China has the oldest written language in the world, dating back 6,000 years ago. A written language uses symbols to represent different vocabulary. A standard Chinese dictionary has over 40,000 symbols, but one only needs to learn 4,000 characters to read a Chinese newspaper. This article highlights other Chinese languages and the translation issues involved.
How Many Languages Are Spoken in China?
There are more than 302 languages in China. Two hundred seventy-six of the languages are native. China is one of the largest countries in the world, where it is almost the size of Europe. The large size explains the existence of many languages, although history also plays a part.
What Languages Do Chinese Speak?
Mandarin is the official language of China. It was declared official in the 1930s when its dialect was standardized. This language is spoken by 73% of the Chinese population. It is also the most popular language beyond the Chinese borders. Mandarin is not only the primary language in China, but it is also popular in Taiwan.
The Second Most Popular Language in China
Cantonese, also referred to as Yue, is the second most popular language in China. The language is spoken by more than 60 million Chinese. Cantonese originated in Guangzhou, and that is where it is mainly spoken. It is one of the ancient languages that are fading fast. Yue can be differentiated from Mandarin by the number of tones. Cantonese has nine tones, while Mandarin has four-five tones.
Types Of Chinese Languages
There are around seven major types of Chinese languages which can also be denoted as dialects. The main ones are Mandarin and Cantonese, as mentioned earlier. Other languages include Gan, Hakka, Min, Wu, and Xiang. It is impossible to answer the question, how many Chinese dialects are there? Each language has its dialects, and some of the main languages are dialects themselves.
Written Chinese Language
Written Chinese language is classified into simplified, traditional, and informal slang language. Simplified language is under the Mandarin language, where different characters are simplified. Formal language is not simplified, and it is common in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan. The Cantonese language has developed informal slang over the years, which is used in informal settings.
Spoken Chinese Language
Spoken language comprises different dialects. The dialects differ by pronunciation and vocabulary. The main dialect is Mandarin, and that is why it has been named as the official language. Spoken Chinese language is more sorted compared to the written language.
Classification of Chinese Dialects by Region
- Mandarin- Southwestern and northern China
- Cantonese- Hong Kong
- Xiang- Hunan province
- Gan- Jiangxi and southeastern Hubei
- Wu- Zhejiang and southern regions of Jiangsu and Anhui
- Hakka- Northeastern parts of Guangdong, southeast Asia, and southern Jiangxi
The History Behind the Diverse Chinese Languages
Initially, China was not one nation. There was division across the Yellow River where different groups had their empires. The Han people had their dialect, which was different from other regions. The large geography in China encouraged the diversity of people and languages. When different regions united, each group came with its dialect, thus explaining many dialects in China.
Foreign Languages Spoken in China
English is the most popular foreign language in China. More than 10 million people in China speak English. The English language is prevalent in urban areas such as Hong Kong. Apart from English, Portuguese is also a popular language in China. It is the official language in Macau. Other languages include Japanese, Russian, Korean and German.
China's View on Linguistic Heterogeneity
China acknowledges and appreciates its diverse languages. On April 20 every year, the country celebrates its culture and linguistic heritage. People are allowed to speak their dialects in different regions. However, Chinese are also required to learn the official language, which is the Mandarin language.
Modern Trends of Chinese Languages
Mandarin seems to be the future of Chinese languages. The language is growing in all parts of China and across the borders. The Chinese language has been simplified over the years to make it easy to understand. As a result, there have been fears that the language might lose its value. However, new technology in China is embracing the traditional characters through computer systems. This step might safeguard the native nature of the Chinese language.
The Best Chinese Language to Learn
Several factors should be considered when picking a language to learn. The main one is the purpose of learning the language. For example, Mandarin should be the first option if one wants to learn the Chinese language for business purposes. Mandarin is widely popular and also an official language. On the other hand, if it is for settlement purposes, one should consider the prevalent language in a specific region. For example, when settling in Hong Kong, Cantonese would be the best language.
The Easiest Chinese Language that one Can Learn
Mandarin is the most straightforward Chinese language to learn. The reason is that the language was simplified into four to five tones, making it easy to understand. On the other hand, Cantonese is the most difficult language to learn because it has nine tones. Understanding tones in China are essential because they define the meaning of a word or vocabulary.
Chinese Sign Language is used in China and Taiwan among deaf people, estimated to be over 20 million. Tibet has its sign language, which came into existence in 2001. The language is called Tibetan Sign Language, and it is a standardized language. Initially, sign language was not allowed in China because people believed it encouraged auditory deformities among children.
Translation Issues in China
Due to diverse Chinese dialects, translation is essential. People from different regions come with their dialects, and most are different in written and spoken forms. Foreigners also find it hard to understand the Chinese language due to its variation. However, translators and Chinese localization platforms understand diverse dialects and different foreign languages, due to which it is easy to interpret different dialects according to clients' needs.
China is one of the wealthiest countries in terms of culture and diversity. The heritage is evident due to the large number of languages that are spoken in the country. However, communication in the country is not a problem because translation and interpretation services are readily available in the modern world.