Parenting & Family

Chinese school - Cantonese or Mandarin?

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  • Jul 11th, 2019 2:27 pm
[OP]
Newbie
Jun 12, 2005
23 posts
7 upvotes
108 Mile Ranch

Chinese school - Cantonese or Mandarin?

Hi,

I have enrolled my 4yo son for Mandarin (simplified) this summer.

Now I am having second thoughts and want to enroll him in Cantonese instead because I speak Cantonese - although its barely passable- but at least I can understand and carry a basic conversation. I do not speak any Mandarin at all.

Originally, I thought Mandarin would be a better choice because more and more people are learning it and his friends at day school speak mandarin, but how much will he actually learn if no one at home speaks it is my concern. Where as Cantonese, he can at least try to talk to me at home.

Maybe he should learn Cantonese first? then pick up mandarin in the future?

Any parents have advice?
34 replies
Deal Fanatic
Nov 22, 2015
5267 posts
4455 upvotes
MrT wrote: Hi,

I have enrolled my 4yo son for Mandarin (simplified) this summer.

Now I am having second thoughts and want to enroll him in Cantonese instead because I speak Cantonese - although its barely passable- but at least I can understand and carry a basic conversation. I do not speak any Mandarin at all.

Originally, I thought Mandarin would be a better choice because more and more people are learning it and his friends at day school speak mandarin, but how much will he actually learn if no one at home speaks it is my concern. Where as Cantonese, he can at least try to talk to me at home.

Maybe he should learn Cantonese first? then pick up mandarin in the future?

Any parents have advice?
I grew up speaking mainly Cantonese with some English at home. I went to Cantonese Saturday school and can still speak somewhat fluently.

I also took Mandarin starting in grade 9, as well as Mandarin 101 in university. Without any avenue to speak or practice Mandarin, I've pretty much forgotten it all - I know my numbers, please, thank you, etc., but wouldn't be able to hold even the most basic of conversations.
Jr. Member
User avatar
Jan 7, 2019
171 posts
109 upvotes
Mandarin will probably be more useful in the future if that's what you're trying to get it.

Cantonese is limited to parts of China and Hong Kong.

If possible, i'd recommend you teach your child both.
Jr. Member
Apr 24, 2017
121 posts
39 upvotes
Friends of mine had the same dilemma. They're a Cantonese speaking family, and they had placed their son in Mandarin immersion. Their kid doesn't understand Cantonese at all, and they tend to use Cantonese to say things so that the kids don't listen in on. For a while they weren't sure if it was the right choice, but found that with someone in the family who can speak Mandarin, they have a translator when going out on trips. Interestingly enough, the parents and grandparents have all started to learn Mandarin to help broaden their understanding of the language as well. Plus being in Vancouver, you cant go anywhere without hearing some Mandarin.

A colleague of mine is self taught in Cantonese via TVB, and their household only speaks Cantonese at home. Once the kids started school, they all went for Mandarin immersion. The kids are now 7/8, and fairly proficient in English, Mandarin and Cantonese.
Newbie
Nov 19, 2018
5 posts
2 upvotes
I’m a Cantonese speaker but will most likely be putting my kid in Mandarin class. But only because my husband speaks Mandarin. I agree that they will retain what they learn only if they hear it and speak it on a regular basis. If we only spoke Cantonese, I would have no expectation that my kid would become fluent in another language that neither mom or dad speaks. No matter how many classes I enrol them in.

Case in point, I was in French immersion. I could speak it fluently back in school because I had to speak it daily. But sad to say I haven’t retained much French after graduation. I can read a restaurant menu maybe.
Jr. Member
Jun 4, 2013
109 posts
72 upvotes
Vancouver
Mandarin class. Cantonese is going to be faded in the next 30 to 40 years.
Newbie
Nov 19, 2018
5 posts
2 upvotes
sponge5307 wrote: Mandarin class. Cantonese is going to be faded in the next 30 to 40 years.
If we want to preserve the Cantonese language, then we need to teach it to our kids. As native speakers of both dialects, we speak both Cantonese and Mandarin to our kid at home. He’s still little but he understands both and we are determined that he will be fluent in both. Just because Mandarin is probably more “useful” doesn’t mean we will only teach him Mandarin. Cantonese is part of who mom is.

For a Cantonese only speaker to teach their kid Mandarin...I can only compare the analogy to me expecting my kid to learn Spanish because it’s more “useful”. I only know about five words but I expect my kid to be fluent.
Deal Addict
Dec 24, 2007
1790 posts
352 upvotes
Toronto
My child started Mandarin school at age of 3.

We are non speaking Mandarin/Cantonese parents but we found a tutor for extra help.

She has been doing Saturday classes for almost 11 years and I am proud to say that its nice when she can speak to other Mandarin speaking kids around her and see parents jaws drop when they hear her.

Cheers!
Thread started in 2016 - 1927 fully gutted and renovated 2 storey detached home in the big T.O. - small projects still in progress.

RFD priceless!
Jr. Member
Jun 23, 2017
171 posts
47 upvotes
badass wrote: My child started Mandarin school at age of 3.

We are non speaking Mandarin/Cantonese parents but we found a tutor for extra help.

She has been doing Saturday classes for almost 11 years and I am proud to say that its nice when she can speak to other Mandarin speaking kids around her and see parents jaws drop when they hear her.

Cheers!
That's very impressive
how many hours does your girl have for mandarin per week?
Can she read/write as well?
Deal Addict
Dec 24, 2007
1790 posts
352 upvotes
Toronto
Thank you, it takes time and I know she would rather sleep in but we are the parents and hopefully know better. lol

Classes are for 2 hours every Saturday and one hour of tutor per week.

She can speak, read and write fluently.

In grade 4 ( i think) she wrote the Ontario Mandarin test that she got 100% on, When we went to pick up the test, the person in charge handing out the reports took a second look at the test and at my daughter and smiled.

Cheers!
Andrewhl wrote: That's very impressive
how many hours does your girl have for mandarin per week?
Can she read/write as well?
Thread started in 2016 - 1927 fully gutted and renovated 2 storey detached home in the big T.O. - small projects still in progress.

RFD priceless!
Jr. Member
Jun 23, 2017
171 posts
47 upvotes
badass wrote: Thank you, it takes time and I know she would rather sleep in but we are the parents and hopefully know better. lol

Classes are for 2 hours every Saturday and one hour of tutor per week.

She can speak, read and write fluently.

In grade 4 ( i think) she wrote the Ontario Mandarin test that she got 100% on, When we went to pick up the test, the person in charge handing out the reports took a second look at the test and at my daughter and smiled.

Cheers!
Wow
Being able to read/write is essential for Mandarin. I always wonder if my son would ever be able to read/write Chinese characters like I do.I've seen too many Chinese-Americans/Canadians who can only speak but unable to read/write, i.e they cannot learn new vocabulary unless they heard it first.
Your daughters' story gives me a huge booster in confidence. My son is 2 now, I need to prepare him for chinese soon. He's been in daycare since he's 11 months old and he's been only speaking English so far.
Deal Addict
Dec 24, 2007
1790 posts
352 upvotes
Toronto
A young mind is great to shape.

Her classes end this year so we are looking into doing 2 hours tutoring during the weekday. We can’t let her lose everything thats been taught to her and having an advantage of knowing another language.

Cheers and good luck.
Thread started in 2016 - 1927 fully gutted and renovated 2 storey detached home in the big T.O. - small projects still in progress.

RFD priceless!
Deal Guru
User avatar
Mar 31, 2008
10886 posts
1737 upvotes
Toronto
Cantonese is a 'dying' language.
Deal Guru
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Jul 12, 2003
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at1212b wrote: Cantonese is a 'dying' language.
And die faster if even the parents now is not letting their kids to learn and speak Cantonese at this generation.

I agreed that Mandarin is more useful but if the parent is Cantonese, I would try my best to teach my next generation to speak the same language as their father, grand father, etc..
Retired Forum Moderator February 2009 - June 2015
Deal Addict
Nov 24, 2004
3927 posts
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at1212b wrote: Cantonese is a 'dying' language.
AFAIK a big part of this is from the policies of the People's Republic of China, who wish to promote standard Mandarin over "minority" languages like Cantonese.

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