So you’ve decided to learn the historically and culturally rich language that is Cantonese. Maybe you’ve booked a trip to Hong Kong, Macau, or maybe Guangzhou. Perhaps you’re learning the language to reconnect with your heritage, or the heritage of a friend or loved one. Whatever your reason is for learning Cantonese, you’re excited. You can’t wait to start.
You’ve heard of Babbel languages, and you figure you’ll begin by using the Babbel Cantonese course. There just one problem:
There is no Babbel Cantonese course.
Why is there no Babbel Cantonese course?
Babbel doesn’t offer most Asian languages
Cantonese isn’t the only language that fails to appear on Babbel. Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai also don’t have a Babbel course. Though I can’t say for sure, I suspect that this is because these languages are more difficult to teach native English speakers, because they use a completely different writing system.
Cantonese uses traditional Chinese characters, instead of an alphabet for its writing system. If there were a Cantonese Babbel course, it would have to help users learn characters. I don’t think Babbel is willing to invest the time in resources it would take to adapt their method to teaching Cantonese.
Cantonese isn’t as popular as other foreign languages
There are well over 70 million Cantonese speakers. Still, ask someone who’s learning Chinese which chinese language they’re learning, and they’re likely to answer Chinese Mandarin. Even though Cantonese is a traditional chinese language, it’s more often than not overlooked by language learners. This is probably another reason why Babbel hasn’t developed a Cantonese course. They simply don’t think there will be enough interest in it.
Alternatives to Babbel Cantonese
Cantoneseclass101 is an excellent way to learn how to read, pronounce, and understand Cantonese. The course is set up like a podcast. Each lesson is an episode. Episodes are sorted into seasons, which are sorted by difficulty level.
Each episode of Cantoneseclass101 is built around a recorded conversation between two Cantonese speakers. Two podcast hosts explain the grammar and vocabulary used in the conversation. They even highlight interesting cultural insights as well.
Cantoneseclass101 also has a bunch of free learning resources to help you learn Cantonese. There’s a English-Cantonese dictionary, also phrase lists, writing lessons which teach you how to write Chinese characters, pronunciation trainers, and a lot more.
Pimsleur is a Cantonese audio course that teaches you conversational Cantonese through its unique question-recall-response technique. In each Pimsleur lesson you are taught a series of Cantonese phrases. Then you are asked to speak and ask your own questions in Cantonese. You have a limited time to reply before you hear the correct answer.
These audio lessons are intense, but they're also super effective at teaching you to speak and even think in Cantonese. Pimsleur also places a huge emphasis on pronunciation, and breaks down longer Cantonese phrases into individual words and syllables.
Because it’s chiefly an audio course, Pimsleur Cantonese doesn’t offer much in the way of reading or writing. There’s also currently only one level of Cantonese available (most Pimsleur courses have five levels).
Italki connects you the language learner, with language teachers from across the globe. On Italki you can book one on one Canontese lessons with a certified Canontese teacher or tutor (there are currently over 100 Cantonese teachers on the site). The lessons take place over video chat, and can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half (depending on which lesson type you choose).
Italki allows you to learn Cantonese with a real native speaker, which is something Babbel Cantonese could never do (even if it existed). In addition to lessons with teachers, Italki also provides some great free resources like a public Cantonese journal, where you can write and have your text corrected by native speakers.
There’s also a forum where you can ask native speakers specific questions. You can search Italki users for Cantonese speakers who are learning English and set up a language exchange.
After you a make purchase of $20 or more and complete your first lesson, $10 in Italki credits will be added into your account*
Don’t let the absence of a Babbel Cantonese course, keep you from learning the language. Use the resources in post to jump start your language journey and start learning Cantonese today!