Difference Between Mandarin and Cantonese

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!

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Language Quiz

Language quiz helps us to increase our language skills

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Choose the word that means the opposite of "intense":

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What is the term used to describe words that substitute for nouns?

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What is the term for a word that is spelled and pronounced the same way but has a different meaning?

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Choose the word that means the opposite of "discourage":

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

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Who is the person in charge at a high school?

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What is the study of the sounds of speech called?

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What is the term for a word that shows a relationship between a noun and other words in a sentence?

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Choose the word that means the opposite of "ascend":

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Choose the word that means the opposite of "to begin":

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Mandarin vs Cantonese

The difference between Mandarin and Cantonese is that while both are languages that are spoken abundantly in China, they have unique tones, differences in the manner the words are written and spoken, a varied romanization system, and differences in the strength of the population who speak the language. Despite the differences, the languages do share a list of similarities, too.

Mandarin vs Cantonese

The script was originally quite tough to comprehend but it was simplified under the rule of Mao Zedong. 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 majorly 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 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.”

mandarin

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 traveled 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.

cantonese

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 over 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

References

  1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF01758181
  2. https://aclanthology.org/C98-2233.pdf
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