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learn to speak cantonese

Cantonese language course introduction

Cantonese is the main language of Guandong province in China, Hong Kong and Macau. It’s also spoken by expat communities around the world; it’s the main language used among the large Chinese community in Malaysia. The number of mother-tongue speakers worldwide is about 80,000,000!

Course features:

  • Taught by expert German native-speaker teachers.
  • Curriculum specially designed for New Zealanders.
  • Delivered in small classes with no more than 10 people.
  • All German course materials included.
Course timetables and enrolment

Why learn Cantonese?

  • The English word “Cantonese” comes from “Canton”, which was the English name previously in use for the city of Guangzhou. It’s the language spoken in Guangzhou, in the surrounding province of Guangdong, in Hong Kong and Macau, as well as in Chinese expat communities around the world.
  • Cantonese is one of the Yue languages of southern China, and is by far the most important. The variants of Yue are actually quite similar, and could perhaps be regarded just as dialects, but Yue as a whole is quite distinct from Mandarin, which is the national language of China.
  • While Cantonese and Mandarin have certain features in common, it’s not possible for a speaker of one to understand the other without special training. Therefore, Cantonese is generally regarded as a separate language. It’s possible to equate both Mandarin and Cantonese with “Chinese”, but generally when people refer to “the Chinese language”, they’re thinking of Mandarin. 
  • Even though it doesn’t have the status of a national language, Cantonese is very important in the area where it’s used – which itself is very important on the world stage. Guangdong, together with Hong Kong and Macau, is probably the most economically dynamic part of China, possibly even of the whole world. The area from Hong Kong, through Shenzhen and the Pearl River delta, up to Guangzhou, is growing at a staggering rate, and could almost be regarded as one super-city; as such, it would be the largest in the world.
  • Roughly as many people in the world speak Cantonese as speak German or Italian!
  • New Zealand is increasingly looking to South America for trade links, especially Chile, the most prosperous of the South American states, and the one closest to New Zealand. Spanish speakers will be in demand in the future.
  • Many people will be unsure whether they should learn Cantonese or Mandarin. If you wish to learn “Chinese” for general business purposes, or you’re not sure which part of China you may focus on, we suggest you learn Mandarin; it is the national language, it’s the main language taught in schools, and it’s used everywhere in China. If, however, you’re definitely focused on the areas where Cantonese is spoken, or you have Cantonese-speaking relatives, you may well prefer to study Cantonese.

Is Cantonese hard?

 Rest assured, that, at Euroasia, we do make our Cantonese lessons as straightforward as possible.

You’ll probably be aware that Cantonese, like Mandarin, is written in characters, of which there are, well, a few thousand! Each character represents not a sound, but a word or an idea. But don’t be put off! You don’t need to learn the characters at the beginning of your study. After a while, you’ll start to recognise a few of the most common, but it is possible to represent Cantonese using our Latin alphabet, and this form is used in our courses. (Interestingly, the written form of Cantonese is pretty much the same as that of Mandarin – it’s just that when speakers of the two languages read the words, they produce completely different sounds!)

The pronunciation of Cantonese can be a bit of a challenge to start with. 

It’s a tonal language, which means that what appears to us to be one word can have different meanings depending on the way the voice goes up and down as it’s spoken. Cantonese is generally regarded as having six tones.

The vocabulary of Cantonese is based on a fairly limited number of single-syllable words. Because Cantonese is not in any way related to English, it takes a while to get used to learning items of vocabulary. Bu the good thing is that the words are short!

The grammar of Cantonese is not the hardest aspect of the language; although it’s certainly quite different from that of English, it doesn’t have as many irregularities and special forms to learn as you would have, for example, in French or German. Once you get used to some basic ideas, you’ll find that you can actually say quite a lot!

At Euroasia, we really encourage you to speak Cantonese, right from the first lesson. The basics are not that hard!

Course timetables and enrolment
What our students say
  • “Since attending classes at Euroasia my Mandarin has improved a lot. I can talk about a lot of different things now and I can understand more than I could before. Thank you.”

    Rachel Booth
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