Cal Interpreting & Translations (CIT) offers Cantonese interpreters and translators with legal, medical, and specialty experience, including criminal and civil matters, employee meetings, engineering, patent cases, labor disputes, immigration, and more.

CIT offers comprehensive Cantonese language services including interpretation, translation, and transcription, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, worldwide. Our interpreters and translators are native speakers who have been screened, certified, provided credentials, field tested, and kept up to date with developments in both English and Cantonese languages through means such as lectures, conferences, and travel.  Cal Interpreting & Translations’ Cantonese language interpreters and translators possess in depth knowledge of the Cantonese language, as well as of the culture and history of the Cantonese people, allowing them to provide informed and complete interpretation and translation.

Who speaks Cantonese?

The Cantonese language takes its name from modern day Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province in southern China, which, historically, was known to Westerners as “Canton”. Guangzhou is located in the south of China, and is one of the largest cities in the entire country. Cantonese is spoken mostly in Southern China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Macau, and Malaysia. It is the official language of Hong King and Macau. Cantonese is also spoken by a large diaspora population in many places, including Melbourne and northern California. Current estimates of numbers of Cantonese speakers is at about just over 100,000,000 people.

A History of the Cantonese Language

Cantonese is from the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. Cantonese was first developed around Guangzhou in southeastern China. As the city has long been viewed as an important cultural center, Cantonese emerged as the “prestige dialect” of the Yue varieties of Chinese during its development during the Southern Song dynasty.

Both Macau and Hong Kong’s Chinese populations came largely from the 19th and 20th century immigration from Guangzhou and surrounding areas, which made Cantonese the dominant Chinese language in these territories, even after the cession of Macau to Portugal in 1557, and Hong Kong to Britain in 1842. On mainland China, Cantonese continued to serve as the lingua franca of Guangdong and Guangxi well after Mandarin was made the official language of the government by the Qing dynasty in the early 1900s. Even afterwards, Cantonese managed to remain the dominant language in southeastern China, that is, until the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. At this time, Standard Chinese was promoted as the only official language of the nation.

Dialects of Cantonese

The name “Cantonese” is often misused, technically. The name Cantonese is often used to refer to multiple different dialects of Chinese, including the Guangzhou dialect, Xiguan dialect, Hong Kong dialect, Wuzhou dialect, and Tanka dialect of Yue. However, “Cantonese” can also refer to the primary branch of the Cantonese language, which contains Cantonese proper, along with Taishanese and Gaoyang. Technically, this broader umbrella should be specified as “Yue”.

Historically, Cantonese speakers called this variety of Chinese “Canton speech” or “Guangzhou speech”, though today this term is not often used outside mainland China. In Guangdong and Guangxi, Chinese speakers often called Cantonese “provincial capital speech” or “plain speech”.

Though Cantonese is technically a dialect of Chinese, Cantonese differs so greatly from Mandarin, the most commonly spoken dialect of Chinese, that the languages are totally mutually unintelligible. Linguists often note that Cantonese is more closely related to Classical Chinese than Mandarin.