Insight into the Most Commonly Spoken Language in China
With more than 955 million people speaking the Mandarin language, it is the most commonly spoken language in the world. It is one of the major Chinese dialects and is also spoken commonly in China. There are several dialects of Chinese, each of which holds its own importance amongst the different cultural groups in the country.
Amongst the various varieties spread in China, seven different dialects are officially accepted. These include the Mandarin language, Wu, Gan, Hakka, Xian, Yue and the Min languages. Of all these seven, Mandarin is the most commonly spoken Chinese dialect in the country as approximately 70.9 percent people in the country speak it in their daily routine.
Due to this reason, the Mandarin language is also regarded as the official language of the country.
It is also the official language of Taiwan and is amongst the four official and different dialects spoken in Singapore.
During my time in China, I noticed that the Mandarin language encompasses the different Chinese dialects that are widely spoken in the southwestern and northern China.
The Standard Chinese known as ‘Guoyu’ or ‘Putonghua’ in Chinese is normally translated in Mandarin and is one of the dialects included in this group.
The word ‘mandarin’ was used to refer to the Chinese officials of the empire and is derived from different languages: mandarim from Portugese, mantarin from Sanskrit and menteri from Malay. In all these languages, the word meant a ‘counselor’ or a ‘minister.’ As the dialects of all these languages were incompatible and unintelligible, the officials used to communicate with the help of a koine that was based on the different northern dialects.
I visited the areas in China where the Mandarin language is widely spoken. These areas are referred to as the ‘Mandarin areas’ or today really just “China. Mostly in Guangdong province they speak Cantonese. During my stay, I noticed that the Mandarin dialects spoken in the southwestern and northeastern China are quite dissimilar, which is why natives of these areas experience trouble communicating with each other. However, the variation existing amongst the several Mandarin areas is quite less compared to that existing amongst the non-Mandarin areas in China.
For a major part of China’s history, the capital of the country has been a part of the famous Mandarin area. Since the fourteenth century, a form of the language also served as the lingua franca of China. During the start of the twentieth century, elements of the Beijing and Mandarin dialects were combined together to form the country’s national language.
While you are visiting China for excursion or business purposes, it is essential that you learn to speak some of the commonly used phrases and sentences in the Mandarin language, so you do not face much difficulty communicating with the locals of the country.
Here are a couple of phrases that I picked up during my time in China, and are also important to learn for basic encounters within China.
To ask somebody how they are in Mandarin, you should say ‘Ni Hao Ma?’
If you wish to say you are very good, you should say, ‘Hen Hao’,
To inform them of things are not so well, you should say ‘Bu Hao.’
To thank someone, you should say ‘Xie Xie.’
While staying in China, you will often need to visit the markets for purchasing different goods. To negotiate on the price, you should say ‘Hen Gui’ if you want to inform the salesperson that a certain item is quite expensive.
Street vendors will also interrupt you during your shopping. To stop them from perturbing you, you should say ‘Bu Yao.’ This means ‘no’ or “don’t want” and will mostly stop them from disturbing you.
For calling a taxi, you should say, ‘De Shi.’
To bid goodbye to somebody, you should say ‘Zai Jain.’
For excusing someone, you should say ‘Jie Guo.’
To ask for a receipt, say ‘Fa Piao.’
For saying you don’t want something, you should say ‘Wo Bu Yao.’
While not a lot of phrases, they’re super important and will impress most anyone you may be traveling with.
While the Mandarin Language is part of the culture and history itself, but sure to read my article on Chinese Tradition and Culture.