Colloquially, the main language in China is commonly referred to as Chinese; but in strict terms though, the main language across the country is actually “putonghua”, which we refer to as Mandarin in English. Mandarin is the standard language spoken by almost all Chinese people. It is widely used in schools, workplaces and other public service areas.
Still, China is a big country with numerous other smaller minority groups. This means that, once you get to other provinces, the accent with which people speak Mandarin changes, they begin to revert back to their original dialects and it becomes almost impossible for anyone coming from a different province to understand! For example, people in Shanghai can perfectly speak Mandarin, however they might just choose to speak their own Shanghainese dialect. The same goes for anyone coming from some other province in the country. In big cities however, you need not worry – Chinese people will always speak the standard Mandarin when addressing foreigners and even towards other Chinese people originating from a different area.
Common phrases in Mandarin that any beginner should know include:
Bu / Shi No / Yes
Xie xie Thanks
Hao de Okay / Yeah
Wo I / Me
Studying the Mandarin language is without a doubt a thoroughly enjoyable and fun experience! Mandarin pays attention to special four tones that form the fundamentals of pronunciation in the entire language. Master the four tones and you will be well on your way to fluency! The 1sttone is almost neutral, 2nd tone calls for a slight rise in your voice and extending the words, 3rdtone (usually the trickiest for foreigners) can best be described as a combination of a slight rise and deepening of one’s voice, then lastly the 4th tone is a falling tone that requires a blunt way of saying and cutting off a word. Tha'ts how you can try to master them.
Besides the tones though, everything is fairly straightforward; Mandarin language doesn’t include the tricky tenses, long words and gender of words like in English and many other European languages. The best thing is that no matter how poor your proficiency, Chinese people will usually keep encouraging you to keep going, especially since as foreigner they assume that Mandarin is really difficult for you to learn.
Being in China, you will definitely need to learn to speak Chinese fast, you could find yourself taking one of our Chinese language courses in China. At Go ABroad China, we specialize in such arrangements.