Wanting to learn your language when I'll come to HK for an exchange period?! | Hong Kong - LikeALocal Guide

Wanting to learn your language when I'll come to HK for an exchange period?!

By Traveller March 7, 2019
Hong Kong

Wanting to learn your language when I'll come to HK for an exchange period?!

(10 answers)
By Paolina Traveller March 7, 2019

Hello, there! My name is Paolina and I am a student from Italy. Starting from September 2019 I'll be spending the four months at the City University of Hong Kong within an exchange program.
I would love to learn Chinese! (I never studied it), however, I have several doubts and I hope you can help me :
1) at CityU I will have the possibility to follow either Basic-Cantonese for Non-Chinese Speakers or Mandarin for Non-Chinese speakers. Having this possibility, I thought about choosing Cantonese, in order to be able to speak a little of it during every-day life and getting to know more about the Hong Kong culture also. On the other hand, however, I thought that learning Mandarin would be more useful for my future. Considering this, I thought I could do some self-study of Mandarin before coming to HK in order to know both languages. What do you think about it?
2) I read that Cantonese is mostly a spoken language. What characters do you use to write in Cantonese? Chinese characters? If so, traditional or simplified ones?

3) Related to the previous questions, if I wanted to learn Mandarin by myself, would you recommend learning it using traditional or simplified characters? Also, for self-studying, I was thinking about buying the New Practical Chinese reader and downloading apps such as HelloChinese and Pleco. What do you think about it?

Thank you so much in advance for your advice!

Answer the question

10 answers

For your future, it would be more beneficial to properly learn Mandarin and simplified Chinese in CityU, though it is not common in Hong Kong. However more than half, especially youngsters, of Hong Kong people understand Mandarin and simplified Chinese. Learning Cantonese casually on your own after coming to Hong Kong should be good enough.

Yes, Cantonese is a spoken language and we use traditional Chinese to write. It is more difficult to learn, but it is proper Chinese. There are more job opportunities in the PRC, so learning simplified Chinese gives you more chances in career, but traditional Chinese is proper Chinese.

I have no knowledge in Chinese apps, just try out different ones and see which one you feel more comfortable with. I am interested in Italian too. If we can match the time after you come, see if we can sit down and learn from each other. My email cynthiasclee@gmail.com

Welcome to Hong Kong
Local March 9, 2019
Reply
Most people in Hong Kong speak Cantonese, its a local dialect. It is a colorful language but only spoken around Kwantung area. I think you will be better off learning Mandarin for your future career advancement because Mandarin is the official language for Mainland China.

Regarding Traditional or Simplified characters, I think it depends on what you want. Traditional Character is far more complicated, precise and more elegant. Simplified Character much more easy to learn. If you are a scholar and planning to really learn the proper language, Of course you learn the Traditional. But if you purely want to communicate, then Simplified is good enough.
Local March 9, 2019
Reply
1) For your future purpose I'd suggest you learn Mardarin. Cantonese you can pick up when talking to your fellow classmates and daily life. You can consider Cantonese is a dialect like the Sicilan or Bergamo accents.

2) Traditional Chinese characters are used in Taiwan and Hong Kong, while simplified Chinese is used in Mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia. Yet I'd suggest you pick up Tranditional Chinese since you can go back to Simplified version easier.

3) It does not hurt to download apps. I picked up my French in the same way. However, the best way to pick a language is going into the daily life.

Welcome to Hong Kong.

-Frank-
Local March 8, 2019
Reply
1)I also think you are better to follow Basic-Cantonese for Non-Chinese Speakers when you are exchanging in Hong Kong. As you said you could study Mandarin before you come to Hong Kong. There is a lot of resources on internet which can help you to learn Mandarin and no matter where you live I believe you can find a Mandarin teacher to teach you Mandarin. However, Learning Cantonese is not as popular as learning Mandarin. I think these four months will be a good time for you to find out more Hong Kong culture and our language. Furthermore, there is no problem to learn both of them at the same time. Once you can speak one of them fluently it will become super easy to learn another one. Let me give you an example. If you can speak Swedish fluent you can understand a lot of Danish. Because they have a lot of thing in common.

2) Traditional Chinese

3)No idea, I haven't try any of them before. One tip, watching tv shows to learn a new language it helps a lot and highly recommend 'Empresses in the Palace'.
Local March 8, 2019
Reply
1) Cantonese is the first language in the Guangdong province of China. Legitimately speaking, Cantonese carries more heritage than Mandarin. However, for your future’s sake, Mandarin might be a better option!

2) They are essentially the same. We Hongkies prefer traditional characters.

3) Wouldn’t hurt to know the traditional characters even though they are more complex. Trad. characters were derived from imageries during the ancient times and in my opinion, are extremely elegant. On the other hand, simplified characters carry no such trait. Originally, simplified characters were invented for the illiterate because the Chinese were rather uneducated under the Communist party ruling in the 20th century. Break a leg and have fun!
M
Local March 8, 2019
Reply
I come from Hong Kong and local Hong Kong people.
I studied City U also for my Master degree and Bachelor Degree too
In Hong Kong, over 90% people are speaking Cantonese
However only , half of them can listen and speak mandarin. Cantonese can use only nearby Hong Kong, macau and guangdong. For your furture development propose, i suggest you to learn mandarin because mandarin is more easiler to learn. Cantonese is quite complicated.

If you live in Hong Kong , I suggest you to write traditional Chinese . It can use in Taiwan , Hong Kong and Macau only .
However , simplified Chinese can use all over the China .
Local March 7, 2019
Reply
For 3), I have no idea about the apps because i didn’t use them.🤣

So long as they are free apps, there is no harm to use them. Until u come to hk, u can buy the required reference books cheaper!
P
Local March 7, 2019
Reply
For (1), since Cantonese is a dialect, whereas Mandarin is the official national language, I also think that mandarin may do good for you especially if you want to pursue career or other aspects which require Chinese knowledge. Learning mandarin is basically more popular for westerner because of its overall coverage. Even if you have chosen mandarin, you can still always learn Cantonese when the people around you would say that to you and would teach you. So, day to day communication can be done by some Cantonese with English. Also, mandarin is also well conversant by youngsters, so when you speak mandarin that you learn in hk, you will still be understood. (Despite I am purely born and bred hongkonger, the said comments are from the objective point of view.)

2) Cantonese in hk and mandarin in Taiwan both use traditional characters. mandarin in China and related areas use simplifed Chinese characters. So if I learn mandarin, you are obliged to learn simplified characters I think. After all, in many western countries, I see simplified Chinese characters mare than the traditional ones. So you may rest assured about this choice.

3)
P
Local March 7, 2019
Reply
Just so you know about the basics about Chinese, appreciate that.
In Hong Kong we write traditional Chinese and speak Cantonese, while Mandarin in mainland China and Taiwan.

The linguistic challenge of Cantonese would be the 9 intonations while Mandarin has 4. But learning traditional Chinese makes you understand the simplified too. It’s really taking few strokes away.

So cultural suggestion would be the HK way, if you want to pursue a career in China in the future, Mandarin then. They’re both beautiful languages.

As a native I don’t see many places teaching Cantonese, so the best way would be having a conversation with a local. That’s how we learn languages. Guess you would enjoy the practices in Festival Walk, one of the biggest malls in Kowloon - also the neighborhood of mine. Good luck!
Local March 7, 2019
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Hi Paolina!

I'm sorry, I don't speak Cantonese, the local language or Mandarin, I'm a native English speaker, I only know enough to get by. I am sure you will meet many locals when you start attending University that will be more than happy to help.

There is a huge Italian community here, you'll feel very welcome and at home.

Enjoy your time in this fast paced, melting hot pot of many different languages and cultures!

XX
S
Local March 7, 2019
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