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Learn the Chinese language

Chinese (Sinitic) languages

Written Chinese
Written Chinese comprises characters, which don´t constitute an alphabet. Rather, each character generally represents either a complete one-syllable word or a single-syllable part of a word. The characters themselves are often composed of parts that may represent physical objects, abstract notions, or pronunciation.

Written Chinese is one of the world´s oldest active, continuously used writing systems. Many current Chinese characters have been traced back to 1200–1050 BCE but the process of creating characters is thought to have begun some centuries earlier.

Despite historical changes in pronunciation, Chinese speakers in disparate dialect groups can communicate in writing. Some of the characters have also been adopted as part of the writing systems in other East Asian languages, such as Japanese and Korean. Literacy requires the memorization of a great many characters: Educated Chinese know about 4,000. The large number of Chinese characters has in part led to the adoption of Western alphabets as an auxiliary means of representing Chinese.

Spoken Chinese
Spoken Chinese is distinguished by its high level of internal diversity. Chinese is classified as a macrolanguage with between 7 and 13 sub-languages, though the identification of the varieties of Chinese as multiple "languages" or as "dialects" of a single language is a contentious issue. The sub-languages are to varying degree mutually unintelligible.

Around one-fifth of the world´s population or over one billion people speak some variety of Chinese as their native.

By far, the most spoken Chinese is Mandarin (about 850 million), followed by Wu (90 million), Cantonese (70 million) and Min (50 million). Most of these groups are mutually unintelligible.

Standard Mandarin is a standardized form of spoken Chinese, based on the Beijing dialect, which is part of a larger group of North-Eastern and South-Western dialects, often taken as a separate language. Standard Mandarin is the official language of China and Taiwan, as well as one of four official languages of Singapore. Chinese—de facto, Standard Mandarin—is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Standard Cantonese remains one of the official languages of Hong Kong (together with English) and of Macau (together with Portugese).

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