In Hong Kong, Cantonese is the primary spoken language. Although it has a lot of speakers, not many outside the region and surrounding areas are fluent in it, which is why some aspiring overseas students may hesitate to enrol at a local school or university. These students, however, need not worry.
A lot of courses written in the international school syllabus have an English translation. In fact, school administrators use English to communicate with students. Still, if you want to make student life easier in Hong Kong, it is best to brush up on the basics of Cantonese.
Getting around China’s Special Administrative Region
Basic knowledge of Cantonese will come in handy, especially when you commute to school. Although the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) and big buses have well-managed systems and clearly defined routes, some taxis and small buses require you to know exactly where you are going. In fact, some taxi drivers may not know or understand the English names of some places or buildings. So, if you plan on taking a cab, make sure to learn the Cantonese translation of your destination. It would also help to learn common Cantonese phrases in case you need to provide directions.
Socialising with the Locals
Equally important to maximising your stay in Hong Kong is getting along with its people. A huge part of school life, after all, is socialising — not just with your fellow students, but with Hong Kong locals as well. If you only speak English, you might be hindered by the language barrier and not find the conversation interactive enough. Learning even the most rudimentary social phrases in Cantonese before arriving in Hong Kong will surely help with your social life.
Although studying in Hong Kong is possible without knowing any Cantonese, it is best to have at least a couple of useful phrases in your arsenal before you start studying there. If you are interested in learning Cantonese, feel free to enrol in Cantonese classes in your university. Alternatively, you can ask local friends to teach you the basics.