Languages 101: Introducing Mandarin Chinese

An introduction to Mandarin Chinese: the most extensive language in the world. 

What: Mandarin (pŭtōnghuà, guóyŭ, huáyŭ) is the most widely spoken of all Chinese dialects spoken as a first language in a vast area of northern and southwestern mainland China.The term Mandarin is an English translation of guān-huà ‘official language’, i.e., the dialect spoken in Beijing. 

Where: China, Brunei, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mongolia, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, USA, and Vietnam.

Who: Mandarin and its different dialects are spoken by close to 850 million speakers, making it the most widely spoken language in the world.  

How to say hello in Chinese: nǐ hǎo! 你好

What to watch: House of Flying Daggers directed by Zhang Yimou. A Chinese film portrayed in Chinese, Mandarin Chinese, and Standard Mandarin. It’s a film about a romantic policeman who breaks a beautiful member of a rebel group out of prison to help her rejoin her fellows. But things are not what they seem. 

Did you know? English has borrowed many words from Mandarin Chinese, such as Chow Mein (from Mandarin chăo miàn ‘fried noodles’), feng shui (from Mandarin fēng ‘wind’ + shŭi ‘water’), and tofu (from Mandarin dòufu, from dòu ‘beans’ + fu ‘rotten’). 

Want to learn Mandarin? Get started with this Mandarin learning reference from the BBC - it might be for kids, but we like it!

Once you have a good collection of words and phrases under your belt, you can focus on pronunciation. It’s been proven that conversing with a native speaker is one of the fastest routes to achieving fluency, and that’s where our Chatterbox conversation practice sessions will help! Speaking one-to-one with a native will help develop your confidence, language skills, and cultural understanding.