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Simple Words on the Difficult Chinese Language

Chinese calligraphy © Marco Zuppone / Public Domain / Unsplash

"The greatest wealth of a people is its language" Mikhail Alexandrovich Sholokhov

Chinese is the first language in the world in terms of the number of native language speakers, which together makes up 1.3 billion people, about 17% of the world's population. The Chinese language consists of regional groups, based on phonetic developments, of which the main three are:

普通话 pǔ tōng huà: spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. The group includes the Beijing dialect, the basis of the phonology of Standard Chinese. Almost 836 million people worldwide speak it and on Figure 1 it’s marked in light brown color.

粤语 yuè yǔ: Cantonese, marked in pink color on the map below, is spoken by 71 million people worldwide and mostly used in Southern China, particularly in Hong Kong and the Guangdong and Guangxi provinces.

闽语 mǐn yǔ: the name Min is derived from the Min River in Fujian, and is also the abbreviated name of Fujian Province. It is spoken by 60 million people worldwide and mostly used in Taiwan and Fujian. In Figure 1 it is marked in light grey color.

A more detailed classification is given below (Figure 1):

Figure 1: Map of Chinese Dialect Groups. Source: Cao Zhiyun, 2008.