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Sunday, 13 March 2016

Mandarin (language)

Mandarin is China’s official language, but 292 other languages are spoken by its estimated 1.4 billion population.

It is spoken from the whole northern part of China down to Yunnan Province in the southwest corner of the country.

One-third of the population of China can't speak Mandarin.

There are many regional differences in vocabulary, so somebody who moves from Beijing to Yunnan wouldn't be able to understand people there who were speaking their own language, Yunnanhua.

Because written Chinese uses characters to represent concepts rather than sounds, speakers of Mandarin can communicate with speakers of different Chinese languages such as Cantonese through writing, but not speech.

In the 1920s, the Chinese government set up a national language based on the Beijing dialect and on the most widely understood words and pronunciations.

Mandarin is the language of government and education of China and Taiwan, with the notable exceptions of Hong Kong and Macau where a local dialect of Chinese called Cantonese is more often used.

Mandarin is spoken by over 800 million people around the world, more than any other language.

Most people emigrating from the Greater China region now speak Mandarin, while in the past it used to be Cantonese or Taishanese, another local Chinese dialect.

Standard Mandarin is one of the six official languages at the United Nations. The others are English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Russian.

Mark Zuckerberg's wife is American-born Chinese, and the Facebook founder has been learning Mandarin for several years. On October 22, 2014, Zuckerberg visited Tsinghua University for an interview, throughout the duration of which, he spoke in Mandarin.

Herbert Hoover once worked in China as an engineer. When he became American president he and  his wife used to talk in Mandarin Chinese to prevent White House staff from eavesdropping.

Cangjie, a legendary figure in ancient China (c. 2650 BC), is claimed to be an official historian of the Yellow Emperor and the inventor of the Chinese writing system. Legend has it that when he invented the characters, the deities and ghosts cried and the sky rained millet. Cangjie was the eponym for the (c. 220 BC) Cangjiepian proto-dictionary and the Cangjie method of inputting characters into a computer.

Portrait of Cangjie

Mandarin is written with Chinese characters called Hàn Zì which literally means "Han characters".

Each Hànzì has its own pronunciation and meaning. An ordinary dictionary will contain about 10,000 characters.

There are over 50,000 Chinese characters. An educated Chinese person would only know about 8,000.

The exact total number of Chinese characters remains unknowable, since new ones are being developed all the time.

In Chinese writing, there is no capital letter, there are no spaces between characters, and characters have 10 strokes, on average.

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