I’m sure most foreigners trying to learn Cantonese has heard “Why learn Cantonese? Mandarin is more useful and easier” at least once in their life.

I’ll give an example; you are in Hong Kong and 99% of people around you are speaking Cantonese. Your wife, radio, television, and all people on the streets are talking away in Cantonese. The cable television has less than 10 Mandarin and English channels out of 100+ Cantonese. You then start talking Cantonese and become entertainment for the myriads of small minded locals who truely believe only Chinese are capable of speaking any form of Chinese. Then you start receiving the daily annoyance “Why are you learning Cantonese? Mandarin is more useful and easier to learn“. They continue to state,

  • Mandarin is the future and in the future nearly everyone in Hong Kong will have the ability to speak Mandarin. Many Hong Kong people can already speak Mandarin.Speaking tomorrows language today sure doesn’t make a lot of sense when I’m trying to order local food without pointing and looking like a circus act today.
  • You can already speak English, that’s good enough. This one makes me extremely angry; so I wasted the hundreds and hundreds of hours on this language for nothing?
  • There are too many tones in Cantonese; Cantonese has 6 tones, where Mandarin has only 4 making it easier for you to pick up the language quickly. In addition, you will never speak Cantonese with the correct accent. I wonder if they are challenging my ability to learn Cantonese (calling me stupid), or trying to brainwash me to give up so I never understand what people around me are saying?
  • Mandarin is a language; while Cantonese is a dialect. You should learn the official language of China and not a dialect. How does this make any difference to my situation (everyone around me speaks Cantonese; and I’m being told to learn Mandarin). It doesn’t matter what the official status of a dialect is to a nation, the fact of the matter is that if I don’t learn the language/dialect what people around me are speaking; I will always feel left out at dinners, conversations and never integrate into society.

How on God’s earth can Mandarin or English be more useful for me when 100% of what I’m hearing is in Cantonese?