World Languages: Chinese

Number 1: Chinese

We’ve made it to number one! Drum roll please… CHINESE is the most spoken language in the world!

This popular language accounts for a whopping 1.1 billion speakers, which is nearly 18 per cent of the world’s population! There are a total of 33 countries that speak Chinese as their first language, and many more across the world speak it as their first language, regardless of whether is it their country’s official language. That is nearly 1 in 5 people in the world who speak this language!

With such a large speaker-base, Chinese has a large amount of dialects that are spoken regionally. There are seven main dialects of Chinese that are spoken: Cantonese, Mandarin, Hakka, Wu, Min, Xiang, and Gan. The dialect that is most commonly spoken in Hong Kong and areas other than China is Cantonese, so if you hear someone speaking “Chinese” it is most likely Cantonese!

The alphabet that is used to write Chinese is largely made up of symbols. Each symbol represents a unique meaning and a specific sound. These symbols can be very difficult to write, but once mastered is a rewarding experience and may look more like artwork than a sentence!

As part of the Sino-Tibetan language family, Chinese is a largely tonal language. This means that you can say the same word with a different tone (such as a lowered intonation at the end or higher intonation at the end) and the meaning of the word can be changed completely. There are a total of five different tones that are used across the language.

For those who are thinking about learning Chinese as a second (or third, or fourth language), it may be easier than you think. There are no genders, tenses or plurals to remember. That being said, it has more difficult aspects such as understanding how tones change the meaning of the words, and learning the complex writing script that comes alongside the language. Learning Chinese can help you learn Japanese more quickly if it is the next language on your list!

You’ve done it! You’ve made it through our Top 10 World Languages series. Stay tuned to our blog posts every Friday to learn cool things about many world languages, and the world of translation and interpretation!