mandarin.
Also, you should recognize that many of our children will come from places where a dialect of Yue/Cantonese is NOT the home language. As an example, my daughter is from Xiamen in Fujian province. Cantonese is not spoken there. The home dialect is a variant of Southern Min. Various Min dialects are spoken throughout the area, as well as in Taiwan.
Old people in Xiamen probably speak the dialect exclusively, but younger people who have been to school most likely speak both Southern Min and Mandarin. They would not speak Cantonese unless they once lived there or if they have relatives from there.
Going to China? The safetest suggestion is to take Mandarin, if you can pick one language at a time. :-)
These are two SPOKEN styles/dialects of Chinese language. As an official spoken “dialect”, Mandarin is widely used in Mainland China, Taiwan area and Singapore. Cantonese is specifically for Hong Kong and some overseas Chinese communities.
One of the most important questions that many new potential Chinese learners may ask themselves is: Should I learn Mandarin or Cantonese?
If your goal is to be widely understood, you should learn Mandarin because Mandarin can be understood even in Hong Kong, Macau and Canton (the main regions who still speak Cantonese), and more and more Cantonese speakers are learning Mandarin nowadays. If you really want to be able to connect with people from Hong Kong, Macau, and Canton, you can still consider learning Cantonese. But you should still know that Cantonese is often seen as more difficult. Its use of “tones” can be even more challenging to western speakers than Mandarin.
It’s easier to find people to teach you Mandarin, including some of your Chinese friends who have learned “proper Mandarin”, and who may be able to teach you the language step-by-step; More Mandarin learning materials are available from all sorts of sources and at a variety of levels; With the current economic growth of China, it’s likely that Mandarin will be a key language of the future.
A link for you if you are interested in learning about the difference between these "two languages":