|China has eight
major dialect groups: Putonghua (Mandarin), Yue (Cantonese), Wu
(Shanghainese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan and
Hakka and many sub-dialects. The language spoken in Beijing is often
referred to as Mandarin or Putonghua. Putonghua, which means "common
language" is the country's predominant language and is widely used by
more than 70 percent of the population. Putonghua is variously referred
to as the "Han language" (hanyu), "Mandarin", or simply Chinese. About
two-thirds of the Han people are native speakers of Putonghua, while Han
people who come from the southwestern and southeastern sections of China
often speak Putonghua as well as their own dialects, such as Shanghaiese
Various groups such as the Mongolian, Tibetan, Naxi, Yi, Uygur, as well as many other ethnic groups have their own "native" languages. Because of the increased economic and cultural flow across China during the past twenty years, the use of Putonghua has also increased.
In recent years, as tourism to China has been increasing, the use of English has been sweeping across the country. Most of the service staff in hotels and many stores can speak fluent or basic English. It is interesting and fun to learn some basic Putonghua. Below are is a chart to help you with pronunciation followed by simple words and phrases you might actually use during your trip. We also recommend you carry a small phrase book with you. At least you can point to the 'Chinese Characters' and get a basic message across!
A. 23 letters in Pinyin:
3. Useful phrases: Pronouns
See our other pages on China