Are Chinese & Mandarin the same thing?

Should you be learning Chinese or Mandarin?

This is something pretty confusing, especially for beginners of the Chinese language. You often see the words being used interchangeably.  There are also occasions when they are used together, describing the language has Chinese Mandarin.

The question is: do they mean the same thing?  Is Chinese Mandarin?

The answer is yes and no.

First of all, you should be aware that Mandarin is to be spoken. To be more specific, it is the official spoken Chinese.   In this context, speaking Mandarin is akin to speaking the Chinese language, and Chinese is Mandarin.

The Chinese  language, however, can be spoken in many ways. Mandarin is only one of them.   From this perspective,  Mandarin is not Chinese, it is only one of the ways to speak Chinese.   In addition to Mandarin, Chinese is also being spoken as dialects, including Cantonese, which is spoken widely in Hong Kong and many Chinatowns in the West.

Read more about Mandarin and dialects.

What I like to add here is that if you have to decide  what spoken Chinese to learn,  I would without doubt recommend Mandarin, rather than other dialects including Cantonese. This is because Mandarin is the only Chinese spoken language that can be understood throughout China, wherever you go.

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One Response to “Are Chinese & Mandarin the same thing?”

  1. Go Lin November 26, 2016 at 4:28 pm #

    The hard fact is that Mandarin is not a true Chinese language. Putonghua or Mandarin as we know is a creative creation by the proto Mongols called Xianbei (Northern and Southern dynasties). Like the Japanese that took over many parts of the eastern world, these prisoners had to forsake their original languages and adopt the Japanese language. The captured Chinese in the north went through the unfair treatment as well as forced assimilation with their barbaric masters. These Chinese began to learn the ways of their masters slowly but steadily. Mandarin is undeniably a barbaric language. It isn’t a Han language like the so-called dialects found in the south. The reason is logical because the southern part of China was often ruled by the Han masters while the north was ruled by many barbarians for more than a thousand years. There are non Chinese characters or words found in this language while the southern Chinese languages still follow the old pronunciation as well as vocabulary found in ancient writings. Cantonese is probably much older than we thought it was.

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