14 December 2018
Chinese Language Dialects: What Is the Difference Between Mandarin and Cantonese?
Let's check out in details the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin
Almost every time we have a voice-over project in Chinese Accent, the client asks about "Which Chinese dialect to choose? Cantonese or Mandarin?" "It's all about your business purpose," we would say. So to make it clear, let's check out in details the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin.
Almost every time we have a voice-over project in Chinese Accent, the client asks about "Which Chinese dialect to choose? Cantonese or Mandarin?" "It's all about your business purpose," we would say. So to make it clear, let's check out in details the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin
China is the 3rd biggest country in the world and the 1st country by population in the world with almost 1,5 billion population. Can you imagine that there are more than 200 dialects spoken in China! If you’re asking about the difference between Chinese Mandarin and Chinese Cantonese, you already know that these are 2 of the most widespread dialects of Chinese.
Cantonese and Mandarin use the same base alphabet but spoken in a completely different way. Mandarin Chinese is the official state language and the most widely spoken one. Literally, it is translated as the common tongue. It's also the one thought at schools throughout China. If you have been ever asked "Do you speak Chinese?", In other words you have been asked: "Do you speak Mandarin?". It's primarily spoken throughout China, including Shanghai and Beijing.
Cantonese is the language of international cities as Hong Kong, Macau and the wider Guangdong province, including Guangzhou (previously Canton in English). Most foreign Chinese immigrant communities in London and San Francisco also speak Cantonese, because they hailed from this area. It's interesting to know that the movie stars as Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee also spoke Cantonese because originally they came from that areas.
The main difference between Chinese Cantonese and Chinese Mandarin?
The main difference aside from geography usage is that Mandarin speakers cannot understand Cantonese speakers and vice versa. Although these 2 dialects of Chinese are written almost in the same way.
Language for Business
Mandarin Chinese is the lingua franca of China. But if you go with your project or services/products to Hong Kong, 90% of people will not understand you, because they speak Cantonese.
Depending on the geography of your business needs, you need to follow the criteria in the table below:
Target Market Written Spoken
China Simplified Mandarin
Hong Kong Traditional Cantonese
Taiwan Traditional Mandarin
Singapore Simplified Mandarin
Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese
It's all about characters. Traditional Chinese keeps the original forms of the written style that was formed thousands of years ago, and Simplified Chinese simplifies each characters which are easier to write and memorize.
Simplified Chinese is used in writing in mainland China, but in Macau, Taiwan, and Hong Kong and overseas communities Traditional Chinese is used.
If your translation or localization project is targeted to an international conference or people in Republic of China in general, use Simplified Chinese as a standard, but if you target the specific regions as Hong Kong or Macau, use translations into Traditional Chinese.
Other Countries where Chinese is spoken
Mandarin is also the main language in Singapore and Taiwan.
- Cantonese Chinese and Mandarin Chinese are both Chinese dialects of Chinese.
- Mandarin is spoken mostly in all China and Taiwan.
- Cantonese Chinese and Mandarin Chinese are written in the same way but are pronounced completely different.
- Cantonese Chinese has 9 tones; Mandarin Chinese has 4 tones.
- Both Chinese dialects (with the privilege of Mandarin Chinese) are spoken in Singapore and Malaysia.
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