8 Quick Facts about Chinese Language.

China is the largest country based on its population and also an important world leader in politics and economy. For this reason you probably already know a lot of facts about this country and its people. Although do you know important facts about language that people speak there? In the article bellow, we provide some of the most interesting and surprising facts about Chinese language.

1. Chinese is a mother tongue of more than 1.2 billion people.

Large Number of Chinese Speakers1.2 billion is an impressive number, because it accounts of about 16% total world’s population. This means that around the world, at least one out of six people speaks one of Chinese dialect.

Mandarin dialect alone has 0.8 billion native speakers. Based on the number of speakers, it is the largest dialect of Chinese. It is also has the official language status in People’s Republic China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Just imagine of how many more people you would be able to communicate with after learning some Mandarin!

Nevertheless China is large and there are a lot of smaller groups speaking their own variety of Chinese. These dialects tend have quite a lot differences, hence they can be even considered as separate languages. Based on the number of speakers, other important Chinese dialects are Cantonese, Wu, Min, Xiang and Gan.

2. Doesn’t Have Alphabet.

Unlike European Languages, Chinese doesn’t have alphabet. Instead of alphabetical letters, you need to learn standalone characters. These characters can be written in different forms – simple or traditional.

Simplified characters were introduced by the government of PRC in 1956. This set of characters was released in order to make learning writing & reading easier. Introduction of simplified characters was successful in Singapore and China. Nevertheless, other areas like Taiwan and Hong Kong people are more likely to use traditional characters.

Chinese writing can be transcribed into Pinyin, which uses Roman characters. Learning Pinyin is way easier and it can help you get around in China as most street names are translated to it.

3. It’s a Tonal Language.

When learning Chinese, tones are a very important part of this foreign language. Depending on where you will add a pitch in the world, can result in completely different meaning.

The number of tones tends to differ in different Chinese dialects. For instance Mandarin has a total of five tones – rising, flat, raising & falling, falling and neutral. Some other dialects can have even up to nine tones, hence they are more difficult to learn.

4. Oldest Writing System.

From all the spoken languages today, Chinese has the oldest writing system. In fact research suggest that Chinese characters were used even in 1.6 thousand BC. This can be confirmed by archaeological findings of animal bones that have Chinese characters carved on them. While Latin alphabet is quite old too, it originated ~1 thousand years later than Chinese. While dialects of Chinese can be different enough to be mutually incomprehensible, they all share the same writing system.

5. More than 20 thousand different characters.

Chinese CharactersChinese writing system is not only the oldest, but it is also quite difficult to learn. It is comprised of different characters representing syllable of spoken language. A single character in this writing system can represent both full words or only part of it. Some dictionaries identify even more than 20 thousand unique characters. This might sound like a lot to learn for both native and non-native speakers.

However in reality you don’t need to learn all of them. Today’s written Chinese uses only ~2.5 – 3 thousand characters. So by learning the main characters, you be will be able to read & comprehend whats written in newspaper or book without too much difficulty.

Due to historic circumstances, part of Chinese characters have been included into neighboring countries languages. Some characters are still being used in Japanese and at a lower degree in Korean languages. Prior to adopting alphabetic script, Vietnamese used Chinese characters as well.

6. Words with Single Grammatical Form.

While many learners are challenged by Chinese writing, this is not a case with grammar. Compared to most European languages, Chinese grammar has a lot of easy parts.

First of all, you don’t need to worry about tenses and how they will change verbs. Instead of modifying verbs, Chinese use particles or adverbs such after or yesterday to indicate time. Also verbs aren’t being modified based on aspect or mood.

Second of all, in Chinese there is no grammatical difference between plural and singular. Instead of adding -s- to plural nouns, it is being shown by sentence structure. This means that nouns in Chinese language remain in the same form even if they are plural.

Third of all, when forming questions in this foreign language it is not necessary to change sentence structure. In most cases word order stays the same and speakers use particles to form questions. These mentioned aspects make learning Chinese an easier task and you can focus more of your energy on writing or speaking parts.

7. Difficult to learn for English Speakers.

China has one of the fastest growing economy for the past thirty years. It is also the biggest exporter and manufacturer of goods. These and similar China’s success factors make Chinese language among top choices among foreign language learners.

Due to its uniqueness most English speakers find it as one of the most difficult languages to learn. Based on FSI, it might take more than 2200 hours or 88 weeks of time in classroom in order to learn Chinese for English speaker. In comparison, it is only necessary spend 600 hours to learn languages like Italian, French or Spanish.

8. Chinese is Good for Your Brain.

Learning Chinese Is Good For BrainIt is not surprising that learning languages or learning in general is beneficial for brain. Nevertheless, research suggest that learning and speaking Chinese can be especially useful for our brain. This is for a reason that speaking this foreign language requires us to use both sides of the brain. In comparison, English speakers only need to use the left side of their brain.

As it was mentioned earlier, Chinese is a tonal language. Hence, when studying Chinese, we need to distinguish from the same words that have different intonation. In order to do this, we need to stimulate different parts of our brain. This in turn can lead to benefits such as enhanced creativity, higher intelligence and better ability to solve problems.

Some other studies indicate that learning Chinese can result in better mathematical skills (in children). This is not surprising, because writing Chinese characters requires ordering, counting, identifying differences and similarities between characters and grouping. As similar concepts being used in match, children with Chinese knowledge are able to cope with them easier.

Writing Chinese characters also requires a lot of handwriting practice. This kind of practice can have numerous advantages as well. It can lead to better identification of shapes, recognition of graphics and growth of motor skills.