Cantonese is often overlooked due to the significantly more widespread use of Mandarin. However, anyone visiting Hong Kong or the Guangdong region would benefit greatly from learning Cantonese instead. So, how can one learn Cantonese? Well, there is definitely one way not to learn - with Rosetta Stone.
Unfortunately, there is no Cantonese Rosetta Stone program available. As much of a shame as it is, perhaps it makes for a great opportunity to find a new alternative for language learning lessons. Let’s explore this issue and some alternatives.
This is quite an interesting question. It is not a small language by any means - there are around75 million speakers worldwide - and that is only including first language speakers. You can add a few million more when considering second language speakers too. There are also communities (like that of China Town in London) where Cantonese is the language most widely used. So, why would Rosetta Stone not offer Cantonese lessons?
While Cantonese does use the same script as Mandarin Chinese when written, it is a completely different story when it comes to speaking (and culture too). It should go without saying, but Cantonese requires its very own program.
It does seem to be a case of the larger of the two languages getting all the attention. In fact, you will see on the Rosetta Stone website that they briefly mention the Cantonese language, but only to say that Mandarin has more speakers. This is a shame as it overlooks the millions of Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong, Macau, UK, and the mainland.
You do have to wonder how well known the Cantonese language is known outside of language learning and linguistic circles. For example, I didn’t learn of its existence until I was well into my teenage years. Of course, it doesn't help if there is no Cantonese on Rosetta Stone or some other prominent language learning software.
Often, we only hear about the ‘Chinese language’ as if it was one single language. That, of course, is not correct. So perhaps Rosetta Stone has acknowledged this and, to avoid confusion amongst potential learners of Chinese, decided to stick with just Mandarin.
Thankfully, we have put together a couple of alternatives to Cantonese on Rosetta Stone.
I am glad you asked. There is one very obvious recommendation that can be made here, and that is the Ling Cantonese app. Ling uses native Cantonese speakers to help you learn the language, just like it will sound in the country.
Through the gamification of learning, it also makes the whole process much more engaging. You can see yourself progress as you make your way through the different topics and tests that come along with it.
Then there is the chatbot feature that simulates conversations and makes for great practicing your Cantonese language skills. For an introvert like me, it helps to build up my courage to eventually feel confident enough to use it when out and about.
While these mobile apps do share a common goal of making language learning fun and accessible, what sets Ling apart is the focus on practical vocabulary, sentences, and phrases that you will use in everyday speech.
This one is actually a part of the same family as Ling. Simply Learn is a phrasebook in app form, giving you all the benefits that come with that. You can listen to the words and phrases being spoken by native Cantonese speakers, along with the Cantonese and phonetic spellings of the words.
It makes for a great companion both when practicing and when you are in China or elsewhere where there are Cantonese speakers. It makes use of flashcards and the spaced repetition learning technique that is said to really improve language learning.
It may not be the top choice if you want a deep understanding of the language but helps you start out with pronunciation and basic grammar like word order.
There are quite a few different apps and websites that work great with helping you to learn Cantonese. Each one goes about its own way to replace the hole made by the lack of Cantonese on Rosetta Stone. Ultimately, it is a case of finding which option works best for your case.
Like we said before, it is good to make a language learning plan and mix things up if you are serious about learning Cantonese. If you are just looking for a more casual experience to learn a few phrases before traveling, then apps might be the best option for you.
If you are truly dedicated to learning Cantonese, whether in preparation for a visit to Guangzhou or to communicate better with a partner, then the fact that it is not available through Rosetta Stone shouldn’t be enough to stop you.
There are many different options available for learning Cantonese and other languages too, so take the time to look around and see what you like. We have listed a couple of alternatives to Rosetta Stone above, so there is no reason not to try something out. Whatever you decide to use, we wish you the best of luck on your language learning journey!