12 Interesting Facts About The Chinese Language

Ni hao, everyone!

You probably never knew that April 20 is Chinese Language Day, which was established by the UN. Chinese is one of the six languages of the UN and was added to the official languages in 1946. If you’re looking to learn more about this wonderful language, here are 12 interesting facts: 

1. There are around seven to ten dialects of the Chinese Language. 

Most of us are familiar with Mandarin and Cantonese. But in reality, people in Mainland China speak seven main dialects. A person from Beijing who speaks Beijing Mandarin won’t be able to comprehend Shanghainese. Furthermore, people from Taiwan often speak their own dialect, known as Taiwanese or Hokkien. There’s also another dialect called ‘Hakka,’ often spoken in South-Eastern China, Hong Kong, and some parts of Taiwan. 

2. There are two types of Chinese characters: Traditional and Simplified.

These characters were mainly split because of historical and political factors. In the 1950s, the government in China wanted to encourage literacy, which made them introduce Simplified characters to the population. Traditional characters are often more elaborate and usually used in Hong Kong and Taiwan. On the other hand, simplified characters continue to dominate Mainland China and Singapore. 

3. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean aren’t in the same language group. 

Although they do share similarities in vocabulary and character, they’re in different linguistic groups. Chinese is in the Sino-Tibetan language family, along with Burmese and Tibetan. This is because the grammar is distinct from both Japanese and Korean. 

4. Chinese is one of the world’s most ancient languages. 

Archaeologists first found Old Chinese characters on oracle bones, which date back to around 1250 BCE. 

5. Mandarin speakers use both sides of their brains. 

Scientists have proven this! Apparently, if you speak Mandarin, you exercise your brain. Unlike English speakers, Mandarin speakers use both the left and right sides of their brains due to tone variations. 

6. There are around 40,000 characters in the Chinese Language!

On average, a person who speaks Chinese knows around 8,000 characters, which is 20% of that. 

7. Pinyin was invented in the 1950s. 

To increase literacy rates and memorization, the mainland government of China adopted Pinyin in 1958. Pinyin is a transcription of Chinese characters into Roman letters, indicating the tones of the letter. In Mandarin, there are five tones with four marks, and knowing these tones allows you to pronounce the words properly. 

8. Chinese has the most native speakers in the world. 

Around 1.3 billion people speak Chinese as their first language. Mandarin is spoken by approximately 955 million people, which indicates that around 74% of all speakers primarily speak Mandarin. 

9. Chinese has loan words from English. 

Some of these loan words include 沙发 (Shāfā,) which means “sofa,” and 粉丝 (Fěnsī) which means “fan.” 

10. Most changes in the language evolved through writing.

Although Chinese has many different dialects, historically, the language has changed through writing, not verbal form. 

11. There’s a theory that some Chinese characters are Biblical.

There is some conspiracy about how some people believe that people from China are the lost tribe of Israel. This is mainly due to character analysis, such as the character “园” (yuán), which means “garden.” If you break it down, there’s a square which means an enclosure. Other signs of that are the characters of the word “two”( 二) and “people” (儿). 

12. Chinese grammar is relatively simple.

There’s no conjugation for verbs, plurals, or genders that you have to worry about. Plus, sentence structure is pretty similar to English (subject-object-verb). 

Those are all some interesting facts about the Chinese language. If you want to learn some new words in Mandarin, Cantonese, or other dialects, now is your time to celebrate. Go to the library, borrow a dictionary, and memorize those characters. After all, zai jian!

Featured image via Jimmy Chan on Pexels


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