Many people have doubts about learning Chinese because of its seemingly complicated handwriting and unusually-sounding pronunciation. There are many myths about the Chinese language. In this post, we want to present the most important information about this language that will help you better understand Chinese.
What do you need to know about the Chinese language?
- In China, we can meet many varieties of the Chinese language. The differences between them are so great that the speakers of two different dialects may not be able to understand each other. Therefore, in the 1950s, the standard Mandarin language was introduced to unify communication in the country. Nowadays, when we commonly refer to Chinese, we mean the standard Mandarin language.
- In addition to standardizing the language, the writing was also reformed. Simplified Chinese characters are officially used in Mainland China and Singapore. Traditional characters are still used in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan.
- Some dictionaries say that there are even over 100,000 Chinese characters. But take it easy! After graduation, a well-educated Chinese knows about 8,000 characters, a Chinese high school student 4,500, and the Chinese government determines literacy at the level of 2,000 characters. To understand 99% of the content of Chinese newspapers you need to know about 3,000 characters.
- 850 million people worldwide know Chinese.
- Chinese is a tonal language but has only four tones. For comparison, Thai has five tones and Vietnamese as many as six.
- The basic order of the Chinese sentence is SVO (subject-verb-object).
- Chinese is an analytic language, there is no inflection. The meaning of a sentence is determined by the appropriate order of words and particles.
- As opposed to Japanese or Korean, contemporary Chinese do not use honorific forms in everyday conversation.
- Chinese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family.
- In Chinese, we can find borrowings from English, e.g., 咖啡 kāfēi – coffee, 拜拜 bàibài – bye-bye, 夹克 jiākè -jacket.
- China in its long history has had a very strong influence on its neighboring countries. Influences of Chinese are still noticeable in Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese.
- Most Chinese words consist of two characters. However, there are also four-character phrases called 成语 chéngyǔ – idiomatic expressions taken from the Chinese culture, tradition, and history. They are commonly used in everyday conversations.
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