Information: Countries identified Chinese as a primary, administrative, or native language Countries with more than 5,000,000 Chinese speakers Countries with more than 1,000,000 Chinese speakers Countries with more than 500,000 Chinese speakers Countries with more than 100,000 Chinese speakers
Major Chinese speaking settlements
This article contains Chinese text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Chinese characters.
Chinese includes many regional language varieties, the main ones being Mandarin, Wu, Yue and Min. These are not mutually intelligible, and many of the regional varieties are themselves a number of non-mutually-intelligible subvarieties. As a result, many linguists refer to these varieties as separate languages.
'Chinese' can refer to the written or the spoken languages. Although there are many spoken Chinese languages, they use the same writing system. Differences in speaking are reflected in differences in writing. Official China adopts a similar policy to the one in the Soviet Union, using one standard language. In English we call the standard Chinese language Mandarin. In mainland China they call it "Pǔtōnghuà" or "common to everybody speech." In Taiwan they call it "Guóyǔ" or "language of the whole country". All official documents are written in Mandarin, and Mandarin is taught all over China. It is also a standard for language teaching in some other countries. A standard language lets people in the same country understand each other.
Chinese is used by the Han people in China and other ethnic groups in China who are declared Chinese by the Chinese government. Chinese is almost always written in Chinese characters. They are symbols that have meaning, called logograms. They also give some indication of pronunciation, but the same character can get very different pronunciations among the different kinds of Chinese. Since Chinese characters have been around for at least 3500 years, people in places far from each other say them differently, just as "1, 2, 3" can be read differently in different languages.
Chinese people needed to write down pronunciations in dictionaries. Chinese does not have an alphabet, so how to write down sounds was a big problem in the beginning. Nowadays the Mandarin language uses Hanyu pinyin to represent the sounds in Roman letters.
All the Chinese languages (or dialects) use tones. This means that they use high and low pitches to help make differences in meaning clear.
The Chinese language is like a big tree. The base of the tree started thousands of years ago. It now has several main limbs. Some people call "just a branch" what other people call a main limb, so you can say there are six or seven main limbs. Each of these main limbs splits off into branches about the way there are branches of English spoken in Great Britain, the United States, Australia, India, and so forth. Just as the Romance languages all come from the area around Rome and are based on Latin, the Chinese languages all have some common source, so they keep many common things among them.
Branches in modern times are only shown for "Guan" (Language of the officials. Mandarin).
Here are the main seven main groups of languages/dialects of Chinese by size:
Guan ("Northern" or Mandarin) 北方話/北方话 or 官話/官话, (about 850 million speakers)，
Wu 吳/吴, which includes Shanghainese, (about 90 million speakers)，