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After two months, I will be moving to Hong Kong for my Bachelor's degree. Before doing so, I decided to spend my time learning Chinese to lessen the burden in the future. As I was searching for a course in Udemy, I came across this course. However when reading the description, I realized that the lecturer had written Chinese(Mandarin). So, does this mean that it is a Mandarin course? Or is Mandarin and Chinese very related? If this course is teaching Mandarin and if Mandarin is a way different language than Chinese, would it have any use in Hong Kong?

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    The spoken Chinese language includes many dialectics. The native dialectic in Hong Kong is Cantonese. Mandarin is the official spoken language (dialectic) of China, you can use it through out the country, including Hong Kong. – Tang Ho Jun 20 '17 at 14:02
  • Actually, you can get through only with English in Hong Kong. – Blaszard Jun 20 '17 at 16:09
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Welcome to Hong Kong!

tl;dr

You can communicate without issue using English in Hong Kong. You can optionally learn (spoken) Cantonese / Mandarin as you wish.

English

First of all, you will have no difficulties using English in daily life, especially in university. Basically, everyone in university can speak English. Except, some professors / tutors from other countries speak English with dialects which maybe more difficult to understand.

Also, basically all Hongkongers under age 40 can speak English, as it is compulsory to learn in school. And actually many over age 40 speak English as well.

The spoken official languages of Hong Kong are Cantonese and English. (Hong Kong was British colony before 1997.)

Besides, most of the signs in public areas (like road signs) in Hong Kong are bilingual (Traditional Chinese + English). Some restaurant provides bilingual menus or English menu upon request.

So, no worries! There will be no problem using English in restaurants, shops and transportation. (Just don't speak too fast.)

Bilingualism in Hong Kong

Chinese

For Chinese, it is more confusing! These are the basic classifications of "Chinese".

  • Written: Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese
  • Spoken: Cantonese, Mandarin, etc.

Usage:

  • Traditional Chinese + Cantonese: Hong Kong & Macau

  • Traditional Chinese + Mandarin: Taiwan

  • Simplified Chinese + Cantonese: Guangdong province of China

  • Simplified Chinese + Mandarin: Other parts of China

  • Simplified Chinese + Cantonese & Mandarin: Singapore & Malaysia

(Maybe someone can further clarify the popularity of Cantonese & Mandarin in Singapore & Malaysia)

Cantonese is the mother language of Hong Kong (as well as Macau). People speak in Cantonese.

Meanwhile, you will have no problem using Mandarin in Hong Kong as well (although most Hongkongers speak it less fluently).

What to learn?

Depends ;)

If you like to communicate well when having your Bachelor's degree / pursue your career in Hong Kong / Macau, I would strongly recommend you to learn (spoken) Cantonese rather than Mandarin.

Otherwise, if you will pursue your career in China / Taiwan, or prefer to communicate with mainland Chinese / Taiwanese people, you can learn (spoken) Mandarin.

Written Chinese is NOT really necessary in your case.

The course you have suggested will teach Mandarin Chinese. As said above, it will be still useful in Hong Kong.

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    This^! Very insgihtful and helpful. Now I dont have doubts about the languages in Hong Kong. I think I will try to learn Mandarin though since it is spoken by nearly a billion people :) – Huzo Jun 22 '17 at 7:32
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in two months only; well, i would recommend the fsi (foreign service institute) cantonese course. it was made by the us government, in a self learning style. the most important is, it's free :)

here're two site which have the pdf & mp3 file:

https://fsi-languages.yojik.eu/languages/FSI/fsi-cantonese.html

https://www.livelingua.com/project/fsi/Cantonese

don't worry, you won't have difficulty in hongkong, even you don't speak any cantonese. however, if you can, it's more fun, and might change your course of life.

beside, there're a book gweimui's hong kong story ; which describe a french girl's "hongkongization"; very interesting, have a read.

last, the hk public library has vast materials for learning, check the library first, before spending money to buy books :)

wish you good luck :)

  • Thank you for the insightful answer. I also have heard that English would be helpful enough. But I believe that knowing the Chinese language is a privilege today. I dont know much about Cantonese though. And one more question, how often is Chinese used or is it even used in Hong Kong? Or is it mostly Cantonese and English? Thanks a lot ! – Huzo Jun 20 '17 at 17:56
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    well, we speak cantonese & english mostly. i guess you misunderstand what's "chinese", what do you mean is actually mandarin, one of the spoken languages used nowadays. about its usage, it's widely used if it's tourism related, otherwise, there's a strong tendency that locals prefer cantonese, english. anyway, when you're here, you'll know the differences :) last, just curious, may i ask what do you study, and why do you hong kong for your studying? – 水巷孑蠻 Jun 20 '17 at 18:33
  • thank you for your answer! I will be studying in Chinese University of Hong Kong. And if you ask me why Hong Kong, it is because Hong Kong is currently an ocean of opportunuties. Education of Hong Kong universities is on top 50 list. And I also am aware that Hong Kong is and seeks to be cosmopolitan metropolis. So why not contribute to that myself? :) – Huzo Jun 20 '17 at 18:42
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    interesting, well come onboard :) btw, read the recommended book :) – 水巷孑蠻 Jun 20 '17 at 18:56
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    yes, as expensive as any cosmopolitan in the world. but the scenic harbour view is unique :) – 水巷孑蠻 Jun 20 '17 at 19:00
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I checked the website..yes, it teaches Mandarin.

Mandarin is the formal language in Taiwan and China Mainland (including GuangDong). //Written as Simplified Chinese in Mainland, Traditional Chinese in Taiwan.

Cantonese is used in HK and GuangDong, written as Traditional Chinese in HK.

Including other dialects used in some cities, they combined into Chinese. Cantonese is far different from Mandarin, most of movies\films released in HK have to dubbed so audiences from Taiwan and Mainland could watch them.

Sorry about my poor English, hope I helped you.

  • I see. I never knew Cantonese was that different. So, if I am to learn Mandarin, it would not be that helpful in the streets? – Huzo Jun 20 '17 at 17:57
  • It has been mandatory to teach Mandarin in school in Hong Kong for years. And for practical reason, many Hong kong people have learned to speak Mandarin in order to communicate with tourists and business partners from the mainland. knowing Mandarin alone is enough for daily life in H.K. Even using just English is enough to go by in Hong Kong – Tang Ho Jun 21 '17 at 6:00
  • But to full enjoy the Hong Kong life and culture, learning Cantonese is highly recommended. – Tang Ho Jun 21 '17 at 6:05
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The FSI courses recommended above are a sound idea. Junior American diplomats, VoA people, and Mormon missionaries use them, and they are among the few Americans who don't make fools of themselves in Asia. Be warned, however, that the basic self-training course for somebody going out to staff a Voice of America exhibition, say, is eight hours a day for three months. Ver-ree boring, but they have no choice, and it does work.

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