10 Important Facts About the Chinese Language
Last Updated On: October 20, 2022 by The Migration Translators
China has become one of the most important nations in the world, economically and politically. Its manufactured goods provide a large percentage of the world’s consumer needs and much of the developed world’s economy is reliant on a buoyant Chinese economy. For this reason, the Chinese language, called Mandarin, has become one of the most sought-after languages to learn outside of China.
Is Chinese the most difficult language to learn?
Whether you would find Chinese easy or difficult depends on a number of factors. Which language is your native language? If you already understand a tonal language, e.g. Thai or Vietnamese, then this would make learning Chinese easier. If you are used to interpreting characters, like Japanese, then you might also find learning the Chinese writing system easier than other people. If you are young and already understand more than your native language and are motivated to learn, then these factors all count in your favor.
If none of these factors apply to you, then yes, you might very well find learning Chinese challenging!
10 facts about the Chinese language
#1. Chinese is one of the oldest languages still in use
The origin of the Chinese language, and the language family that it belongs to, is thought to be very old. Like other languages, its antiquity can only be confirmed whenever written records show up. As far as Chinese is concerned, the oldest record of writing that has been discovered that is recognizably Chinese is on bone inscriptions dated to 1230 B.C., which makes them about 3,450 years old.
#2. Mandarin is the official language of China
Mandarin, more specifically the Beijing dialect of Mandarin, became the official language of what is now the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1930. It is also the official language of the Republic of China (Taiwan). It is also one of the official languages (Malay, English, and Tamil) of Singapore and one of 6 official languages used by the United Nations.
#3. Chinese is a major language in numerous Southeast Asian countries.
Chinese people have migrated to many other countries, not least to the nearby countries of South East Asia. This means that there are substantial minority populations of Chinese in just about every South East Asian country.
#4. What is special about Chinese characters and language?
There are a large number of Chinese dialects used in China despite the fact that everyone is nominally a Mandarin speaker. There is some disagreement about whether some of the major dialects are really all the same language as some of them are mutually unintelligible, despite their similarity in that they are tonal and analytic.
The same Chinese characters are used across China, a system called simplified Chinese. However, the older characters are used elsewhere like in Taiwan, Singapore, Macao, and Malaysia.
#5. Chinese writing systems
The main writing system used in China is very different from that of most other languages. It uses an enormous number of possible characters that are arranged vertically from top to bottom and from right to left. The most used writing system is called Standard Mandarin Chinese.
#6. The word “Mandarin” comes from Sanskrit.
The word ‘mandarin’ has an interesting history. In English, it is a word that is normally used for a type of tangerine. This comes from the Portuguese language. However, the word used to denote the official and most widely spoken in the Chinese language comes from the Malay ‘menteri’ meaning official or minister. This word itself was originally derived from Sanskrit.
#7. Family is valued greatly in China
Like most cultures, family ties are very strong in China. This has become even more so as the one-child policy that has been in force for a couple of decades in the PRC has meant that parents dote on their only son or daughter. The importance of family also means that wherever Chinese migrate to other parts of the world, they keep their ties with their family and that also means using the Chinese language.
Chinese is not just the most spoken language in the world but has become highly sought after as learning opens the gate towards understanding Chinese society and culture and facilitates communication with Chinese scientists, officials, and businesspeople.