Mandarin Chinese is the most common dialect of Chinese and is the basis of 普通话 (Pǔtōnghuà, literally "Common Language"). It is spoken in Northern and Central China. It is the world's largest language, with 885 million native speakers.
Chinese is a tonal language and has four tones. The tones are often referred to by number. First tone is a high tone. Second tone is rising. Third tone is a low tone that sometimes dips and then rises. Fourth tone falls from high to low. The tones are also indicated by tone marks in pinyin (i.e. mā, má, mǎ, mà).
Mandarin is a widely given example of an unmarked language, having no case, gender, or plurals. It does not conjugate verbs. All this results in a very important word order (which is often very similar to the word order of English) and getting a feel for the correct word order is essential.
Chinese characters are logographs composed of radicals, or smaller units of certain strokes that can give a hint to the meaning or pronounciation of a character. There are tens of thousands of characters of which several thousand have everyday use and are required to be considered literate. Taiwan uses traditional characters while Mainland China went through a reform in the 20th century resulting in the official use of simplified characters. It can also be written with Pinyin.
Common difficulties Edit
The most daunting task for any student of Chinese, regardless of dialect, is mastering the writing system. The tonal nature of spoken Mandarin Chinese also presents difficulty for many students with no prior experience speaking a tonal language.
- See also: How to study Chinese signs?