Cantonese and English are the official languages of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (HKSAR), and Putonghua (Mandarin) is increasingly being used since the Handover in 1997. English is widely spoken and understood, and is still used by the Government and in the law courts. Hong Kong Island has a wider base of spoken English than either Kowloon or the New Territories, and there is little problem communicating with hotel staff, in restaurants or with taxi drivers.

China has over 1,500 recorded dialects, and the most frequently used forms of spoken Chinese are Cantonese and Putonghua (Mandarin). Most Cantonese speakers originate from the southern province of Guangdong, and this is the main dialect spoken in Hong Kong. Putonghua (Mandarin) is the official language spoken in Mainland China, and speakers of this dialect are mainly from the northern, central and south-western regions of China.

It is interesting to note that written Chinese is the same, no matter what dialect is spoken. The spoken dialects are unrelated from region to region and mostly unintelligible from each other.

The following organisations run language courses in Cantonese or Putonghua (Mandarin):

Berlitz Languages Limited
Suite 708, One Pacific Place
88 Queensway
Tel: +852 2826 9223

The University of Hong Kong
Pok Fu Lam Road
Pok Fu Lam
Tel: +852 2859 2111

Hong Kong Institute of Languages
6/F Wellington Plaza
56-58 Wellington Street
Tel: +852 2877 6160