Language - CHINA BRIEFING 

In the People's Republic of China, other languages in addition to Chinese- the language of the Han people, the original Chinese are spoken in the regions where the national minorities are settled, including Tibetan, Mongolian, Zhuang or Uygur. But everywhere in China, standard Chinese, also called Mandarin, is more or less understood or spoken. Regardless of whether you are in Guangzhou or in Heilongjiang, in Tibet or in Xinjiang, you can get along with standard Chinese.

The Chinese language is divided into several groups of dialects. For instance, a native of Guangzhou or Hong Kong can not understand someone from Beijing or vice versa, unless both speak standard Chinese. The different dialects have, however, the same grammar and vocabulary, but the writing is the same. It is the pronunciation that differs. The pronunciation may differ, but the written symbols can be understood by all literate Chinese. Thus, a native of Guangzhou and a Beijing citizen can understand each other by simply writing the symbols. 

Since the 1950s, all schools in China teach standard Chinese or Mandarin-also called common language. It is also used on radio and television. Young Chinese people, particularly, know standard Chinese. Consequently, one can manage throughout China by using standard Chinese. 

Standard Chinese is based on the pronunciation of the northern dialects, particularly the Beijing dialect. There is an officially approved roman writing of standard Chinese, called Hanyu Pinyin (the phonetic transcription of the language of the Han people). Pinyin is used throughout China; many public transportation facilities show places and street names both in symbols and in the Romanised transcription. 

In modern Chinese, most words are made up of two or three syllable symbols, sometimes more. Chinese generally lacks syllables; there are only 420 in Mandarin to represent all symbols in sounds or tones. The tones are used to differentiate a specifically Chinese practice, which often makes it very difficult for foreigners when first learning the Chinese language. Each syllable has a specific sound. These sounds often represent different meanings. 

Mandarin has four tones and a fifth, " soundless" sound. The first tone is spoken high pitched and even, the second rising, the third falling and then rising, and the fourth sound falling.

The Chinese sentence structure is simple: subject, predicate and object. The simplest way of forming a question is to add the question particle "ma" to a sentence. It is usually not possible to note from a Chinese word whether it is a noun, adjective or another form, singular or plural. This depends on the context.

The Chinese language is a language of symbols or images. Each symbol represents a one-syllable world. There are in total more than 47,000 symbols, though modern Chinese only use a part of these. For a daily newspaper, between 3,000 and 4,000 symbols are sufficient. Scholars know between 5,000 and 6,000. Many symbols used to be quite complicated. After 1949, several reforms in the written language were introduced in China in order to simplify the written language. Today, the simplified symbols are used throughout mainland China.

Useful Chinese Phrases:

Hello...................................ni hao.
Good morning .........zao shang hao.
Good afternoon..............xia wu hao.
Good evening .........wan shang hao.
Goodbye........................... zai jian.
Thank you......................... xie xie.
How much? .............duo shao qian?

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