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Do you know?
Mandarin is a fascinating language with the highest number of native speakers:
Around 14% of the world’s population speaks Mandarin as their native language.
Globally, 1.12 billion people speak Mandarin, either as the first or second language
Mandarin is the official language in the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan. It is also one of the four national languages of Singapore
History of the Mandarin Language
Mandarin is a dialect group that was originated in North China. Modern-day Mandarin is based on a dialect spoken by the people of Beijing. Other dialects also have some lexical and syntactic influence on this language.
From 900 BC to 1250 BC, a new form of speech was developed based on the local dialects in Northern China. This language is known as Old Mandarin. In the following years, during the ruling of the Ming Dynasty, Mandarin emerged as a language of the ruling class. As a result, it became the most common language spoken in Chinese courts. However, officials from various parts of China continued to use their own dialect in the courts.
Until the establishment of the Republic of China in the early 20th century, Chinese people did not have a common national language. In 1913, the newly formed Republic of China took the initiative of developing a phonetic system and national language. As part of this initiative, a commission was formed with linguists and educators representing each province of China. Representatives from Tibet, Mongolia, and Chinese communities living abroad were also a part of this Commission known as the Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation.
After five years of extensive research and deliberation, the Commission decided that the Zhuyin phonetic system is the most suitable for Chinese pronunciation. Then the Commission went on to standardize the language based on Zhuyin. In 1920, they published a Dictionary of National Pronunciation.
However, the version of Mandarin that the Commission came up with was significantly different from the dialect spoken by most of the population in Beijing. The members of the Commission adopted a hypothetical dialect that they imagined an educated person in Beijing would speak.
The Republic of China officially recognized this newly formed standardized language known as Mandarin in 1931. The same year, the country published the first standard Mandarin language dictionary. In the following year, Taiwan adopted Mandarin as its official national language. During the 1950s and 60s, initiatives were taken by the Communist government of China to simplify the written script in an attempt to raise the literacy rate in China. The new written system is known as simplified Chinese. In 1982, Mandarin was adopted as the national language in PRC.
However, Mandarin is not a Chinese word; the Portuguese colonizers coined the term. Locally it is called Huayu (the language of Chinese), Guoyu (national language), or Putonghua (common language).
Why learn Mandarin?
How to learn Mandarin?
Is it hard to learn Mandarin Chinese?
Mandarin is one of the most complex languages to learn. The language is entirely different from English or any other European language.
What makes it challenging to learn Mandarin Chinese?
Mandarin doesn’t have an alphabet system. Instead, it has characters written as a sequence of pictures, and each of them has a meaning and sound. There are around 50,000 to 60,000 characters in Mandarin that you need to learn to fluently read and write the literary language.
Another aspect that makes learning Mandarin quite challenging is its tones. Mandarin is a tonal language, and each word has four basic tones; additionally, there is a fifth neutral tone. A slight change of tone can alter the meaning entirely. Take the word ma. It has four different meanings depending on the tone- mother, horse, scold, and rough. Similarly, the word tāng means sugar in the rising tone, but in the high tone, it means soup.