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Mandarin is the official language of China and yet it is spoken mostly in the North as well as the Southwest of China. The Peking dialect is the basis for Mandarin. Mandarin Chinese is also called Northern Chinese. Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken native language in the world. Just in China, over 679 million people, over 71.5% of its population, speak it.
The Cantonese dialects are also known as the Yue dialects. Cantonese is spoken in the South of China like in the provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi. It is also spoken in cities like Hong Kong. There are also many Cantonese speakers in North America. In the case of Cantonese and Mandarin, although they are both Chinese dialects, they are so different from each other that they are mutually unintelligible. Just in China, there are over 47 million Cantonese speakers which is 5% of its population.
The Wu dialects are also spoken in the South of China in the province of Yangtze and southern Jiangsu as well as in Shanghai. It is also spoken around the coastal area of Zhejiang. Wu has many sub-dialects. One of the most well-known is Shanghainese. This dialect uses consonants that are not usually used in Mandarin. For example the “b” sound in Mandarin sounds like “v” in Shanghainese and the “sh” sound in Mandarin sounds like “s” in Shanghainese. Other sub-dialects of Wu are Suzhou and Hangzhou. There are over 80 million Wu speakers in China which is more than 8.5% of its population.
Throughout Southern China, there are communities who speak the Hakka dialects. They are normally found in the countryside of several provinces such as Guangdong, Fujian, and Sichuan. The pronunciation of these dialects as well as the way they sound is similar to the Gan dialects. The Hakka dialect is also spoken in Taiwan, and Hong Kong. It too has many sub-dialects. The Hakka dialects are very different from the Mandarin, Wu, and Cantonese dialects. There are over 35 million speakers of Hakka in China which would represent about 3.7% of the population.
The Gan dialects are also most commonly spoken in the South of China. The speakers of these dialects are normally found in the province of Jiangxi. It is also spoken in other provinces such as the Fujian province and the Hunan province. It is similar to the Hakka dialects. There are over 22 million Gan speakers in China which is about 2.4% of its population.
The Xiang dialect is also spoken in Southern China. It is primarily spoken in the province of Hunan. That is why it is also called Hunanese. The Xiang dialect has been greatly influenced by Mandarin and Gan and so it shares many similarities. The Xiang dialect has several sub-dialects. Among them are Chen-Xu and Chang-Yi. There are over 45 million speakers of Xiang in China, which is about 4.8% of its population.
The Hokkien dialects are also known as the Min dialects and the Minnan dialects. The speakers of the Hokkien dialects are normally found in the Fujian province of China. These dialects are also widely spoken in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Some Hokkien sub-dialects are Fuzhou and Swatow. In China there are over 39 million Hokkien speakers, which is around 4.1% of its population.
There are over 302 Chinese dialects. The dialects mentioned above are only seven of the principal and most commonly known dialects. Each has its own sub-dialects which can have their own differences. Although they are all dialects of Chinese, they can be so different one from the other that they are mutually unintelligible.
Chinese usually greet each other with a light-grip handshake that normally lasts longer than those accustomed in the Western culture. When greeting someone formally, they tend to nod or bow slightly. If the person is of a higher status, then the bow will be more pronounced. It is also a sign of respect to always greet those who are older first and to use the person’s appropriate title and full name. Generally, only close friends and family members call each other by their first names only. When seated, it is polite to stand when being introduced to someone.
Indirect communication is very common in the Chinese culture. They normally will not openly disagree with you or give a refusal. It is important to pay attention to body language and tone of voice in order to see what they truly think or want to say. It is considered respectful to pause and be silent before giving an answer for it shows that you thought about the answer you will give. It is normal for men to speak louder than women because women who are loud are generally viewed as bad-mannered.
Personal Space and Touching
It is usual for Chinese to keep distance between themselves when standing or sitting next to each other. This distance is even greater with a stranger. They avoid touching strangers and usually only have physical contact with close friends and family members.
Eye Contact and Gestures
Direct eye contact is considered respectful in the Chinese culture. Only when greeting someone much older, they lower their gaze in order to show respect. Finger-pointing with the index finger is common and not viewed as rude. On the other hand, whistling and moving objects with your feet, is considered rude. Chinese sometimes wave their hand in front of someone’s face in order to say “no”.
Chinese Culture Reference Guide
Chinese is the official language of mainland China and Taiwan. It is also one of the official languages of Singapore. Although Chinese is the official language in only these three countries, large quantities of Chinese speakers can be found in many other countries. Because of this, the UN has declared it to be one of its six official languages. Mandarin is the native language of one-fifth of the world’s population.