Chinese Language Day

April 19th, 2021

With about 1.3 billion people speaking it today, Chinese is the most popular language in the world. Hundreds of different dialects are spoken throughout the country and each one has its own unique history and tradition. It is one of the six official languages of the UN and is recognized on April 20th as part of the official language days.

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Dating back at least 6,000 years, Chinese is said to be one of the oldest written languages in the world. In total, there are over 50,000 distinct characters because of its long history, however many of them are not used anymore in modern language and most Chinese speakers know around 8,000 characters.

There are so many different dialects because of regional isolation that occurred in China, and in many areas is still prevalent. Since most people did not travel out of the region they lived in, different dialects formed in each community. Many of these dialects still exist today and are an important part of the history and tradition for the region and people they come from.
Mandarin is the most commonly known because it is required to be taught in most schools and is what most people living outside of China learn if they want to learn Chinese. Since it is the most spoken language in the world, many people today are learning Chinese so that they can travel and work internationally.

Unlike English where each letter has a sound and they are combined to make words, Chinese has a character for each word. Although there are many different dialects of Chinese, most follow the same written system, so the characters are interpreted and pronounced differently. Most words can be written in either traditional or simplified characters, although some words have a more informal slang character. Simplified writing is what is taught in most Chinese schools, but there are similarities in the way that traditional and simplified characters are written so most people can read both. For the most part, there is a stroke order that people follow to be the most efficient and accurate when writing.

Mandarin
When most people think of the Chinese Language, Mandarin comes to mind first because of all of the people who speak Chinese, about 70% speak the Mandarin dialect. Mandarin is taught in schools in China, so many people speak it in addition to their native or regional dialect to preserve their traditions while also having the ability to communicate with more people. It is the official language of China, so most business and entertainment is done in Mandarin.

Cantonese
The next most common Chinese dialect is Cantonese, also known as Yue. This dialect is spoken mainly in Hong Kong and the southern regions in China such as Guangdong Province. This dialect is the most similar to ancient Chinese language dialects compared to the other main ones that are still spoken. It is also one of the most common dialects that are spoken on the west coast of the United States, with many people from Mainland China and Hong Kong coming to the area.

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Spokane Chinese Association
To preserve and pass down the Chinese Language, the Spokane Chinese Association offers Chinese school classes for children and adults who want to learn the language. Classes are taught by native-born Chinese that have moved to the Spokane area. In addition to language, the Spokane Chinese Association also holds events and celebrations to bring the Chinese community of Spokane together. http://www.spokanechinese.org/