How many Chinese dialects are there
The Chinese languages
About 95% of the Chinese population speaks Chinese. On the other hand, there are non-Chinese languages like Tibetan, Mongolian, Lolo, Miao, and Tai. Most of the Chinese-speaking population lives in China (more than 980 million), Hong Kong and Taiwan (19 million). But there are also larger Chinese-speaking populations across Southeast Asia, especially in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Chinese-speaking communities can also be found in many other parts of the world, e.g. in Europe, North and South America, and Hawaii.
Chinese languages and dialects
Spoken Chinese includes many regional variants - known as dialects - even if some dialects are viewed as a separate language:
- Mandarin is the most widely spoken in China and consists of a wide range of different dialects in the northern, central and western regions.
- The Cantonese dialect is spoken in Hong Kong, Guangdong, southern Guangxi Zhuang, parts of Hainan, Macau and many overseas offices.
- Hakka (KejiaLanguages are spoken in Guangdong, Southwest Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Yunnan, Guangxi, Guizhou, Sichuan, Hainan, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, many Chinese overseas communities, and in some places in Southeast Asia.
- Most of the residents of the south-central region of Hunan speak the Xiang dialect, also known as Hunanese.
- The Min dialects are spoken in almost all of Fujian, in large areas of Taiwan and Hainan, in parts of east Guangdong and the Leizhou-Bandao Peninsula, and in areas of Southeast Asia.
- Most of the people who live in Jiangxi, an eastern part of Hunan and the southeast corner of Hubei, use the Gan dialects.
- Most of the residents of Zhejiang, as well as those who live in the southern regions of Jiangsu and Anhui, speak the Wu dialects.
- The Wu dialects have a few minor similarities with the Mandarin and Gan dialects.
The national language
In 1913, the Ministry of Education convened a commission to standardize pronunciation in order to introduce a national language. Due to the majority of Mandarin-speaking MPs, the Beijing dialect became the general base for the new national language guoyu elected. It contains the pronunciation of the Beijing dialect, the grammar of the Mandarin dialects, and the vocabulary of modern Chinese literature, although peculiarities of various local dialects have been incorporated.
Guoyu is now the official language of mainland China, Taiwan, and one of the official languages in Singapore. After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, it was incorporated into putonghua (general language) renamed. In 1956 it became the language of instruction in all schools across the country, and a campaign was launched to promote its use. It is the most widely used form of spoken Chinese today.
Written Chinese is understood by anyone who speaks Mandarin, Cantonese, or any other Chinese dialect. Many symbols are also used in Korea, Japan and Vietnam. There are roughly 3,500 simple Chinese symbols that can be pieced together to create an additional 10,000 complex symbols.
Nowadays the Chinese characters are mostly written from the top left corner horizontally from left to right, just like in German. However, some symbols are still written from top to bottom, or even horizontally from right to left.
The phonetic transcription (pinyin)
One cannot guess the pronunciation of a Chinese word by looking at the symbol. To help foreigners learn Chinese, a phonetic transcription was called pinyin, developed. Many street signs and products are not only labeled with Chinese characters, but also in pinyin.
Foreigners often wonder how the Chinese manage to type the thousands of characters into a computer without using a keyboard the size of a soccer field. To handle the Chinese characters, you need a software program such as NJ Star that can read the pinyin- Type the pronunciation of a word and it will be converted automatically. For a selection of Chinese language programs, go to www.mandarintools.com.
By Just Landed
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