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Learning Mandarin, not “Chinese”?


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Mandarin Chinese is the official language of China, based on the Chinese variation that is spoken in Beijing as that has been where the Government is. However, the Chinese language includes:

  • Mandarin
  • Jin
  • Wu, including Shanghainese variety
  • Huizhou
  • Gan
  • Xiang
  • Min, including Taiwanese, Hokkien, Teochew and Hainanese varieties
  • Hakka
  • Yue, including Cantonese variety
  • Pinghua

The above subgroups of the Chinese language can also be mutually unintelligible! Two people could be speaking “Chinese” to each other and not have a clue what the other was saying as it sounded different and/or was structured differently.

So, if someone asks you what language your family is learning at Ni Hao Children’s Community, you can say you’re learning Mandarin, not Chinese 🙂

Mandarin is referred to in different ways depending on your point of view too:

  • Pǔtōnghuà (普通话/普通話, literally “common speech”) in Mainland China
  • Guóyǔ (國語, literally “national language”) in Taiwan
  • Huáyǔ (华语/華語) in South East Asia, where Singapore is the only country to have it as one (of four) of their official languages.
  • Zhōng wén (中文) is used elsewhere in the world. Zhōng 中 refers to the same zhōng 中 of zhōngguó (中国), which is a common name for China. The  Wén文 refers to language.

Mandarin language can also be different due to geographical and cultural differences. For example, having the same meaning but different words may be used: “Bus”

Taiwan: 公車/巴士 gōng chē / bā shì

Singapore: 巴士 bā shì

China: 公交车 gōng jiāo chē

 

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