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  • Martin Wang

Mandarin


Mandarin is the official language of China. But, China has sixty one dialects and languages. Almost every region of China has its own dialects or languages. The eight most influential are Xian, Zhongyuan, Dongbei, Milu, Guanhuai, Jiaoliao, Beijing and Lanyin. The Qing dynasty made the Beijing dialect the official language in 1909. After the establishment of the modern Chinese government, they wanted a language the entire country could speak, so they created Mandarin in 1955. And Mandarin is a variety of this Beijing dialect. Everything in Mandarin is different from English. This is because Mandarin is a Sinitic language, which is part of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Therefore, the vocabulary, orthography (writing system), and grammar differ from western languages. English words are composed of characters, but in Chinese orthography, words are pictorial (based on pictures). For example, the western alphabet has different sounds for each letter. However, in Chinese orthography, letters represent images rather than sounds.


One of the biggest challenges in learning languages and dialects that use this orthography, is the orthography itself. Given that Chinese orthography is based on pictures, one must memorize each character as it relates to that image. You can only memorize the characters, and some of the words are really complicated. However, in most cases, words in Mandarin look like the meaning they represent, for example door. Door in mandarin is 门. A second example is the word "people" in Mandarin, is 人. The philosophy behind this character is people rely on each other to survive, so this character looks like two people are leaning on one another.



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