For this reason some Chinese people may find it difficult to understand what you are saying in Chinese unless the tone is correct. On the whole, however, people are very patient and a bit of English on their part and some sign language will normally get the message across.
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If you would try to speak some Mandarin Chinese, the locals are usually very impressed and happy. Theyll be more so if you can try some Cantonese Chinese!
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Cantonese Chineseis a local language commonly used in the Guangdong province, (part of) the neighbouring Guangxi province, Macau and Hong Kong.
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Mandarin Chineseis the official language of China (known as Pu tong hua by the Chinese). Even in Guangdong where Cantonese (Guang dong hua) is widely spoken, most people can speak Mandarin.
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Heres a table with key and commonly used phrases in Mandarin and Cantonese.
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Chinese characters are used for writing, though many signs on roads and in shops now also appear in pinyin, which is the Romanised version of written Chinese. English is spoken in most hotels, but it may be useful to have a phrase book to hand if you want to venture further. Mandarin, however, is a tonal language with four different tones. Therefore, the same word pronounced in different tones will have completely different meanings.
Many locals in Guangzhou are billingual — Mandarin and Cantonese. Mandarin, being the official language of the whole country, is the language for education so almost everyone speaks it. Cantonese is also very commonly used, especially in local shops, restaurants, markets etc. Guangdong is one of the very few Han ethnic places that have their own televisions and radio stations operated in their local dialects, so a cultural identity associated with the Cantonese language is strong. Some may look down upon those who cannot speak Cantonese, typically those from other provinces in the country, but obviously not with foreigners.
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