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Cantonese is a Chinese variety with more than 73 million speakers in the world. It is a dominant dialect in Guangdong and part of Guangxi Provinces (mainland China), and the de facto official language of Hong Kong and Macau. In Australia, there are more than 280 thousand Cantonese speakers, making it the nation’s third most spoken language other than English. Historically, Cantonese was the ethnolect of the first Chinese immigrants, and it continues to be the main community/heritage language of the Chinese diaspora worldwide. Cantonese speakers represent their identity and construct social spaces through Cantonese. It is a language that symbolizes their cultural traditions and cultural worldview. Cantonese also maintains its important status as a medium of communication in international commerce, especially in the Sino-World trading. Studying Cantonese is beneficial for students of commerce, international relations, social science, history, linguistics, cultural studies, and education.


The Cantonese program at ANU is the only university-based Cantonese language program in Australia. The program aims to develop students’ communication skills in Cantonese, with a special focus on developing proficiency in Cantonese speaking and listening. It is also our aim to build our students’ knowledge and skills in translation and interpreting between Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, which is valuable in professional business settings. Most importantly, we contextualize Cantonese language learning and we encourage students to use their language skills to learn and discuss issues that are central to understanding the cultural and social realities of the Cantonese societies. In addition, we also endeavour to provide a cultural perspective, challenging the stereotypic perception of Cantonese. Besides the geographic regions where Cantonese is traditionally spoken, students will also learn about the Cantonese diaspora worldwide and explore the role of Cantonese in multilingual and multicultural practice.  

Study options

The Cantonese courses at ANU follow the principles of interactive and immersed learning and are conducted in a hybrid mode of online and in-person delivery. Each course consists of a two-hour weekly lecture delivered in person, which also invites real-time online participation. Students are then required to attend a weekly one-hour tutorial either in person or online per their preference. Students are also encouraged to engage in after-class self-learning with provided supplementary materials. The courses use learning texts sourced from multiple high-quality textbooks and materials specifically made and tailored for the class themes. Multimedia materials such as songs, movies and literary works are introduced to enrich learning experiences. The courses have innovative assessments including vlog production, class debate, focus group project, essay writing, and cultural/social case study to encourage active and critical learning. Completing the Cantonese courses partially fulfils the requirements for a major or a minor in Chinese language.

Undergraduate courses Cantonese 1Cantonese 2 and Cantonese 3. See ANU Programs and Courses for study options.

The School of Culture, History and Language places a unique emphasis on in-country experience. For more information on exchange programs and in-country language opportunities, visit the ANU global programs or enquire