So, you want to learn Chinese?

Do you want to learn, Shanghainese, Mandarin, Hakka, Southern Min, Cantonese…[1]

“Chinese” is far too general of a term that English speakers use to encompass the huge linguistic variety that exists in China and Taiwan. Let’s look at a map

2219px-map_of_sinitic_languages_full-en-svg
By Wyunhe [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
This map shows that mandarin is the most dominant dialect in China. The main linguistic variety exists in South east China. This map is showing distinct languages that fall under the term “Chinese”, but there are huge numbers of dialects that far outnumber what are shown on this map.

Mandarin is by far the largest dialect with around 900 million speakers and more if L2 (second language speakers) are counted.[2] Now let’s look a little bit at Mandarin.

Mandarin or (中文,普通话) is the official language used by media and the government in China and Taiwan.

Mandarin in some form has existed for hundreds of years, but in the 1930s the Chinese central government decided that the language would have its pronunciation based on the Beijing dialect and be the official language.[3]

So, what is the main point?

Know which language or dialect you want to learn and call it by its name. There are a huge variety of languages and dialects in China and Taiwan, so it is best to actually call them by their names and not use over generalizing English terms that neglect this linguistic variety.


-Credits/ Sources- listed and in the linked document

Works cited document

  1. Egerod, Søren Christian. “Chinese languages.” Encyclopædia Britannica. August 31, 2006. Accessed April 28, 2017. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Chinese-languages.
  2. “Mandarin (普通话 / 汉语 / 国语 / 华语).” Mandarin Chinese. http://www.omniglot.com/chinese/mandarin.htm.
  3. Ibid

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