As the world’s most populous country, China is a major player in international industry, economy, and politics. Do you know anything about the language spoken in Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai? Surely, you’ve heard about (or even visited) these cities, but how about the language they speak? Did you know, for instance, that Chinese has no verb tenses, no singular and plural distinction, and no alphabet? Let’s go through the world’s #1 most spoken language and from one of the hardest languages to learn.
About one-sixth of the world’s population speaks Chinese.
About 15% of the world’s population speaks Chinese as their mother tongue, with over a billion native speakers. It’s more than Spanish, English, French, and German combined!
There is no alphabet in this Language.
Because it lacks a segmental alphabet, the Chinese writing system is notoriously difficult for English speakers to master. It consists of thousands of standalone characters. However, Chinese can be transcribed into Roman characters using pinyin, removing some of the burden on the learner associated with memorizing thousands of individual characters.
There is no distinction between singular and plural nouns.
Nouns in Chinese do not change form based on whether they are singular or plural, unlike English, which indicates plural nouns with an -s.
Tones can drastically alter the meaning of a word.
Chinese is a tonal language, which means the pitch of a word can affect its meaning. W* xi*ng wèn n* – in which “wen” is pronounced with a falling pitch – means “I want to ask you”. Yet, w* xi*ng w*n n* – in which “wen” rises and falls in pitch – means “I would like to kiss you”. That’s not something you want to do!
Over 20,000 distinct Chinese characters exist.
Some advanced dictionaries believe the number of characters in the Chinese language could even be higher! But don’t worry: about 98% of written Chinese consists of the same 2,500 characters, so you can successfully read the newspaper even if you recognize about two or three thousand.
Tense isn’t marked on verbs.
There is no tense modification in Chinese verbs as there is in English and other languages. Rather, adverbs such as “before” and “after” indicate temporal relationships. You can then concentrate on more pressing matters, such as memorizing 2,500 different characters.
More than 3,000 years have passed since Chinese writing evolved.
The Chinese writing system is the most ancient of all languages spoken today. In fact, Chinese characters have been found engraved on animal bones that date from 1600 BC! The Latin alphabet, on the other hand, didn’t emerge until almost 1,000 years later, in the 7th century BC.
Sanskrit is the source of the word “Mandarin.”.
Originally, the English word “Mandarin” referred to an official of the Chinese empire. It is derived from the Portuguese word mandarim, which is derived from the Malay word menteri, which originates from the Sanskrit word mantrin, which means “minister”.
Chinese speakers often refer to Mandarin Chinese as Guóy* (**), which means “national language”, or P*t*nghuà (***), which means “common speech”. China is an important economic hub, and now you know a little more about the language spoken by a sixth of the world’s population. China’s international presence continues to grow, making now a great time to learn Chinese.
It is difficult to learn Chinese language for English speakers but you can learn commonly spoken words in Chinese from a website The Different Languages. Not only Chinese, you can see the meaning of common words in 88 different languages.