An Introduction of
Chinese Language
Julin Chen,
Project Tui Dong Li Specialist
Nathalie Longrée-Guevara,
Project Tui Dong Li Director
October 19, 2010
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Special Acknowledgements
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
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Lisa Nolting
Jackie Wicks
Teachers of Mandarin immersion
program
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Why Learn Mandarin?

One fifth of the planet speaks Chinese.
Mandarin Chinese is the mother tongue
of over one billion people, making it the
most widely spoken first language in the
world.
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Why Learn Mandarin?

Chinese culture is over 5000 years old. By
learning the Chinese Language, you will
learn another culture. Learning a language
gives you a better understanding through the
grammar and even how the words are
derived of the culture behind them.
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Why Learn Mandarin?

China is one of the largest trading
partners of the United States. To take
advantage of this huge economic shift
and opportunities, learning to speak
Chinese is a great way to give our
children an advantage in the increasingly
competitive business world.
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The Languages in China
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
Chinese Language in China
•
•
•
The language of the Han people, the major ethnic group of China.
Spoken by over one billion people
Approximately 95 percent of the Chinese population
Non-Chinese Languages in China
•
The languages of Tibetan, Mongolian, Uygur, Miao, Korean and other
53 minorities, except Hui and She.
Majority Chinese-speaking population is in
•
China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan,
Substantial numbers are also found
•
throughout the southeast Asia, especially in Singapore, Indonesia,
Malaysia, and Thailand.
Important Chinese-speaking communities are also found
•
in many other parts of the world, especially in Europe, North and
South America, and the Hawaiian Islands.
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Chinese Language and its dialects

Spoken Chinese comprises many regional
dialects. Each dialect group consists of a large
number of sub-dialects.

The boundaries between one so-called dialect
and the next are not always easy to define.

Most Chinese speak one of the Mandarin
dialects, which are largely mutually intelligible.
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Chinese Language and its dialects

Mandarin language group forms the largest group. The
Mandarin group consists of a wide range of dialects in the
northern, central, and western regions.

Wu dialect The majority of the inhabitants of Zhejiang, as
well as people living in southern areas of Jiangsu and Anhui,
speak the Wu dialects. The Wu dialects share marginal
mutual intelligibility with the Mandarin and Gan dialects.

Cantonese dialect Cantonese are spoken in Hong Kong,
Guangdong, Southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous
Region, parts of Hainan, Macau, and in many overseas
settlements, esp. in the United States.
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Chinese Language and its dialects

Kejia (Hakka) dialects
Kejia dialects are spoken in Guangdong, southwestern Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan,
Yunnan, Guangxi, Guizhou, Sichuan, Hainan, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia,
Indonesia, many overseas Chinese communities, and in pockets throughout
Southeast Asia.

Xiang dialects
Most of the inhabitants of the south central region in Hunan use the Xiang dialects,
also known as Hunanese.

Min dialects
Min dialects are spoken in most of Fujian, large areas of Taiwan and Hainan, parts of
Eastern Guangdong and the Leizhou Bandao Peninsula, and in areas of Southeast
Asia.

Gan dialects
Most of the people living in Jiangxi, eastern part of Hunan, and the southeastern
corner of Hubei use the Gan dialects
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Grammar, Pronunciation, and Vocabulary

The various forms of Chinese differ least in grammar,
more in vocabulary, and most in pronunciation.
•
For example
• In English:
• In Mandarin:
• In Pinyin:
• Wu Dialect:
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Sister, please pass me the cotton yarn.
妹妹,棉纱线拿来
Mèimei,mián shā xiàn ná lái.
Mīmī, mī sāo xī dǎo lāi.
Mandarin
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Mandarin is spoken across most of northern and
southwestern Mainland China. It is the medium of
instruction in all schools nationwide.
The Mandarin dialect spoken in Beijing functions
as the official spoken language of the mainland
China (Putonghua),
the official language of Taiwan (Guoyu),
and one of the official languages of
Singapore(Huayu).
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Tones and homophones
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Official modern Mandarin has only 400
spoken monosyllables
but there are over 10,000 written characters,
so there are many homophones only
distinguishable by the four tones.
Even this is often not enough unless the
context and exact phrase or cí (词) is
identified.
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The Mandarin tone system

Mandarin uses four tones to clarify the
meanings of words. Since many characters
have the same sound, tones are used to
differentiate words from each other. The four
tones in Mandarin are:
• high level – first tone
• rising – second tone
• falling rising – third tone
• falling – fourth tone
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The Mandarin tone system

Pinyin uses tone marks to indicate the tones.
Here is the word ‘ma’ with tone marks:
• First tone:
• Second tone:
• Third tone:
• Fourth tone:

mā
má
mǎ
mà
mother
linen
horse
scold
The tones are used to determine the meaning
of a Mandarin word. So mǎ (horse) is very
different from mā (mother).
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The Mandarin tone system

Mandarin tones are especially difficult for English speakers. Here is
another example,
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•
Suppose you are reading a book and your brother (or sister or child)
keeps on interrupting you. You are likely to become exasperated and
say “I’m trying to read a book!” In English, this would be said with an
emphatic falling tone at the end.
But if you use a falling tone in Mandarin, the meaning completely
changes.
•
•
•

Wŏ yào kàn shū. 我要看书。= I want to read a book.
Wŏ yào kǎn shù. 我要砍树。= I want to cut trees!
The second version of this sentence would have your listeners
scratching their heads.
So practice the tones! They are essential for speaking and
understanding Mandarin.
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The Chinese Writing System

The Chinese writing system developed more than
4,000 years ago;

the oldest extant examples of written Chinese are
from the 14th or 15th cent. B.C., in Shang dynasty.

Now baihua has been used for all writing, including
governmental, commercial, and journalistic texts as
well as literary works.
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The number of Chinese characters
Number
Dictionary
Period
Date
3,300
Cangjiepian,
Yuanlipian,
Boxue pian
Qin
221-206 BC
9,535
Shuowen jiezi
Eastern Han
100AD
16,917
Yupian
Liang
543
26,149
Guangyun
Northern
Song
1011
32,200
Hongwu zhengyun
Ming
1375
47,043
Kangxi zidian
Qing
1716
48,000
Zhonghua da cidian
ROC
1916
PRC
1986-90
56,000
Xiandai Hanyu da
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Evolution of Chinese characters
Chinese characters have changed over time from their earliest known
pictographic forms, to the versions used today.
Here is an example of the word “horse”, mǎ, 马.
Oracle Bone
(jiaguwen)
Greater (da
Zhuan)
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lesser Seal
(xiaozhuan)
Clerkly Script
(lishu)
Standard
Script (kaishu)
Running
Script(xingsh)
Cursive Script
(caoshu)
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Chinese as a foreign or second language