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5 Reasons Why You Should Still Learn Cantonese

  • By
  • Asif Ghafoor
  • August 25, 2016

You’ve finally made it too Hong Kong. Many people only dream of living in the Pearl of the Orient. The culture, arts, architecture and amazing people are inspiring. You’ve expressed interest in learning Chinese in the past; the concept of learning the characters and languages interests you.

Based on your research, many expats live comfortably in Hong Kong without speaking the language at all; the majority get by using English. In addition, you’ve learned that many native Hongkongers are learning Mandarin.


Should you even bother learning Cantonese?

In this article, we’ll take a look at 5 reasons why foreigners should still learn Cantonese.

  1. Experience the real Hong Kong – Cantonese is the language that will allow you to effectively communicate with the locals and truly understand the culture. An article provides the example of an English teacher who moved to Hong Kong and decided to enroll in a school to learn Cantonese because he wanted to become a part of the community and understand the social issues. Developing relationships with the native Hongkongers will only enhance your experience. Another article featured a foreigner who has been living in Hong Kong since 1983. He stated emphatically, that in order to do business and get things done, you need Cantonese.  


  1. Learning Cantonese will help you learn Mandarin – Both are tonal, but Cantonese has six tones while Mandarin has 4. In addition, Cantonese is based on traditional Chinese characters. When you learn the base traditional radicals, it will be easier for you to understand the simplified radicals in Mandarin.


  1. You’re a rock star – The majority of foreigners in Hong Kong don’t bother to learn the language. If you take the initiative to learn the functional use of the language, you’ll find many Hongkongers taking an interest in you as pointed on a SCMP Post magazine article. When you go into a Chinese restaurant and order a beer in Cantonese, be prepared to surprise your Chinese friends.


Image / Los Angeles Times

  1. The Arts – If you’re interested in Hong Kong’s interesting culture, which includes the flourishing art scene, you should invest in Cantonese. A article highlights the point, that traditional Chinese characters are used in poetry and paintings; it also points out, that in order to understand Chinese art, you’ll need the traditional characters which are used by Cantonese. Many people are attracted to Hong Kong because of its rich cinema history. A article provides the example of a foreigner named Daisann McLane who learned Cantonese because of her fascination with the movies. She even mentioned how satisfying it was to learn the language, and found it to be useful when she traveled to locations outside of China and Hong Kong.


  1. Cantonese has evolved into Kongish – What is Kongish? According to an article, it’s a new language mixing Cantonese and English. Hongkongers take pride in their Cantonese language and have mixed it with English to give them a sense of identity. Taking the initiative to learn some Cantonese will allow you to play a role in the development of Kongish!


Cantonese is still a tremendously useful language. It’s a cornerstone of the Hong Kong culture. Without it, you’re missing opportunities to connect with new people and truly grasp the mentality of the people who’ve made Hong Kong the dynamic place that it is. Invest in Cantonese and you’re providing yourself with an opportunity to connect with authentic Hong Kong culture.

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