Most languages in China belong to the Sino-Tibetan language family, spoken by 29 ethnicities. There are also several major "dialects" within the Chinese language itself. The most spoken dialects are Mandarin (spoken by over 70% of the population), Wu (Shanghainese), Yue (Cantonese), Min, Xiang, Gan, and Hakka. Non-Sinitic languages spoken widely by ethnic minorities include Zhuang (Thai), Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur (Turkic), Hmong and Korean.
Putonghua (Standard Mandarin, literally Common Speech) is the official language and is based on the Beijing dialect of the Mandarin group of dialects spoken in northern and southwestern China. Standard Mandarin is the medium of instruction in education and is taught in all schools. It is the language used in the media, for formal purposes, and by the government. Non-Sinitic languages are co-official in some autonomic minority regions. Road signs in major Chinese cities are typically bilingual in Chinese and English.
"Vernacular Chinese" or "baihua" is the written standard based on the Mandarin dialect which has been in use since the early 20th century. An older written standard, Classical Chinese, was used by literati for thousands of years before the 20th century. Classical Chinese is still a part of the high school curriculum and is thus intelligible to some degree to many Chinese. Spoken variants other than Standard Mandarin are usually not written, except for Standard Cantonese (see Written Cantonese) which is sometimes used in informal contexts.
Chinese banknotes are multilingual and contain written scripts for Standard Mandarin (Chinese characters and Hanyu Pinyin), Zhuang (Roman alphabet), Tibetan (Tibetan alphabet), Uyghur (Arabic alphabet) and Mongolian (traditional Mongolian alphabet).
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