10 Important Facts About the Chinese Language

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.

Challenges Faced by a Chinese Translator When Translating From English to Chinese or Chinese to English

The official language of China is Mandarin, which is also called “Putonghua”. More than 70 percent of the Chinese population speaks Mandarin, but there are other major dialects that are used in China.

Challenges faced by Chinese translators when translating from English to Chinese or Chinese to English.

  • Use of characters instead of letters

Even though there are different types of Chinese the Chinese text use exactly the same written characters. This is similar to languages like Korean and Japanese. Chinese does not have an alphabet that is like English. However, China has taken on a phonetic system that uses Latin letters, which helps children to learn to speak and write but it is not often used. Latin languages form words using 26 letters but the Chinese language uses literally thousands of characters to form words and phrases. All characters take up one syllable. 

Two main styles are used for writing these Chinese characters which are Simplified and Traditional Chinese. Simplified Chinese is the most modern and started to be used in the 1950s and 1960s. The key differences between Simplified Chinese are the number of characters and the use of a simpler style. Western punctuation is used with Simplified Chinese.

  • Understanding sentence structures

When in the process of learning a new language you need to gain a good knowledge of sentence structure. Chinese word order is not much different from the English language word order. The most basic word order in Chinese is subject and then verb. Simple sentences can be formed with only two words.

  • Different dialects

These are Xiang (Hunanese), Yue (Cantonese), Gan dialect, Min dialect, Wu dialect, and Hakka or Kejia dialect

  • Complex grammar system

Chinese grammar is quite straightforward and doesn’t have plurals or tenses. Chinese nouns don’t have plurals, and verbs do not have any changes in voice, tenses, and the subjective. Chinese words only use one unique form. Chinese often puts adverbials that indicate place, time, and way in front of a sentence, while English normally puts these at the back of the sentence.

  • Tones

Pronunciation is essential to speaking Chinese. Four main tones will totally alter word meaning based on how it is spoken:



Sounds Like-A constant, a high pitch that is similar to the way an English speaker pronounces an exclamation of surprise



Sounds Like-An upward, rising inflection, similar to the way an English speaker ends sentences with a question.



Sounds Like- A tone that is low and dips down as it is spoken. It is similar to the way an English speaker ends sentences with a period.



Sounds Like-A hissing, low sound like a whisper.

The use of tones significantly changes the meanings of Chinese words and is as difficult to learn as are agreements, tenses, or the word order of a grammatical structure of a Latin language.

What to look for in a Chinese translator 

If you would like your business to enter the Chinese market, you should request the best translator you can find. This means an experienced language translator who has ties with a reputable and certified translation agency and is able to create a professional Chinese translation.  Asking for previous client testimonials from the language translator is a good way to learn about the qualities of the Chinese translator and their ability to perform English to Chinese and Chinese to English translations.

Hire a professional Chinese translator to do your Chinese to English translations and English to Chinese translations and you will get the accurate translations you require for the interactions you wish to have in China.