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9 Surprising Facts About the Chinese Language

The English word Mandarin originally referred to an official of the Chinese empire. It comes from the Portuguese wordmandarim,which is derived from the Malay wordmenteri,which in turn originates from the Sanskrit wordmantrin,which means minister. Among Chinese speakers, Mandarin Chinese is often calledGuy (), which means national language, orPtnghu (), which means common speech.

China is a hugely important economic hub, and now you know a little more about the language thats spoken by a sixth of the worlds population.

4. Different tones can drastically change a words meaning.

Chinese is a tonal language, meaning that a words pitch can affect its meaning. For example,w xing wn n in which wen is spoken with a falling pitch means I want to ask you. Butw xing wn n in which wen rises and falls in pitch means I want to kiss you. Yikes thats not a mistake you want to make!

8. The Chinese writing system is over 3,000 years old.

China is the most populated country in the world, and as such, its a major player in international industry, economy, and politics. Although youve surely heard of (or even visited) Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai, do you know anything about the language thats spoken there? For example, did you know that Chinese has no verb tenses, no distinction between singular and plural, and no alphabet? Heres a crash course in the worlds 1 most spoken language.

Chinese joins English, Arabic, French, Russian, and Spanish as one of the six official UN languages.

3. Nouns dont have a singular/plural distinction.

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Chinese verbs arent modified for tense like they are in English and many other languages. Instead, adverbs like before and after indicate temporal relations. This allows you to focus more on other, more pressing issues, such as memorizing 2,500 different characters.

The Chinese language contains a vast amount of characters and some advanced dictionaries place the number is even higher! But rest assured: about 98% of written Chinese consists of the same 2,500 characters, so you can successfully read the newspaper even if you can only identify about two or three thousand.

5. Its an official UN language.

As Chinas international presence continues to grow, nows a better time than ever to learn Chinese. Find the prospect of memorizing 20,000 characters to be a bit daunting? Dont go at it alone: let aqualified, native-speaking Chinese language teachershow you the ropes. Send us aquick inquiryfor more information about Chinese classes in your area.

Top Dialects of the English Language

7. Verbs arent marked for tense.

The Chinese writing system is notoriously difficult for English speakers to master, as it does not contain a segmental alphabet. Instead, it consists of thousands of standalone characters. However, Chinese can be transcribed into Roman characters by usingpinyin,removing some of the burden on the learner that comes with memorizing thousands of individual characters.

With over a billion native speakers, about 15% of the worlds population speaks Chinese as their mother tongue. Thats more than Spanish, English, French, and German combined!

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Unlike English, in which plural nouns are marked with an-s,Chinese nouns retain the same form regardless of whether or not they are in singular or plural form.

How good is your Chinese? Find out with ourfree online Chinese level test!

1. One in six people speaks Chinese.

9. The word Mandarin comes from Sanskrit.

Of all languages spoken today, Chinese has the most ancient writing system. Indeed, Chinese characters have been found engraved in animal bones that date from 1600 BC! In contrast, the Latin alphabet didnt originate until almost 1,000 years later, in the 7th century BC.

6. There are over 20,000 distinct Chinese characters.

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