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Differences Among Chinese Language, Chinese and Mandarin Chinese – Chinese Learners Must-know!

I once watched an interview on a Chinese program, in which many Chinese learners were interviewed. They said, even if they have studied Chinese for a long time, what are the differences among Chinese language, Chinese and Mandarin Chinese? They still don’t have a clear answer. In this article, we will talk about the differences among them!

Chinese, also known as Huayu (Southeast Asia), Mandarin, Chinese (Japan, South Korea, etc.), has other names such as Hanwen (usually classical Chinese), Huawen, Tangwen, Tsinghua, etc. It is an analytic language belonging to the Sino-Tibetan language family, which is different from other language families and has tones. So, what are the differences among Chinese language, Chinese and Mandarin Chinese?

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1. Chinese language

Chinese is the language used by the Han nationality, including various dialects.

The daily use of Chinese and Chinese often refers to Putonghua, and on some occasions Chinese and Cantonese are used side by side.

The word Chinese is generally used more academically, emphasizing the national or cultural identity of the language users-Han/Han. Of course, many ethnic minorities also use “Chinese” as their mother tongue. English is generally called the Chinese language, or more specifically, Han Chinese Language.

2. Chinese

Chinese is a confusing concept because the pronoun “中 (zhōng)” (that is, “Chinese”) is unclear. In ancient times, China was the self-proclaimed name of the Han nationality, which was basically used to refer to the political power with the Han nationality as the main body.

Emphasizing the national republic in modern times, China turned into the representative of the modern state, and created the expression “Chinese nation”.

For political reasons, there are also some embarrassments. So:

1) If this “中 (zhōng)” refers to the Han nationality, then Chinese is equivalent to Chinese.

2) If the word “中 (zhōng)” refers to the Chinese nation, then all languages should be counted as Chinese (including Russian and Korean).

3) If “中 (zhōng)” refers to the People’s Republic of China, then “Chinese” is Putonghua, and various dialects are classified as Chinese.

4) If “中 (zhōng)” refers to the Republic of China, then “Chinese” is the national language spoken by Taiwan Province compatriots.

In addition, when we say “Chinese” and “Putonghua”, we often refer to language only;

But when we say “Chinese language” or “Mandarin Chinese”, we often include the text/cultural environment or refer to the text only.

3. Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese (Putonghua) is a part of Chinese, and it is the official standard language currently stipulated by the People’s Republic of China. (It is also one of the official languages of Singapore and the United Nations) Putonghua is a common language for communication between Han nationality and different nationalities. It takes Beijing pronunciation as the basic sound, northern dialect as the basic dialect, and typical modern vernacular writings as the grammatical norm. It is mainly used in the Chinese mainland and some overseas Chinese areas. Among them, Cantonese is spoken in Hong Kong, China and Macao, and Mandarin is also used on official occasions in Taiwan Province, China, but the accent is slightly different from that in mainland China.

As Chinese learners, we must find out the differences among Chinese language, Chinese and Mandarin Chinese!

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