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What the Chinese to learn?
You may have heard that it is hot to learn Chinese right now. Maybe you’re interested in learning Chinese yourself! But haven’t you heard that there are several types of Chinese? Is Chinese even the correct terms to use? Is it the same as Mandarin? Cantonese? How many varieties are there? No worries, we’re here to set the record straight.
The Short Answer
The short answer, if you want to be able to communicate with the maximum number of Chinese speakers around the world, then you should learn Mandarin Chinese! Mandarin can be understood even in Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Canton (the main regions who still speak Cantonese). People in Mainland China all speak Mandarin as do the other countries that use traditional characters (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, etc). Only if you really want to be able to connect with people from Hong Kong, Macau, and Canton, then you can consider learning Cantonese.
Understanding the Chinese Language
Overall, Chinese is spoken in 37 countries, with 1.3 billion people who speak Chinese as their first language. Chinese is a family of languages and there are several versions of spoken Chinese. There are Cantonese, Hunanese (Xiang, Hsiang), Hakka, Shanghainese, Mandarin, and Taiwanese. Each variant is slightly different, though they share similarities. If you want a more in-depth article on the differences between Cantonese vs Mandarin click here.
Chinese as an official language | Standard Mandarin
Mandarin Chinese is a collection of Chinese dialects that are dominant in northern China and in the southwestern provinces because of migration. It is spoken as well in Beijing. In the early part of the 20thcentury, Mandarin (pǔtōnghuà 普通话) was declared as the official language in the Chinese mainland as well as in Singapore and Taiwan.
If you learn Mandarin you can be understood in almost ANY Chinese speaking environment! Whereas if you choose to learn a dialect, then it will only apply to that specific area. So, unless you really want to learn Cantonese or Shanghainese… Mandarin will give you the most bang for your buck.