Thank you for visiting the learn chinese nyc blog, the blog that talks about learning Chinese in New York City. It is an interesting topic to bring up, but we should add to this blog the option of learning Cantonese, instead of just the traditional assumption that the word Chinese automatically means “Mandarin” Chinese.
When traveling through mainland China, you will find that all Chinese are generally educated based on the mandarin language, and all Chinese can generally understand and communicate in Mandarin. However, when speaking in depth with a Chinese person, you will find that Mandarin Chinese is in fact sometimes not their native language. There are multiple “dialects” of Chinese throughout China that the Chinese people will generally speak at home.
Now, why is this relevant to someone learning Chinese in New York City? Well, why do you want to learn Chinese? You might think that it is the language of the future, the business language, a strong career builder for you. While these assumptions could be correct, you could also be interested in learning Chinese because of a significant other in your life. And if this is the case, you have done your homework and asked your potential family-in-law “Hey, I would like to communicate and understand some of what is going on around the dinner table. What language should I learn?” And in response, they would have told you almost without hesitation “Mandarin”.
However, after dinner talking with your significant other, you might have come to find out that what the family was speaking was not Mandarin Chinese but Cantonese. Interesting you ask her, but, we live in Chinatown in Manhattan, home of a large Chinese population and when we go out to eat everyone is speaking Mandarin, correct? Wrong, you might come to find out that even Chinatown has a lot Cantonese speakers, in fact, it could be the main business language on the street.
The point of this article is not to discredit mandarin Chinese as a choice for language learners, in fact, you will see that it is quite a commonly understood and useful language across the world. However, there could be a preferred language amongst Chinese that is being spoken that you don’t recognize, and that language could easily be Cantonese.
Cantonese can actually be taught, and yes, there are classes for it. While it is rare compared to Mandarin Chinese, Hills Learning (spoiler alert the learning center supports this blog) does teach Cantonese classes either online or in person at their NYC location. Cantonese is very much alive, just basically because people who live in NYC / Hong Kong / Southern China, etc still speak it and use it to communicate.