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Chinese Dialects

Variety of Spoken Chinese


Chinese dialects

When you listen to Chinese speaking to one another, they could be speaking Chinese dialects rather than Mandarin.

So do not be disappointed if you, having learnt the basics of mandarin, cannot understand a word spoken.

Mandarin, known as pǔtōnghuà 普通话 in China, is the official spoken Chinese. It is, however, not the only 'Chinese tongue' in China.

In china dialects are also widely spoken, and there are quite a few of them.

Chinese dialects

Traditionally, there are seven dialect groups in China, which are not always mutually comprehensible.

A native of Beijing, for example, can understand many dialects spoken in the northern part of China. He, however, is unlikely to understand the dialects spoken in Shanghai.

Mandarin, the official spoken Chinese, is derived from dialect as well. It is based on the one that is widely spoken in the Northern China.


Overseas Chinese

In many Chinatowns in the West, you often hear Cantonese being spoken. This is because Cantonese is a major dialect of Southern China where many early Chinese immigrants came from.

Cantonese is still the most prevalent dialect in Hong Kong and some Southern China cities like Guangzhou.

In Taiwan, the most predominant dialect is Hokkien, or Minnan, originated from the Southern Fujian province.

In Malaysia and Singapore, you can hear many different dialects being spoken, from Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew to Cantonese.

Putong hua (zhong wen)

In China, Mandarin is known as pǔtōnghuà 普通话. Outside China, it is also known as huáyǔ 华语and zhōngwén 中文.

Is learning Mandarin (pu tong hua) the right thing to do?

If the reason that you learn Chinese is to communicate with as many people as possible, Mandarin is the way to go! Not only is Mandarin the official spoken language, it is the common spoken language for all Chinese, regardless of their dialect backgrounds. In fact, many younger Chinese do not speak dialects at all, and are conversant only in Mandarin.

You will not go wrong if you choose to learn mandarin.


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