With Duolingo being the go-to place to learn a language, we often expect the app to have every language, but does Duolingo have Cantonese, and if not, why not?
Spoken throughout Southern China, Macau, and Hong Kong, Cantonese is a popular language spoken by many people around the world.
While not as popular as the other variant of Chinese, Mandarin, which is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, Cantonese has a wide reach thanks to the business importance of Hong Kong and Macau, as well as the emigration of many Southern Chinese families.
Is There a Cantonese Course on Duolingo?
As it stands there is no Cantonese course on the English version of Duolingo. While the Duolingo incubator announced the release of Cantonese on the Chinese version of the language learning app back in June 2022, there still isn’t a Cantonese course on any other version.
It’s strange that they’ve developed a course but not made it available on multiple versions.
Are They Planning on Releasing Cantonese on Duolingo?
At the moment, Duolingo is not planning on releasing Cantonese on any other language versions of the app.
The fact is that they’ve only recently launched the course on the Chinese language platform, so it’s likely they’ll be working the kinks out on that version before they even think about making a version for English, Spanish and French users among others.
Why isn’t Cantonese on Duolingo?
There are a couple of reasons why there might not be a Cantonese course on Duolingo. Firstly, they already have a hugely popular and successful Mandarin course.
Although the two languages are not interchangeable, with Mandarin being the more popular Chinese language, the development of that language took precedence.
In the beginning that was understandable, but now they have the resources to create a Klingon course but not a language that is the first language of both Hong Kong and Macau? Not okay.
The next reason is that Cantonese is pretty difficult to teach. It uses the Chinese alphabet and has a lot of tonal aspects to it, which is tricky to translate into Duolingo’s no-frills approach to language learning.
It is more complex than Mandarin and as it’s not as widely spoken, there are fewer resources out there to help the course developers create the course.
This brings us to the fact that Duolingo no longer works with native-speaking volunteers. Previously, Duolingo employees worked alongside native volunteers, who were usually language teachers or tutors, to help them bring their courses to life.
Many languages need to be taught in a particular way or order, so having teachers that are familiar with the process, speeds up the development stages for Duolingo.
Now, this is not the case, so development is slower and reliant solely on Duolingo employees rather than utilizing volunteers.
3 App Alternatives to Duolingo with Cantonese Courses
So with Duolingo dropping the ball when it comes to learning Cantonese, what other apps can fill the gap?
Want to build up your vocabulary skills? Drops is an aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly way to learn more vocabulary in Cantonese.
The app has over 2000 Cantonese words and phrases and uses cool graphics as hints if you get stuck. It brings the traditional flashcard method of language learning to life and is accessible wherever you go!
The cool thing about Pimsleur is that it’s mostly focused on conversational skills rather than vocabulary or grammar alone. Unless you’re living in Hong Kong or Macau, it can be difficult to learn through the highly effective immersion method.
Pimsleur takes this idea and uses 30-minute audio lessons to help you immerse yourself in the language, actually hearing Cantonese which gives you the opportunity to brush up your pronunciation.
Pimsleur also has flashcards and quizzes designed to help improve your vocabulary and grammar, so together with the audio lessons, this app gives you a really well-rounded approach to learning Cantonese.
Struggling with the written and reading aspects of Cantonese? With the Cantonese character system, it can be difficult to get a handle on the language at a glance. Skritter is wholly dedicated to teaching Chinese characters in written and reading formats.
They have simplified Mandarin and traditional Cantonese to choose from and you receive feedback throughout the app.
From stroke order to tonal shifts to decompositions, Skritter covers it all. It’s a super helpful app that works well alongside more conversational teaching methods.
6 Ways to Learn Cantonese Outside of Apps
Now, apps aren’t the only way to learn Cantonese. Everyone learns in different ways, so here are some cool resources to help you learn Cantonese in a varied and interesting way.
Want a tutor to practice your conversational skills but don’t know where to start? Head to iTalki and search for Cantonese tutors from all around the world. You can check out reviews and compare hourly rates to find the tutor that’s right for you.
The best part? Everything is done over video calls, so you don’t need to be nearby. You can have an iTalki tutor that’s actually in Hong Kong, a native speaker, while you’re still chilling in the US.
If you are at an A2 or B1 (advanced beginner or intermediate) level of Cantonese, I highly recommend you try LingQ.
It’s my latest language obsession and I really think it changes the game entirely. LingQ makes it possible to study materials made for native speakers without getting overwhelmed.
You can upload anything onto LingQ, from Youtube videos to news articles, and it will tell you how many words in that video and article are new to you.
You can focus on consuming material that is more at your level (with 30% new words or less) instead of just reading anything and not being able to track your progress.
You can highlight phrases you don’t know and it automatically translates them and creates a flashcard for them which you can review later.
This week I read that reading is the best SRS (spaced repetition system) that there is. Meaning that instead of creating a ton of flashcards on Anki and reviewing them at spaced-out intervals, you could just read and you would naturally come across those words and be reminded in context.
3. YouTube Channels for Listening to Slow Cantonese
So, YouTube is such a great resource for learning about absolutely everything, from fixing household problems to learning about science and history. It’s no wonder that there are quite a few Cantonese language learning accounts that can help you with pronunciation and grammar issues.
There are also a number of Cantonese language news shows and channels on YouTube that you can watch and listen to, either with or without subtitles on, to immerse yourself in the language.
Even if you don’t understand everything they’re saying, just hearing the flow of the language means you’ll be getting used to the intonation, and you’ll be able to pick out odd words here and there as you improve.
Check out Learn Cantonese with CantoneseClass101.com and Dope Chinese with Gloria for slow Cantonese conversations and lessons.
This particular site has a giant library of video and audio content designed to help you improve your Cantonese skills. If you love language learning tapes or podcasts, this may be a really cool way for you to learn Cantonese.
Listen while you’re on your daily commute, while you’re cooking away or when you’re out on a walk. The hands-free method of learning is super convenient and great for understanding correct tonal pronunciation.
5. Language Books on Amazon
If you’re unsure where to start with learning Cantonese, go back to basics and hit the books. The Sidney Lau language books come straight from Hong Kong and although they might be a bit dated, they’re still great for learning grammar and understanding Cantonese.
They start right from the beginner level and work their way up the language levels, ideal for continued learning.
6. CantoDict Project
Love a good worksheet? This website is full of handy worksheets, tutorials, and quizzes to help put your knowledge to the test. Mostly focused on written and reading aspects of language learning, it’s a great accompaniment if you like learning through audio or video methods.
Conversational skills are great and super important, but they’re only half of the language learning process- you need to be able to read and write too if you want to fully understand Cantonese.
No Cantonese on Duolingo, But Still Lots of Ways to Learn
So, Duolingo does have a Cantonese course technically, but it’s only available for Chinese speakers.
With no indication that a Cantonese course for English speakers is on the way if you want to learn this amazing, but tricky language, you’re going to need to check out one of the apps or other language learning methods in this article.