What You Should Know About Cantonese and Mandarin Dialects


Are you planning to publish a video with Mandarin voiceover?

Maybe you’re thinking you should also consider dubbing it in Cantonese. But what are the differences between the two?

In this post, we listed the differences between the two spoken languages to help you in your video marketing strategy and insights as takeaways.

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1. GEOGRAPHY: Where it is widely used

The two major spoken Chinese languages are Mandarin and Cantonese. Although they are technically “Chinese” they are being used in different regions.

About two-thirds of China’s population use Mandarin or Putonghua while 55 million speakers use Cantonese in China.

Mandarin is the lingua franca of China. It’s the official state language and it’s also used in Taiwan and Singapore.

Of course, megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai use it but other provinces still use their dialects.

Cantonese, on the other hand, is used in Hong Kong, Macau, and most of Guangdong province and some people in eastern part of Guangxi region use it, too.

2. TONES: 5 tones vs. at least 6 tones

Mandarin has four tones and one neutral tone, which technically makes it a five-tone dialect.

While both dialects are tonal languages where one sound has many meanings depending on the speaker’s pronunciation and intonation. Cantonese has at least six tones – 6 phonemic tones and 3 checked tones.

3. GRAMMAR AND LEXICON: what are the differences

Both dialects share the same base alphabet and Cantonese shares some vocabulary with Mandarin.

But the two are mutually intelligible when it comes to pronunciation, grammar, and lexicon.

There are also differences in terms of sentence structure like some placement of verbs. Cantonese has different grammatical particles.

When should you use Mandarin voiceovers?

Now that you see the significant differences between the two, it’s likely that Mandarin will be your first choice when it comes to voiceovers and dubbing.

For starters, we suggest that you use Mandarin promotional videos for your Mainland audience and also the Chinese diaspora. The residents living in abroad also use this spoken language.

Need Mandarin voiceovers for your English videos? It’s the lingua franca in Mainland China.

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