Chinese varieties and dialects
The term 'Chinese' refers to a group of dialects and local varieties
which often are mutually incomprehensible when spoken but share
one 'universal' writing system. Chinese writing is logographic,
meaning that a symbol represents one word, syllable or concept rather
than a sound. Chinese writing has influenced many languages of East
Asia, including Japanese. While
spoken Chinese varies strongly written Chinese is comprehensible
to all varieties, including Japanese or Korean. This is especially
fascinating as Japanese and Korean are not related to Chinese language
but have only adopted the writing system!
Find out about Mandarin Chinese courses
Mandarin is the most widely spoken form of Chinese. In addition
it is official language in People's Republic China and Taiwan. The
establishment of elementary schools throughout the two countries
greatly advanced the importance of Mandarin as official language.
Official parlance insists that there are two different varieties
of Mandarin: the one spoken in Taiwan as opposed to the one used
in the PRC. However, this is based on politics rather than on linguistics
as the differences are rather marginal or rather: there are much
more variants of Mandarin throughout the two countries.
Other important dialect groups are Wu, Xiang, Cantonese,
Min, Hakka and Gan. Within those groups many sub-variations
occur which causes some linguists to doubt that Chinese actually
is one single language. One of the reasons to consider Chinese to
be a single language rather than a family of languages is that its
speakers think of it as such.