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Languages In China: What To Know

Posted by Ethan N. on November 24, 2023.

Given its size and lengthy and complex history, China has an astounding degree of linguistic diversity that remains unmatched in the world today. Go on to discover more about several hundreds of dialects and languages in China.

1. The History of language in China

China’s history is quite lengthy. The Chinese empire underwent several expansions and contractions over thousands of years. With every new territorial expansion, new ethnic and cultural groups were assimilated into China.

There were many bloody conflicts that coincided with the rise and fall of different Chinese dynasties. Political unrest gave rise to wars, which in turn caused social unrest and starvation. As a result, waves of refugees were compelled to move from one area to another, taking their languages and dialects with them (Hakka is a classic example of this). Several thousand years of turmoil contributed to the dispersion of several languages in China around the empire.

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In many cases, refugee groups sought protection in isolation from other people. When spoken separately, their spoken languages developed in a variety of ways while holding onto some of their initial linguistic characteristics. They gradually changed into the several languages spoken in China today.

2. The Chinese written language system

Simplified Chinese 

The streamlined form of traditional Chinese characters is known as simplified Chinese characters. One way to simplify traditional characters is to make them more streamlined by using fewer strokes. Simplified counterparts take the place of radical ones. Mandarin refers to Simplified Chinese characters as JiƎntɐzì.  

The goal of the communist leaders’ massive promotion of it during the 1950s was to educate the masses. Improved literacy rates among the populace is the goal, with a particular emphasis on mainland China.

Mainland China, Malaysia, and other countries utilize Simplified China. Over the past ten years, the Chinese government has made significant efforts to advance Chinese as a universal language.

Pinyin: Jiǎntǐzì
Traditional Chinese: 簡體字
Simplified Chinese: 简体字

Traditional Chinese

One of languages in China, traditional Chinese characters—called fán tɑ zì in Mandarin—are a writing system. This is an illustration of the Chinese writing system prior to reform. The main script in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau is still traditional Chinese, which can be explained by the fact that the 1950s reforms had little effect there.

Even though Malaysians who speak Chinese still understand and utilize traditional Chinese, the country uses simplified Chinese for educational purposes.

Pinyin: fán tǐ zì
Traditional Chinese: 繁體字
Simplified Chinese: 繁体字

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3. The language spoken in China

Mandarin

Putonghua, or standard Chinese, is the official national language of mainland China. Among the Mandarin-speaking communities, it serves as a common language. It is used by almost 70% of the Chinese population.

There are several varieties of Mandarin. Beijing, Southwestern, Jilu, Malaysian, Taiwanese, Singaporean, Zhongyuan, Northeastern, Lan-yin, etc. are a few examples.

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The dialect used in Beijing and, to a lesser extent, other parts of mainland China provides the basis for the standard version. It is regarded as the second most frequently spoken language worldwide.

In several other autonomous zones, many people speak the official languages in China. For instance, in the Tibet Autonomous Region, Tibetans hold official status, but in Inner Mongolia, Mongolians hold official status.

Cantonese

Mandarin and Cantonese are the most common answers to the question of how many spoken languages in China. In actuality, Mandarin and Cantonese are the two most commonly spoken and understood varieties of Chinese. These two languages appear to be interchangeable to those who are unaware of their differences.

There is a fascinating background to the word “Cantonese.” Before becoming Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province in China, it was called Canton, which is where the term “Cantonese” originated. Cantonese is the primary language spoken by about 60 million people in China, mostly in the province of Guangdong and in Hong Kong, where it is also widely spoken.

Toisanese

For over a century, the majority of Chinese immigrants to the United States were from the Taishan region of Guangdong, which includes Gom Benn Village. Whether they settled in America’s Chinatowns or elsewhere, among many languages in China, the majority of them spoke Taishanese. That was, at least, before a far greater number of Cantonese speakers arrived in the United States in the 1970s. More immigrants who speak Mandarin than Cantonese have arrived in recent decades. 

Currently, the Four-Counties area is home to about four million native speakers of this specific strain of Cantonese, often known as Taishanese/Toisanese 台䱱鯝 in the United States. Furthermore, there are an estimated 3.5–3.6 million descendants of the Four Counties who are residing overseas in more than 107 nations and territories. Their preferred travel locations are North America (US and Canada) and Hong Kong (1.5 million, including Macau).

4. Interpretation & Translation Issues

Many languages in China

Mandarin, Wu, Gan, Xiang, Min, Cantonese, Hakka, Jin, Hui, and Pinghua are some of the regional variations of the Chinese language that are truly referred to when we talk about Chinese. Some of the seven dialects of Chinese are indeed so dissimilar from one another that not even native speakers can communicate with one another.

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Chinese characters in writing

Chinese does not think of an alphabet in the same way that English does. Latin letters are used in China’s modern phonetic system, which can aid in children’s speech and writing development. But it’s not a commonly utilized one.

Chinese has hundreds of characters that can be used to form words and phrases, whereas Latin languages need combinations of 26 distinct letters to form words. Every character occupies a single syllable.

Chinese use easier grammatical formations

Other methods are used in Chinese to differentiate between nouns, objects, and the past. Working with translators who can comprehend languages in China and cultural variations is crucial due to these structural differences. They can offer advice on how to approach your web pages and content so that it appears as though it was produced just for your Chinese audience.

5. GTE Localize Offer Best Chinese Translation Services

When working with the languages in China, it’s critical to understand the distinctions regardless of the system you serve. A proficient Chinese translator must possess the ability to discern between the two and ensure that they are utilizing the appropriate writing system. We have the best native Chinese speakers with experienced translators at GTE Localize.

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Get in touch with GTE Localize right now for more information or a free estimate.