The Languages of China

The Chinese language has quite a few differences that make it stand apart from any other language.

The Spoken Language

     Chinese holds seven major dialects, different from other widely spoken languages such as English or Spanish. Based on where one may live in China, they would speak a certain dialect:  Mandarin dialects, spoken by 71.5 percent of the population, Wu, spoken by 8.5 percent of the population, Yue, also know as Cantonese, spoken by 5 percent, Xiang, spoken by 4.8 percent, Min, spoken by 4.1 percent, Hakka, spoken by 3.7 percent, and Gan, spoken by 2.4 percent.

     These dialects can have many differences. People from two different sides of China may not even be able to fully understand each other. For example, there is probably as much difference between the dialects of Peking (Beijing) closer to the northern part of China, and Chaozhou, closer to the southern end, as there is between French and Italy.

     Although there are many different dialects in China, as of 1911, there is one official national language of China, 普通话(Pǔtōnghuà). Mandarin was chosen as the official language because is was the dialect spoken in the Northern Regime and especially Beijing.

The Written Language

     The Chinese writing system was developed about 4,000 years ago. It consists of more than 40,000 logographic symbols, meaning that each character represents one concept. In addition, the Chinese writing system influenced many languages of East Asia, including Japanese. Did you know that Chinese used to be written from right to left in vertical columns?

   What makes Chinese so different from all the other languages, is that one, Chinese doesn’t have an alphabet, but they form characters using a combination of strokes, in different orders. Also, Chinese is a tonal language meaning that depending on how you pronounce a word, you could be saying two extremely different things. Overall, Chinese is a remarkable language.


There are 16 comments

  1. Jason S.

    Great article Dylan! Thanks for sharing! It’s so interesting to learn about the history and statistics behind the spoken and written language of China!

  2. Tiffany C

    Very informative article! I didn’t know there were so many dialects in the Chinese language. It’s interesting to wonder about how they were developed, and how people around China are all speaking variations of Chinese but sometimes won’t be able to understand each other. Great job with writing this article! I hope to see more articles from you soon.

  3. lujia zou

    The statistic in this article impressed me a lot and the information provided by this article is very interesting. The history of Chinese language is long and mystery.

  4. Matthew L.

    What an informative article, Dylan. I am fluent in Italian, which is another language with many dialects throughout its twenty regions. I definitely can relate to this. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Ashley K

    Great article to read! I never knew that China had 7 different dialects! Very interesting to know about all the different dialects.

  6. Joanna

    What a very interesting article. It’s amazing to learn about just how large China is, and how many dialects it holds. Good job!

  7. Nikki W

    This article was very interesting and informative! The statistics in this article were very surprising to me. I definitely learned something new about the Chinese language.

  8. Daryn N.

    So interesting. We speak Chinese every day in class, but we never really think about the different dialects. Thank you so much for sharing.

  9. Michael Lin

    Great article, I didn’t know that there were so many different dialects. I thought that there were only two or three, I didn’t know that there were SEVEN!!!!

  10. Richard R

    That’s extremely fascinating. I knew there were 3-4 major Chinese dialects, however I never knew there were seven! China is such a fascinating and diverse country.

  11. Joanne Li

    It was interesting to learn about the percentages of each major dialect spoken in China! I hadn’t known that only 71.5% of Chinese people spoke Manadarin.

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