China is a vast nation boasting diversified nationalities and languages. With 56 ethnic groups, there are over 100 languages used in China, and there are countless local dialects. The official language in China is Putonghua (普通话), literally translated as 'common speech', which is known in English as Mandarin Chinese, or Standard Chinese. It is the most widely used language in China and the world at large, and one of the 6 official languages of the United Nations.
Modern Chinese can be divided into Mandarin and dialects. Mandarin takes the Beijing dialect as its standard pronunciation, the dialect of people in North China as its basis, and classic modern colloquial works as its linguistic regulations. On October 31st, 2000, the Law of Universal Language and Character of the People's Republic of China came into force and it stipulates Mandarin as the universal national language.
Mandarin Chinese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family, and is the shared language of most Chinese people. Chinese people who speak other languages, often also speak or use Mandarin as their second mother tongue. If you intend to learn Chinese, it is most useful to learn Mandarin Chinese.
Of the other varieties of Chinese, the most widely used ones are Cantonese and Hakka. These languages are mainly used in South China, and they are distinctively different in pronunciation from Mandarin. Cantonese is common and influential in Guangdong Province, Hong Kong (together with English) and Macau (together with Portuguese), as well as numerous Cantonese-speaking overseas communities. In many countries' China towns, there are many Cantonese emigrants. Hakka is widely spoken in Fujian Province, Taiwan Island, and some countries in Southeast Asia, such as Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Also read how to communicate with Chinese?
Chinese Calligraphy Experiences
- By joining our Beijing Tours, Xi’an Tours or Guilin Tours, visitors can add Chinese calligraphy classes to the itinerary at very favorable prices.
- Most comprehensive museums in China have calligraphy collections. See our Museums Tours.
- For travelers who are interested in the history, evolution and cultural relics of Chinese calligraphy, Museum of Chinese Characters in Anyang City, Henan Province is a good choice. The Stele Forest Museum in Xi’an City houses many works of noted ancient calligraphers as well as precious stone sculptures.
- Contact us for a tailor-made tour.
FAQs About Learning Chinese
- How many people use Chinese?
Chinese is used by approximately 1.3 billion people around the world, that is almost one sixth of the world’s population.
- Is it difficult to learn Chinese?
Learning Chinese, like learning any other foreign languages, always poses a challenge for non-native speakers. It is important to practice on a regular basis, ideally spend some time on it every day or every week.
- How many Chinese characters do I need to know?
Mastering 3000-4000 frequently used characters is enough to cover daily conversations and readings.