Cantonese is the most commonly used dialect in Hong Kong and Guangdong, China. It has been dominating Chinatown neighborhoods for decades in both the South and North America.
The history of Cantonese can be tracked back to Qin Dynasty of China (221BC). Research of many linguists suggest that Cantonese was once considered as 雅言 (literary language) during both Qin and Han Dynasties, and 雅言 (literary language) was the earliest communicating language in ancient China. In addition to considering Cantonese as 雅言 (literary language), the rhyming of 唐诗宋词 (poetry of Tang Dynasty and verse of Song Dynasty) is also prevailing when it is read and enunciated in Cantonese.
Although Cantonese shares many characteristics of its grammar and characters with Mandarin Chinese, it has an entirely different Romanization and tonal system than Mandarin. Cantonese characters are not considered as formal written Chinese; however, since Cantonese and Mandarin still share most of the Chinese characters, there is still a practical value learning spoken Cantonese and written Chinese simultaneously.
Mandarin, or also known as Putonghua, is the capital language of China. There are 6 major dialects and more than 200 individual dialects spoken among Chinese people. Mandarin is the lingua franca among those who come from different regions and do not share their native dialects.
The term “Mandarin” in fact refers to the language that was spoken only among government officials in ancient China. Ordinary people were never taught in “Mandarin” in ancient China. Putonghua, which means “the common language,” is the more accurate term that Chinese people refer to as their capital language. However, “Mandarin” has become the most accepted term in English that indicates the national language of China.
Most students in China were taught in Mandarin nowadays (except those who live in rural areas). There is a practical value learning Mandarin for traveling or doing business overseas. Even in regions where Cantonese or other dialects are dominated, Mandarin can still be understood by most people.
Taishanese or Toisanese, is considered as one of the Yue dialects. It is the main dialect in the Taishan region within Guangdong province. Cantonese is the most well-known dialect among all of the other Yue dialects, and the difference between Taishanese and Cantonese is the greatest comparing to other Yue dialects.