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Cantonese is a dialect of Chinese spoken in Hong Kong and internationally, and is notable for its relative popularity in the United States. If you've made it your goal to learn Cantonese, whether in preparation for a trip, for business purposes, or to fulfill an academic language requirement, it is important that you be particular about the way in which you go about learning this language. Classes that simply teach you Chinese may very well teach you Mandarin, the dialect of Chinese that is spoken by the greatest number of people. While Mandarin and Cantonese both are represented using Chinese characters, a great number of differences between the dialects make them extremely distinct, to the point where speakers of each are unintelligible to one another. Your Cantonese tutor can assist you in speaking and writing this dialect most fluently.
The way in which a Mandarin speaker and a Cantonese speaker pronounce a certain character can differ widely, and Cantonese involves unique grammatical rules and sentence structures in comparison to Mandarin. Cantonese also includes characters not used in Mandarin, and to make matters more confusing, certain characters can mean one thing in Mandarin and a completely different thing in Cantonese! Obviously, if you want to learn Cantonese, you need to find instruction and resources that deal with this dialect specifically. In the long run, you will be able to effectively communicate and possibly find opportunities you never thought possible - from detailed conversations with Chinese friends to furthering your studies in this area, or landing a job that requires such abilities. A future trip to China can end up being productive and interesting, being that you'll be able to communicate on an impressive level with the locals.