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7 Facts about the Chinese Language

Fun Facts About Chinese You Probably Did Not Know!

Chinese is a complex and beautiful language that is spoken by a significant percentage of the world’s population. This makes knowing Chinese incredibly useful whether you want to learn it for cultural reasons, business reasons, or just so you can communicate with 1.31 billion more people than before! Here are some fun facts that you probably did not know about the Chinese language.


1. There are 2 Chinese writing systems

Originally, there was only a traditional script, but this had caused low literacy rates in China. To remedy this, the PRC implemented a system of simplified characters. Simplified takes out some strokes in traditional characters and in other cases changes then to be nearly unrecognizable. Notably, the Chinese character for love 愛 is missing the character for heart 心 in the simplified version 爱. This creates the question: what is love without the heart? People who like traditional characters say 爱無心 or love without heart as an argument for traditional oversimplified characters. People who like simplified say “爱” has “友” or friend in it and that friendship is also love.


2. There are tones and stroke order

Tones in Chinese change the meaning of words that otherwise sound the same. There are four tones: flat, rising, dipping, and falling. There are 5 if you count the neutral tone.


3. Chinese is not just Mandarin

There are dialects of Mandarin and other language groups classified under the Chinese language umbrella. Many of them are not intelligible to speakers of a different group.


4.  Mandarin Chinese has the most native speakers in the world

Chinese (including all its variants or dialects such as Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, and Wu) is by far the most spoken language in the world with 1.31 billion speakers. That is approximately 16 percent of the world's population. Of that 1.31 billion, there are 1117 million Mandarin speakers.


5. Chinese has cursive writing

Cursive script is faster to write than other styles of writing, but it is difficult to read for those unfamiliar with it. It is used mostly as a kind of shorthand script or calligraphic style. To learn, students will sometimes mimic the characters in writing booklets


6. Chinese has over 20,000 distinct characters

About 98% of written Chinese consists of the same 2,500 characters, so reading the newspaper should be fairly easy if you can identify about two or three thousand. Given that characters are combined to create new meanings.


7. The most complicated Chinese character is Biang

Biang is made up of 56 strokes. It comes from the name Biang Biang Noodles a dish characterized by its wide noodles. The word has no meaning technically. The origin is also unclear. But one version of the story behind it is that a restaurant owner came up with the character to describe the flavor which no existing words to fully describe the noodle dish. Another is that Biang mimics the slapping sound the noodle makes when they are skipped on a work surface to stretch.