About the Mandarin Chinese Language
Over 1 billion people speak Chinese. The two most common dialects are Mandarin and Cantonese. They are not mutually intelligible.
Mandarin and Cantonese are tonal languages, which means that each sound’s meaning is affected by the tone used to pronounce it. There are four tones for Mandarin and six for Cantonese. Mandarin and Cantonese use the same written characters with a few exceptions. Although Mandarin speakers and Cantonese speakers are unable to communicate orally, they are able to communicate in written form. Both are written using a non-phonetic writing system called “hanzi”.
Hanzi uses pictograms, which have different readings and meanings depending on how they are combined with other kanji. In other words, the same kanji pictogram can be read in different ways based on context.
Pimsleur’s approach to reading is based on phonetics, which is not compatible with the ideographic Chinese written system. The Pimsleur Chinese courses therefore offer Culture Notes instead of reading lessons.
Mandarin is the official language in Mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore. The Mandarin dialect is used in most Chinese schools, colleges, and universities, and in most TV programs, movies, and radio stations throughout the country (even in Guangzhou, or Canton, where people speak Cantonese in their daily lives). Mandarin is one of the five official languages in the United Nations.
• • • • • •
• • • • • •