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What’s the difference between Mandarin and Chinese

Jul. 15, 2016

Chinese vs. Mandarin

Although you may be confused now, the answer is quite simple. Think of “Chinese” as this large umbrella with a bunch of languages under it. Mandarin is one of those languages underneath. If Chinese were to be replaced with the word “dog,” then you could replace Mandarin with any dog breed, such as “Dalmatian.” So Chinese is to dog, as Mandarin is to Dalmatian.

So if Chinese is all dialects spoken within China, then what is Mandarin specifically? “普通话 (pǔ tōng huà) Mandarin (View more details about Mandarin here)” is labeled by the Chinese government as the official language of China. It is considered the standard language, and is spoken throughout China.

It is taught in all schools in China, and most people in China speak it as a first language or as a second language to their regional dialect. The name itself, 普通话 (pǔ tōng huà), means “common language.”

Mandarin is based on a Beijing dialect, and the Beijing accent is considered the standard Mandarin accent. This is important as the accent in which people speak Mandarin varies across all of China.

The Beijing accent is identifiable by 儿话音 (èr huà yīn) (How should you use “儿话音”?), which is where certain words have the “儿 (ér)” sound at the end. For example, “baby” in Chinese: 宝贝 (bǎobèi) VS. 宝贝儿 (bǎobèir). The former accent is spoken in southern China and in Taiwan.

Watch this Chinese video lesson to know how people to add the “er” sound at the end of words to make the Chinese tone more casual and light!

People instantly assume when you say “Chinese” you mean “Mandarin” because it is the standard language.

If someone were to refer to a specific dialect, it is likely they would say the name of that dialect instead of “Chinese.” For example, another Chinese dialect is Cantonese. This is perhaps the second most spoken Chinese dialect and it is spoken in areas of southern China, with many Cantonese speakers living abroad. Cantonese is a completely different spoken language than Mandarin, and uses 9 tones instead of just 4 as in Mandarin! (Learn the 4 tones in Mandarin here)

More Questions You Might Have:

What’s the Difference Between Mandarin and Cantonese?

Is Learning Chinese Difficult?

Where is the best place to learn Chinese?

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