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Updated:2008-04-27 16:46 | Source:


As one of the six official languages used by the United Nations, Chinese now has earned itself greater status in the world. The official language of China is Mandarin (or "Putonghua", meaning standard Chinese), which has Sino-Tibetan origins.

Putonghua is the standard in mainland China. It is the common language of all modern Han people. In Taiwan and Hong Kong, it is called "Guoyu" while in Singapore and Malaysia, it is often called "Huayu."

Mandarin is based on the Beijing dialect and other dialects spoken in Northern China. Students are often taught Chinese language as 'Yuwen' in their schoolbooks. It is beyond doubt that Chinese is the mother tongue of greatest number of people in the world, as China's population accounts for about one fifth of the world's population. Chinese once had great influence on some peripheral countries such as Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, which can be seen in their languages and characters.

English is a required course in China and has great popularity. Nowadays many Chinese people can speak basic English, especially the youth, students, and staff of service trades like hotels, restaurants, airlines, banks and post offices. In large cities there are more people who can communicate with foreigners in English than smaller towns and cities. Some may master a second foreign language like French, German, Japanese, Italian, and Spanish. However, in rural or remote areas, few people can speak English or other foreign languages.

The language barrier now is not a problem at all for those that wish to come to China. Here we offer some basic expressions in Chinese for every day use.


With a vast territory and huge population, China has many different dialects which are of great complexity. Divided into official and non-official dialects, they vary between different areas. The official dialects generally refer to the northern dialects, while the non-official dialects are often spoken in the southeastern part of China. Below is a table showing the Chinese dialects in detail:

Categories Dialects Spoken in Areas of China

Official North China Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei Province, Henan Province, Shandong Province, Liaoning Province, Jilin Province, Heilongjiang Province, Part of Inner Mongolia

Northwest China Shanxi Province, Shaanxi Province, Gansu Province, Part of Qinghai Province, Ningxia Province and Inner Mongolia

Southwest China Most areas of Hubei Province (southeastern and eastern parts excluded ), Yunnan Province, Guizhou Province, Sichuan Province, north sides of Hunan Province and Guangxi Province

Yangtze-Huai River Areas along the northern and southern banks of Yangtze River in Anhui Province, Northern areas of Yangtze River in Jiangsu Province (Huizhou excluded), Southern areas of Yangtze River (northernmost to Nanjing and southernmost to Zhenjiang)

Non-official Wu Southern part of Jiangsu Province; Zhejiang Province

Gan Jiangxi Province

Xiang Hunan Province; northern part of Guangxi Province

Yue Guangdong Province; Southeast part of Guangxi Province

Min Fujian Province; Taiwan Province; Guangdong Province (Chaozhou, Shantou), Hainan Province

Hakka Eastern and northern part of Guangdong Province; Western part of Fujian Province; Southern part of Jiangxi Province; Taiwan Province

Due to the differences between each of the Chinese dialects, there are obvious obstacles to people speaking their own dialects and communicating with each other, especially among the non-official Chinese dialects.


Chinese writing has more than 3,000 years of history. It is a kind of hieroglyphic which originated from carapace-bone-script in the Shang Dynasty (16th - 11th century BC). It then developed into different forms of calligraphic handwritings like large seal script, small seal script, official script, regular script, cursive script and running script.

There are altogether 80,000 Chinese words or so that originate from ancient times; however, only about 3,000 words are used during everyday conversation, and they are able to express over 99% of the information in written form because one Chinese word can contain many different meanings. There are two types of Chinese characters in use nowadays: Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese. Simplified Chinese is often used in mainland China, Singapore, and overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, while the latter is often accepted in Taiwan Province, Hong Kong, Macau and overseas Chinese communities in North America.


The Mandarin Chinese characters used by Han people are also the common language for other minorities. Among the 56 Chinese ethnic minorities, the people of Hui and Man nationalities also use Mandarin Chinese and its characters. 29 ethnic minorities have their own traditional languages like Tibetan, Yi, Mongol, Uygur, Kazak, Lahu, Chaoxian and Kirgiz. Some minorities, like Dai nationality and Jingpo nationality, use more than one kind of language and characters.

(source: )

Editor : 李受恩

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