Mandarin vs Cantonese: Difference and Comparison

For years, China has been the subject matter of fascination for many- be it their culture, or the Great Wall of China, or their scientific advancements, China has enthralled us all!


Language Quiz

Language quiz helps us to increase our language skills

1 / 10

What type of language uses vocal sounds to communicate?

2 / 10

Choose the correct word: I'm sorry, I didn't catch your __________.

3 / 10

What is the term for a word that is opposite in meaning to another word?

4 / 10

Put ________ bag on ________ table, then give me ________ apple and ________ bar of chocolate.

5 / 10

What is a word that describes a noun?

6 / 10

What is the term used to describe the way words are put together to form sentences?

7 / 10

Ahmed is 65 kg, and Ali is 50 kg, so Ahmed is _ _ _ _ _ _ Ali.

8 / 10

What is the term used to describe words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs?

9 / 10

What is the term used to describe a word that is spelled the same forwards and backwards?

10 / 10

What is the study of words and their meanings called?

Your score is


Key Takeaways

  1. Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in China and the country’s official language, while Cantonese is primarily spoken in the Guangdong province and Hong Kong.
  2. Mandarin has four tones and is considered relatively easy to learn, while Cantonese has nine tones and is more difficult to learn.
  3. Mandarin uses simplified characters, while Cantonese uses traditional characters.

Mandarin vs Cantonese

Mandarin is a language spoken by a majority of people in China. Around 65% of China’s population speaks Mandarin. The language has 8 number of tones that make it easy to learn. Cantonese is spoken by 5% of China’s population. It takes more time to master this language due to its nine-tonal variations.

Mandarin vs Cantonese

The script was originally quite tough to comprehend but was simplified under Mao Zedong’s rule. Furthermore, the number of tones in the language is also lower in comparison to Cantonese.

On the other hand, Cantonese is one of the few languages that are majorly spoken in China. The speakers of this language are vast but significantly low in comparison to Mandarin.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonMandarinCantonese
ToneLess in number and a few of them are repetitivePlenty in number
Origin of LanguageThe language is relatively new and has been simplified over timeOver 2000 years have passed since this language was first spoken
Written systemThe written system is the same as Cantonese, however, the spoken language differsThe written language is the same as Mandarin
Duration of Learning It is relatively easy to pick up this language as it has lesser tones and the difference between the written script and spoken language is limitedThe time required to pick up this language may be more than the time taken in the case of Mandarin.
Population Approximately 65% of the country’s total populationApproximately 5% of the country’s total population

What is Mandarin?

Mandarin is one of the few languages that are mainly spoken in China. Notably, approximately 65% of the country’s total population speaks this language.

However, one should refrain from thinking that this language was always this easy. This is the consequence of the language reforms phase that was spearheaded by the Father of Communism in China himself, Mao Zedong.

It only has five main tones and an additional three tones that only complement the first, third, and sixth main tones. What makes the language all the more interesting is that since the characters are logograms, they are written in Latin alphabets so that the script encapsulates the exact sounds when spoken.

One of the most useful romanization systems in this language is “Pinyin.” Furthermore, there is another romanization system that is employed while conversing in this language, and that is “Bopomofo.”


What is Cantonese?

Cantonese is one of the few languages that are majorly spoken in China. It is notable that approximately only 5% of the country’s total population converse in this language.

It is opined that Cantonese, too, is quite ancient itself. Over 2000 years have passed since this language was first spoken. It is believed that this language was spoken even during the days of Christ himself.

As the Chinese population outpoured from China across all the continents, this language travelled too. Consequently, there are Cantonese speakers across the globe in plentitude.

It is particularly tough to master this language as it has nine tonal variations. To add on, the written script of this language has not metamorphosed into a simpler text like Mandarin, thereby continuing to be complex and traditional.

It may be of no surprise that the Romanization systems in this language are also different.

Therefore, a crucial piece of advice based on the general inference from the given information is that it is always smarter to avoid mastering this language if you think you will be spending quite some time in mainland China.


Main Differences Between Mandarin and Cantonese

  1. The romanization systems employed in Mandarin are relatively easy. However, the romanization systems employed by Cantonese are more in number and complex.
  2. Where approximately 65% of the country’s total strength converse in Mandarin, the strength of Cantonese speakers in the country does not exceed 5%.
Difference Between Mandarin and Cantonese

One request?

I’ve put so much effort writing this blog post to provide value to you. It’ll be very helpful for me, if you consider sharing it on social media or with your friends/family. SHARING IS ♥️

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Want to save this article for later? Click the heart in the bottom right corner to save to your own articles box!