Wanna know about the Cantonese-speaking regions? If you do, then you’re in the perfect place. So, prepare yourself for a very important lesson today.
Cantonese language is one of the Chinese languages that is used in different Chinese communities. It is one of the Chinese dialects spoken in China, but the Cantonese dialect is not their official language. So, if you’re wondering, where is Cantonese spoken in China? Where do native Cantonese speakers come from? What are the other Cantonese-speaking communities around the world? Learning with Ling will give you helpful information to answer your burning questions.
The Chinese Language In Mainland China
For a country as big as Mainland China and the different Chinese diaspora, you would somehow wonder if all of them use the spoken language to communicate with each other. Well, the answer is no. There are actually many other Chinese varieties expressed in different parts of Mainland China and Chinese diasporas around the world.
In China, Chinese people speak Mandarin. It is also called simplified Chinese because it uses simplified Chinese characters and fewer tones than other Chinese dialects. More than 70% of the Chinese population are Mandarin speakers. It is also the official language of other Chinese communities and Chinese diasporas. Across China’s culturally and linguistically diverse environment, formal written Chinese, the written equivalent of spoken Mandarin, is utilized.
There are also other Chinese languages and Chinese dialects spoken in China. Part of these major dialects is Cantonese (Yue Chinese), Hunanese (Xiang), Gan dialect, Min dialect, Wu dialect, and Kejia or Hakka dialect.
After Mandarin was established as the country’s official language in the early twentieth century (20th Century), and after Standard Chinese was promoted as the official language after creating the People’s Republic of China in the 1940s, the language’s popularity remained high throughout China.
The Chinese government prohibits using any language other than Standard Chinese. However, Cantonese is still widely spoken in China and is used on public transportation in some areas.
What Is The Cantonese Language?
Now that you have learned a little bit about the languages used in China let’s now talk about Cantonese. It is one of the Chinese languages you will encounter when learning Chinese. Cantonese is also called traditional Chinese, while Mandarin is called simplified Chinese. Cantonese preserves more features of Ancient Chinese than other Chinese varieties. This might be why Cantonese is usually labeled as one of the most complicated languages to learn by language learners.
Cantonese and Mandarin are both Chinese and tonal languages, but they differ significantly. Cantonese uses more comprehensive grammar structures and tones compared to Mandarin. The difference between Mandarin and Cantonese is vast, so if you want to learn more about it, there’s a separate blog about it.
Would there be a big difference between Cantonese speakers and Mandarin speakers? Well, the answer is a lot! A Mandarin speaker would have trouble understanding a Cantonese speaker. Both languages in mainland China utilize the same characters for the exact words, making them mutually intelligible in written form but incomprehensible when spoken.
Speaking Cantonese is a challenging part since it is a tonal language. The romanization system is critical for language learners to learn Cantonese, especially spoken Cantonese. Cantonese uses different romanization systems. First is Jyutping, which employs tone numerals and is simple to type in Cantonese (pronunciation), giving it a significant advantage over other systems.
There is also another romanization system called Yale, which uses tone markers and is written with Westerner pronunciation in mind, making it more useful for outsiders learning Cantonese. Tone markings are also used in Cantonese Pinyin; however, it is more similar to Mandarin Pinyin.
For written Cantonese, standard written Chinese was utilized as a guide to fit the sounds of Cantonese into the already established written forms based on Mandarin. Cantonese and Mandarin share the same base alphabet.
There is so much to discover about Cantonese, so if you want to go deeper, you can start learning with Ling App. But for now, let’s talk about the regions of China that are Cantonese speakers.
What Region Of China Speaks Cantonese?
Now that we all know that Mandarin is the official Chinese language spoken in China, and most people speak Mandarin, you will wonder where Cantonese speakers are located. This will come in handy for your next travel to Cantonese-speaking regions!
Below is the list of different regions that speak Cantonese:
The first region of China that we will talk about is the southern region, mainly the Guangdong province, also known as the Canton Province of Kwangtung. Guangdong is China’s most populated province. It is the 15th largest province by land and the world’s second-most populous country subdivision. Guangzhou is the province’s capital city. Guangzhou is considered one of the most prosperous cities in China.
In China’s Guangdong province, Cantonese is acknowledged as the lingua franca. It is the first language of people who are native there. But let’s have a little throwback about it.
Guangzhou has over 2,200 years of history. It has been a springboard for trading, cultural exchanges, and many reforms and revolutions. There’s a rapidly increasing number of foreign temporary workers and migrants from different parts of the world like Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Guangzhou is home to the most prominent African community in Asia.
Most of the people in this part of China speak Cantonese. Guangzhou became the region’s cultural hub during the Southern Song dynasty. Cantonese became the prestige variety of Yue Chinese when Guangzhou’s Pearl River Delta port city became China’s greatest port, with a trading network spanning as far as Arabia.
The Cantonese language was also used for Cantonese opera and folksong genres such as Yuè’ōu, Mùyú, and Nányīn. Furthermore, Cantonese developed its own classical literature, with Middle Chinese writings sounding more like current Cantonese than other modern Chinese varieties, such as Mandarin.
In come 1700s, Cantonese became the Chinese dialect used by Chinese people to interact with the Western World. Cantonese almost became the official language of the Republic of China after the Xinhai Revolution of 1912, but it was narrowly defeated.
As mainland China used Standard Mandarin as the official language or the official state language and as a medium of instruction in schools, Cantonese remained the official variety of Chinese languages in Guangdong province, Hong Kong, and Macau.
The Chinese government banned the use of other Chinese varieties aside from standard Mandarin. Cantonese has a higher status than other Chinese languages, with its own media and widespread use in Guangdong public transit. It is also used as a medium of instruction in some academic programs, such as university electives and Chinese as foreign language programs.
Here are other important notes about Cantonese in the Guangdong Province of China.
- The 1980s-1990s – Migrants from all across China who settled in Guangzhou or other regions of Guangdong expressed a greater desire to learn Cantonese and assimilate into the local cultural scene, which they perceived as trendy and rich due to the popularity of Hong Kong entertainment.
- The 2000s – The newest immigrants exhibited little interest in the local culture. They frequently demanded that local folks obey their official requirements to speak Mandarin as the official Chinese language.
- The 2020s – Certain schools in Guangzhou are currently teaching some restricted Cantonese language classes, activities linked to Cantonese language and culture, and sponsoring Cantonese appreciation cultural events as part of their attempts to conserve the Cantonese language and culture.
Today, as of 2022, the total population of Guangdong province is 13,965,000. It has increased by 2.42% increase from its population in 2021. This contributes to the large population of Cantonese speakers in this part of China. These people are doing their best to preserve their native language and culture. So, if you’re planning to go there, consider Cantonese as the primary language to learn because people there do not speak English.
Guangxi is officially known as Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (GZAR). It is also located in the Southern part of China, and it is also the most populous autonomous region in the country. It is a great example of China’s cultural diversity because it’s home to 12 indigenous ethnic groups. Various regional languages are spoken in this part of China, such as Cantonese, Pinghua, Zhuang, Kam, Hakka, and Min. It is spoken alongside Mandarin.
Hong Kong is officially known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. It is a special administrative region of China found in the eastern Pearl River Delta located in South China. It’s home to 7,606,609 Hong Kongers who speak Cantonese and English.
If you go to Hong Kong, you will hear people speaking two languages, either English or Cantonese, not Mandarin, which is the official state language of Mainland China. But why? Let’s go back to what happened in their history. Hong Kong was originally a British territory. During these periods, English became Hong Kong’s official language from 1883 to 1974. Cantonese was only formally acknowledged and had a return in 1974.
In Hong Kong, Cantonese language is used in schools and universities. Hong Kongers also refuse to learn Mandarin even if they are getting better at communicating using it. This is because some people believe that Mandarin is a sign and reminder of the“mainlanization“ of Hong Kong.
Macao Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Being a former Portuguese colony, you’ll hear locals speaking Cantonese, Chinese, and Portuguese. Locals also speak Mandarin, English, and other languages, but Cantonese speakers comprise 85.7% of the population.
Cantonese-Speaking Regions Around The World
If you think Cantonese speakers are only found in Mainland China and Chinese territories, you couldn’t be more wrong because there are Cantonese native speakers in different parts of the world.
Asia (Southeast Asia)
As mentioned above, Cantonese is the Chinese language used to communicate with the Western World. It has been the lingua franca among overseas Chinese living in Southeast Asia. Cantonese also continues to spread because of the pop culture from Hong Kong, which is incredibly popular in this region.
Most Chinese-Cambodians often use Cantonese as an inter-communal language and vernacular in business and among other Chinese ethnic groups in the country, especially in Phnom Penh. There are also Chinese language schools in Cambodia that teach Cantonese and Mandarin.
Cantonese is also the dominant language of Chinese communities in Vietnam. Interestingly, people exposed to the Vietnamese language tend to code-switch between the Vietnamese and Cantonese languages. Cantonese is the native language of over half of Vietnam’s ethnic Chinese people. It also acts as a lingua franca for other Chinese dialect groups.
Did you know that Thailand is home to the largest overseas Chinese community in the world? Given this, it’s no surprise that Cantonese is the fourth most-spoken Chinese variety in Thailand. Cantonese is the lingua franca of the Chinese communities in this region. Chinese language schools are also traditionally conducted in Cantonese.
In Malaysia, Hokkien is the most widely spoken, and Mandarin is the medium of instruction in Chinese language schools. But, Cantonese still remains the most commonly spoken Chinese variety in the Malaysian Chinese community in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital city.
In Singapore, Mandarin is the official Chinese variety used by the government, and Cantonese is only spoken by over 15% of the population. This is because of the Speak Mandarin Campaign that seeks to promote the use of Mandarin.
Cantonese is only the fourth most-spoken variety of Chinese languages in Indonesia. Cantonese is locally known as Konghu in Indonesia, and it is also one of the Chinese variants used in the Chinese Indonesian community.
In the 1850s, the first ethnic Chinese settlers arrived in Australia. Since that time, Cantonese has been the dominant Chinese variant in the Chinese Australian community. But this just lasted until the mid-2000s because there has been a heavy increase in Mandarin speakers, most of them from Mainland China, that arrived. Because of this, Mandarin has surpassed Cantonese.
Cantonese is spoken among the Chinese minority in France by immigrants who fled the former French Indochina after the region’s conflicts and communist takeovers in the 1970s.
The presence of British Hong Kongers gave way to influencing 300,000 British people to claim that Cantonese is their first language. Most Chinese speakers in the U.K. speak Cantonese, and many British Chinese also have roots in former British colonies in Southeast Asia.
It was mentioned above that Macau was formerly a British colony, so the influence of Cantonese on their people is not surprising. Cantonese is spoken by ethnic Chinese in Portugal who are from Macau.
Did you know that the Chinese cuisine that was known all over the world came from the Southern part of China? This is because the Chinese immigrants Southern part of China carried with them Cantonese cuisine. Aside from the food, they also carried with them the Cantonese language, which is now spoken by Chinese Americans in the US.
Cantonese has historically and continues to dominate in the Chinatowns of San Francisco and Oakland and the surrounding suburbs and metropolitan areas in Northern California, particularly the San Francisco Bay Area. However, a concentration of Mandarin speakers has formed in Silicon Valley since the late 2000s.
Most Chinese emigrants come from Guangdong and Guangxi provinces, Hong Kong and Macau, and Southeast Asia and speak Cantonese as their first language. But, with the increase of Mandarin-speaking people from Mainland China, the population of Chinese Americans was segregated by the varieties of Chinese spoken. Linguistic discrimination has been happening.
In Canada, there were 565,275 Canadians who claimed that their native language is Cantonese. Cantonese speakers can be found in every Chinese-populated city, and it is the Chinese variety spoken among Chinese Canadians. The Chinese Canadian community has its roots in the people from Guangdong during the 19th century. From the 1960s to the mid-1970s, immigrants from Hong Kong came. It was again followed by a group of Hong Kong immigrants who arrived in the 1990s.
Going Any Cantonese-Speaking Regions? Learn Cantonese Now!
Now that different countries are slowly opening their doors to the world again, people are excited to travel. So, if you’re planning to go to main Cantonese-speaking places like Hong Kong and Macau, learning Cantonese is definitely a great idea. To do that, you’ll need time, passion, patience, and resources. Luckily, the Ling app can help you achieve your language learning goals.
With the Ling app, say goodbye to the traditional way of learning a language. You can learn anytime and anywhere you want without pressure and a strict schedule. You can choose a topic you like to learn and work your way up to speaking practice, writing practice, and even grammar structure. It will give you the engaging but meaningful language learning experience you deserve.
You don’t need to travel to Hong Kong or any other Cantonese-speaking country. Download the Ling app on the Play Store or App Store, and you’ll find yourself studying more about the language on your own.
Imagine how many people you can connect with by just learning the Cantonese language. Do not miss out on this opportunity, and start learning Cantonese with the Ling app now!