People all over the world commonly refer to Chinese as a language. But the truth is Chinese is not a language!
It is, in fact, an umbrella term referring to a group of languages, which has several different varieties like Mandarin, Min, Wu, Gan, etc.
So if you’re planning to study Chinese for your future study or business or even just for fun, which variation should you choose?
This decision may depend on geography. Different regions speak different versions of Chinese. If you have no idea where or which area you might want to go to in the future, the safest & smartest choice should be Mandarin.
This article will explain why it’s the best choice and tell you about the many benefits of learning Mandarin Chinese.
Top 7 benefits of learning Mandarin
1. Mandarin is the official language of China
As mentioned above, China has a lot of different languages. So is there an official one? The answer is yes, and it is Mandarin. As a matter of fact, Mandarin is also called Standard Chinese, and in China, there are two terms when referring to Mandarin: 国语 (Guóyǔ), which means the national language and 普通话 (Pǔtōnghuà), which means common speech.
The history of Mandarin becoming China’s official language dates back to the Ming dynasty. Before Mandarin, the official language of China was actually based on Nanjing speech as it had been China’s capital for a long period. After the Ming emperor moved the capital to Beijing, the influence of the Nanjing dialect gradually died down, and the Beijing dialect took hold. Since Mandarin is based on the Beijing dialect, it naturally became the official language of the country.
Mandarin is also the national language of Taiwan and is one of the official languages of Singapore and the United Nations.
2. More people speak Mandarin than any other Chinese language
More than 80% of China’s population speak Mandarin, making it the most spoken language in the country. According to various sources, more than 1 billion people worldwide speak Mandarin, which means approximately one in eight people on Planet Earth can converse in Mandarin Chinese.
According to People’s Daily online – a Chinese newspaper – over 60 countries had included the Chinese language in their national education systems as of the end of 2019, with over 80,000 schools offering Chinese language courses to over 25 million students.
The image below clearly shows the distribution of Chinese languages in mainland China and the dominance of Mandarin.
3. Mandarin is the international business language
According to Bloomberg Rankings, Mandarin is the top international language for business, besides English. The ranking took into account the number of speakers, the number of countries where the language is an official language, as well as their populations, financial power, education and literacy rates, and other relevant factors.
Needless to say, China’s economy is thriving more than ever, opening many business and job opportunities for people all over the globe. Learning Mandarin today can benefit your business and your finances!
4. Mandarin has a pinyin system
Pinyin is the official system of using Latin letters to spell Chinese characters for Standard Chinese. Pinyin was originally created to simplify learning Mandarin and improve the literacy rate in China during the 1950s. Its core purpose still serves well today. Pinyin is taught in almost every primary school in China. It has also been a life-saver for many foreign learners, helping them remember words faster and pronounce them correctly.
Meanwhile, this Romanized system is not so popular in other Chinese languages. One of the Chinese languages, Cantonese, has its own Romanization system called Jyutping. However, it’s much less common than Pinyin, and native speakers don’t really use it. Therefore, you’ll likely find it more difficult to get advice or apply that letter system in your study.
5. Mandarin has fewer tones
Another advantage of choosing to learn Mandarin is that it has fewer tones. Tones are an integral part of learning Chinese languages as they can change the word’s meaning. Many learners get confused and find it difficult to master Chinese tones. That’s why fewer tones may simplify this problem for you!
Mandarin only has four major tones, though some linguists consider the neutral tone to be a fifth. On the other hand, Cantonese – the second major Chinese language – has six major tones as well as three other high, mid, and low-level tones. That’s a total of nine tones, which is four or five more than Mandarin. The Hokkien Chinese language, spoken by some in Taiwan and in Fijian Province, has seven tones.
6. Mandarin uses simplified characters
As a part of the Chinese Communist Party’s reformation, the government created and promoted simplified Chinese to be the standard writing system of the nation. Basically, learning Mandarin means you can speak and read in most places in China. However, some regions continue to use the traditional characters. So unless you have plans to do business or study in Hong Kong or Macau, where people use traditional characters instead, simplified Chinese stays the safest choice for you.
However, this advantage won’t apply to Taiwan as although Taiwanese speak Mandarin, they write using traditional characters.
7. There is a wide range of learning resources for foreigners
With a tremendous number of people using Mandarin, it makes perfect sense that most textbooks and online resources are all aimed at learning Mandarin. You will notice that there are way fewer materials for other Chinese languages, with less variety, too.
With Mandarin, you can easily get a textbook from a bookstore, find teaching videos and tutorials on YouTube, and read websites for vocabulary.
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