The terms and concepts used by Chinese to think about language are different from those used in the West, partly because of the unifying effects of the Chinese characters used in writing, and partly because of differences in the political and social development of China in comparison with Europe. Whereas after the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe fragmented into small nation-states, the identities of which were often defined by language, China was able to preserve cultural and political unity through the same period.
Mandarin Chinese is spoken by over one billion people around the world. Roughly 90 percent of Chinese speakers live in Mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore and the countries of the Southeast Asia. About 70 percent of them speak Mandarin. Now-a-days, a huge numbers of people are interested in learning Chinese culture and language.
Mandarin language will remain critical for business and Government for the foreseeable future and career opportunities for the experts with Chinese language can be found in almost every field. Moreover it is useful to know about the Chinese language when coming to China for travel, study or business.
Mandarin Chinese is easier than you think. While the characters and tones can seem tough to understand, Chinese has an extremely simple grammar structure. There are no tenses, no plurals, and a very easy numbering system. Subject / Verb agreement is non-existent, which means no conjugations either! Don't let the strange characters discourage you. We will help you to pick up the language without feeling like you are studying!
History of Mandarin
Due to its geographic size, China has always been a land of many languages and dialects. Mandarin emerged as the language of the ruling class during the latter part of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644).
The Capital of China switched from Nanjing to Beijing in the latter part of the Ming Dynasty, and remained in Beijing during the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1912). Since Mandarin is based on the Beijing dialect, it naturally became the official language of the court.
Nonetheless, the large influx of officials from various parts of China meant that many dialects continued to be spoken at the Chinese court. It was not until 1909 that Mandarin became the national language (guó yǔ) of China.
When the Qing Dynasty fell in 1912, the Republic of China maintained Mandarin as the official language. It was renamed pǔ tōng huà (common speech) in 1955, but Taiwan continues to use the name guó yǔ (national language).
As one of the Chinese languages, Mandarin uses Chinese characters for its writing system. Chinese characters have a history dating back more than two thousand years. The early forms of Chinese characters were pictographs (graphic representations of real objects), but characters became more stylized and came to represent ideas as well as objects.
Few words with the pictorial are the examples which show how Chinese characters were derived. E.g. Fire 火 (huǒ) is a pictographic representation of flames, and carries extra meanings related to the heat of fire: flame; burn; anger; rage.
Each Chinese character represents a syllable of the spoken language. Characters represent words, but not every character is used independently.
The Chinese writing system is very complex and the most difficult part of learning Mandarin. There are thousands of characters, and they must be memorized and practiced to master the written language.
In an attempt to improve literacy, the Chinese government began simplifying characters in the 1950’s. These simplified characters are used in Mainland China, Singapore, and Malaysia, while Taiwan and Hong Kongstill use the traditional characters.
Students of Mandarin often use Romanization in place of Chinese characters. Romanization uses the Western (Roman) alphabet to represent the sounds of spoken Mandarin, so is a bridge between learning the spoken language and beginning the study of Chinese characters.
There are many systems of Romanization, but the most popular for teaching materials (and the system used on this website) is Pinyin.
Chinese grammar is relatively simple compared to languages with Latin and Greek origins. There are no verb conjugations. Furthermore, verbs are not modified as a result of tense. Adverbs such as "before, yesterday, previously" are used to denote the past tense, and "in the future, tomorrow" are used to denote the future tense. Furthermore, nouns are not assigned gender. As the word "they" denotes both genders, the Chinese word "ta" also denotes both "he" and "she".
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Q.How many people speak Mandarin Chinese in the world?
A. Around 1 billion people speak Mandarin Chinese around the world. The Mandarin language has more native speakers than any other language.
Q. Where is Mandarin Chinese spoken?
A. Mandarin Chinese is mostly spoken in China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia. It is also widely used in the many Chinese communities (Chinatowns) around the globe. Mandarin Chinese is also one of the six official languages used by the United Nations.
Q. How is Mandarin Chinese written?
A. Mandarin Chinese doesn't have an alphabet. It is written with symbols. These symbols are called Chinese characters. Chinese characters represent the oldest writing system in the world.
There are two different kinds of Chinese characters: traditional and simplified. Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong, and overseas Chinese communities use traditional characters. China uses simplified characters.
Q. How many Chinese characters are there?
A. There are over 100,000 Chinese characters recorded in the most advanced Mandarin Chinese dictionaries. New Chinese symbols are developed all the time, so the amount of Chinese characters never stops increasing.
Q. What is Pinyin?
A. Pinyin is a way to write Mandarin Chinese with the Roman alphabet. In Chinese, pinyin literally means "spelled sound". Pinyin is used in most Chinese language institutes to teach Mandarin as a second language. It's a way to read Chinese without having to know the characters. Many Chinese street names are written in pinyin in China and Taiwan.
Q. How many tones does Mandarin Chinese have?
A. Mandarin Chinese has four tones. It means that for one given syllable, or word, you have four different meanings. For example: the word "ma" can either mean horse, mother, hemp, or to scold. Mastering the four Chinese tones is one of the most difficult aspects of learning Mandarin Chinese.
When reading pinyin, you can see the tone marks above each Chinese word.
Q. What is Putonghua?
A. Putonghua is how Mandarin Chinese language is called in China. It means "common speech" or "standard language". In Taiwan, Mandarin Chinese is called Guoyu, which means "national language".
Q. Is studying Mandarin Chinese difficult?
A. Studying Mandarin Chinese is not as difficult as what most people think. Chinese grammar is a joke when compared to English or French grammar. In Mandarin Chinese:
The most difficult part when studying Mandarin is getting your tones right and learning how to read and write Chinese characters.