China Travel Agency & China Tour Operator
>> Home >> China Guide >> Chinese language
Chinese language
  • Chinese is the world’s most popular language, spoken by more than one billion people in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Taiwan, Hong Kong, and elsewhere in East Asia. In addition, significant Chinese-speaking populations live in urban centers around the world. San Francisco has the largest Chinese-speaking population outside of China.
    Chinese actually consists of a large number of dialects, all of which share a written language but are mutually unintelligible when spoken. Because of this, some linguists consider them separate languages instead of dialects. Mandarin is the most widely-spoken form of Chinese and is the official language of the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan. Other important linguistic groups include Wu, Xiang, Cantonese, Min, Hakka, and Gan. Within each of these groups, many variations in spoken language occur and it is said that speakers from one area may not understand those who live only a few miles away. The majority of Chinese speakers in the United States speak Cantonese.

    Chinese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family, which also includes Tibetan, Lolo-Burmese, and Karen. The Chinese language has influenced many of the other languages of East Asia. Written Chinese originated more than 4,000 years ago and remained relatively stable until the People’s Republic of China decided on a campaign to make it easier to read Chinese by simplifying the characters, which can have as many as 30 strokes. To date, the simplified Chinese characters have been adopted only in the PRC and Singapore, but Hong Kong may start to use them, following its 1997 reunification with the mainland. Another change initiated in the PRC is the widespread use of Pinyin, a system of romanization, representing the sounds of the Chinese language using the Latin alphabet.

    Chinese language

    Chinese is not only a language, it is a culture. The Chinese people are very proud of their long heritage and you cannot expect that everyone you meet will speak English. This has little to do with insufficient education. Areas that have a large tourism industry will have many more English speakers, generally English is not widely spoken by average people. We designed this dictionary as a tool to assist you while you are in China.

    The Chinese language is a tonal language of sound. Many words sound very similar but a slight tonal difference changes the meaning of the word.
    Every word has a different Chinese character. In order to differentiate between these syllables it is important to know the right pronunciation. For this, Chinese has 4 different tones.
    4 tones                                                             
    1.Tone:  steady                     ̄
    2.Tone:  rising                      /                            
    3.Tone:  falling and rising        ∨
    4.Tone:  falling                    ﹨
    The most common example is the word "ma", which can have 5 different meaning, depending on the pronunciation.

    We have prepared an extensive list of words and phrases that may be useful to you as a traveler in China.
    By showing a Chinese person the Chinese Characters matching the English word, you will be able to communicate simple requests or have a short conversation.
    Spoken and Written Languages

    The Han people have their own spoken and written languages. Chinese belongs to the Han-Tibetan language family. It is the most commonly used language in China, and one of the most commonly used languages in the world. Written Chinese emerged in its embryonic form of carved symbols approximately 6,000 years ago. The Chinese characters used today evolved from those used in bone and tortoise shell inscriptions more than 3,000 years ago and the bronze inscriptions produced soon after. Drawn figures were gradually reduced to patterned strokes, pictographs were reduced to symbols, and the complicated graphs became simpler. Early pictographs and ideographs were joined by pictophonetic characters. In fact, there are six categories of Chinese characters: pictographs, self-explanatory characters, associative compounds, pictophonetic characters, phonetic loan characters, and mutually explanatory characters. Chinese words are monosyllabic. A large proportion of Chinese characters are composed of an ideogramatic element combined with a phonetic element. Many non-Chinese sometimes get the feeling that there are an unlimited number of Chinese characters. How many Chinese characters are there exactly? The Qing Dynasty Kang Xi Dictionary, completed in 1716, contains more than 47,000 characters. The eight-volume Hanyu Da Cidian (Chinese Lexicon) published in 1986-1990 contains over 56,000 characters. However, only about 3,000 characters are in common use. In addition to their functional value as symbols for records and communications, Chinese characters have an aesthetic value as calligraphy.

    All China’s 55 minority peoples have their own languages except the Hui and Manchu, who use Chinese; 21 of these have a written form, using 27 kinds of languages. Five language families are represented in China: 29, including Zhuang, Dai, Tibetan, Yi, Miao and Yao, are within the Han-Tibetan language family; 17, including Uygur, Kazak, Mongolian and Korean, are within the Altaic language family; three, the Va, Deang and Blang, are within the South Asian language family; Tajik and Russian belong to the Indo-European language family; and Gaoshan is an Austronesian language. The Jing language has yet to be classified typologically. Nowadays, classes in schools in predominantly national minority areas are taught in the local language, using local language textbooks