Mandarin (Putonghua) is the official language of China. In Hong Kong, Mandarin, English and Cantonese are the official languages, while Macau's official languages are Mandarin, Portuguese and Cantonese. There are also many dialects in different parts of mainland China, such as Cantonese, Fujian Dialect (Minnanyu), and Sichuan Dialect (Sichuanhua). As for the written word, simplified Chinese is used in mainland China, while traditional Chinese is used in Hong Kong and Macau. In addition, many ethnic groups in China have their own language and written script.
According to statistics, there are over 80 languages and 30 written scripts in China, including Chinese and the languages of the 55 minority groups. In China, 91.59% are Han people who speak Chinese (mandarin and dialects); the rest 8.41% are minority groups who speak their own languages and a few Chinese.
Chinese, Putonghua, Dialects, Languages of Minority Groups:
Chinese: the language of Han Nationality.
Putonghua (Mandarin): the official language or common language of China.
Dialects: refers to the Chinese dialects. People living in different areas speak their own dialects, such as Beijing Dialect (Beijinghua), Shanghai Dialect (Shanghaihua), and Cantonese (Guangdonghua or Yueyu).
Languages of Minority Groups: most of the 55 minority groups have their own languages.
English Language in China
More and more Chinese are catching up with their Asian neighbours in their desire to learn English. English has become a compulsory course for students from elementary school onwards. An undergraduate is required to get a CET4 (Collage English Test Band 4) certificate, while a postgraduate is required to get a CET6 (Collage English Test Band 6) certificate. What's more, people other than students also start to learn English as English is becoming more widely used in daily life. It is no longer a matter of surprise when one encounters an ordinary person on the street, who is fluent in English.
Language Problems When Touring Around China
When touring around China, language is one of the obstacles you will come across. You may not find the hotel for the taxi driver does not speak English. You may get lost because you can not read the road signs. In a restaurant, you can not even decide what to order because you are confused about what "Four Joy Meatballs" (Meat Balls Braised with Brown Sauce) is. To avoid embarrassment, Chinatour360.com provides the following suggestions for you to make an adequate preparation for your China tour:
A. The easiest solution is to join in a group tour, so that your tour guide will arrange everything for you.
B. Before your tour, you'd better do some homework. Read more China Tour Tips and Destinations.
C. Take a bilingual map of your destination.
D. Print the name and address of the hotels, restaurants, attractions, and bus stations both in Chinese and English.
E. Learn some simple Chinese, such as "Wo Xiang Qu Gu Gong" (I would like to visit the Forbidden City), "Zai Na Li Zuo Che" (Where should I take the bus/taxi), and "Zhe Ge Duo Shao Qian" (How much is it).
F. Get to know the ways to deal with an emergency in China.
G. Other foreign languages such as French, German, Spanish, or Russian are only familiar to a limited number of language learners. A professional tour guide or translator is strongly recommended if you only speak one of these languages rather than English.