Standard Chinese, also known as Mandarin and Putonghua, is a standardized variety of Chinese. It is the sole official language of both the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China; it is also one of the four official languages of Singapore. It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Mandarin is in most areas the primary spoken language, including Beijing and Shanghai, although some provinces still retain their own local dialect. Mandarin is also the main dialect in Taiwan and Singapore.
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Fun Facts About Mandarin Chinese
- Around 1 billion people speak Mandarin Chinese around the world. The Mandarin language has more native speakers than any other language.
- Mandarin Chinese doesn’t have an alphabet. It is written with symbols. These symbols are called Chinese characters. Chinese characters represent the oldest writing system in the world.
- There are over 100,000 Chinese characters recorded in the most advanced Mandarin Chinese dictionaries. New Chinese symbols are developed all the time, so the amount of Chinese characters never stops increasing.
- Mandarin Chinese has four tones. It means that for one given syllable, or word, you have four different meanings. For example: the word “ma” can either mean horse, mother, hemp, or to scold.
- Putonghua is how Mandarin Chinese language is called in China. It means “common speech” or “standard language”. In Taiwan, Mandarin Chinese is called Guoyu, which means “national language”.
- Unlike the French, German or English, Chinese has no verb conjugations (without having to remember verb tenses!), And no noun declension (for example, the difference between gender and number).
Both the Mandarin and Cantonese dialects are tonal languages, where one word has many meanings depending on the pronunciation and intonation. Cantonese has nine tones, whereas Mandarin has just five, making it easier to learn.
The History Of Mandarin
Due to its geographic size, China has always been a land of many languages and dialects. Mandarin emerged as the language of the ruling class during the latter part of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644).
The Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912) began to use the term guānhuà, or “official speech”, to refer to the speech used at the courts. The term “Mandarin” is borrowed directly from Portuguese. The Capital of China switched from Nanjing to Beijing in the latter part of the Ming Dynasty, and remained in Beijing during the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1912). Since Mandarin is based on the Beijing dialect, it naturally became the official language of the court. Nonetheless, the large influx of officials from various parts of China meant that many dialects continued to be spoken at the Chinese court. It was not until 1909 that Mandarin became the national language (guó yǔ) of China.