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CHINESE PRIMER

Chinese uses just one writing system: a collection of characters known as hanzi. Chinese is the world’s most popular language, spoken by more than a billion people, but there is a significant difference between written Chinese and spoken Chinese. Mandarin, the official spoken language of the Republic of China and Taiwan, is by far the most popular globally. Yet Cantonese, a language that sounds nothing like Mandarin, is widely used throughout Hong Kong. Fortunately, the various dialects (some of which are shown in the following list) share the same basic written language. Even the written language poses its challenges, however.

Chinese Dialects Number of Speakers in China (in millions)
Hakka 33
Jinyu 45
Mandarin 867
Min Nan 25
Wu 77
Yue 52
Total 1,099
Source: Ethnologue, 14th edition, 2000.



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