Language in Guangzhou

The primary language of Guangzhou is Cantonese, although standard Mandarin, or Putonghua, is also widely spoken due to the large influx of migrants. As with elsewhere in mainland China, standard Mandarin is the only language used in schools, so expect all educated people to be fluent in it. However, Guangzhou natives are known among the Chinese for their heavily accented Mandarin, which may take a while to get used to if you have just started learning Mandarin. As the Guangzhou dialect of Cantonese is considered to be the prestige dialect, Guangzhou is a good place to start for those wanting to learn Cantonese in its “purest” form.
The Cantonese language is also viewed as part of the cultural identity for the native speakers across large swathes of southern China, Hong Kong and Macau. Although Cantonese shares much vocabulary and grammatical structure with Mandarin Chinese, the two languages are not mutually intelligible, in large part because of pronunciation differences.
Cantonese has the most developed literature of any form of Chinese after Classical Chinese and Mandarin. It is used primarily in Hong Kong and in overseas Chinese communities, so it is usually written with traditional Chinese characters. Cantonese includes extra characters and characters with different meanings from Standard Written Chinese.
The largest number of Cantonese speakers outside mainland China and Hong Kong are in Canada and the United States; however, speakers of Min dialects predominate among the overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia. The Cantonese spoken in Singapore and Malaysia are known to have borrowed substantially from Malay and other languages.
English is not common, but is still better understood here than most other Chinese cities, especially in restaurants and bars. It’s a good idea to get your hotel’s business card so taxi drivers can take you back if you get lost, and also to get hotel staff to write down the names of any tourist attractions you wish to visit in Chinese, so that locals can point you in the right direction.

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