China is one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world with experts tallying almost 300 living languages in the nation. There is seven main dialects within the Chinese language, and they are Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, Wu, Min, Xiang, and Gan. Mainland China uses Standard Mandarin, or Standard Chinese, a form of Mandarin, as their primary dialect while Hong Kong uses Cantonese and English as their official languages. Macao, an autonomous region which is under Chinese control, officially uses Cantonese and Portuguese as their official languages.

Over 70 percent of Chinese citizens speak some form of Mandarin as their primary language which accounts for over 900 million people. Six of the seven main dialects mentioned earlier is spoken in the southeast region of China which is south of the Yangtze River. Mandarin is spoken in the majority of Northern and Western China. Approximately 16% of the population of earth speaks some form of the Chinese language.

Many phrases can help on a journey to China, and although the characters of the language seem complicated, the phonetic execution of the language is not overly difficult. Xiexie (sshyeah-sshyeah), is a simple way to say “thank-you” and is a useful phrase to learn. Ni hao ma? (Nee-haoww-mah?) means, how are you? Or, are you okay? This phrase may be used to start a conversation or as a passing greeting. Wo xiang qu...(Wor sshyang chyoo …) is a way to ask where something is such as a restaurant, taxi, restroom, or airport. The name of the destination must be added to the end of this phrase.

As mentioned earlier, China is home to almost 300 living languages, 297 to be exact, so the minority languages in the country are extensive. Among the seven leading dialects, nothing comes close to Mandarin regarding the most common tongue. The Wu language has 80 million speakers who are mostly located in the eastern part of the country. Min has approximately 70 million speakers, and this language is primarily found in Southeastern China. Yue, a form of Cantonese is spoken by around 60 million people in the southern part of China. Adding all three of these minority language speakers together barely comes close to one-third of Mandarin speakers in the country although they make up over 200 million people!

This page was last modified on November 22nd, 2017