Chinese, a Sino-Tibetan language, is spoken by over a billion people making it the most widely spoken language in the world. Mandarin is the most widely spoken Chinese dialect, followed by Wu (Shanghainese), Yue (Cantonese), Min, Xiang, Gan, Hakka and other dialects.
Chinese is written using characters called ideographs. There are approximately 50,000 characters found in the standard Chinese dictionary. The majority of Chinese characters consist of two elements: a signific, which indicates the meaning of the word, and a phonetic, which indicates the sound.
With around 1.2 billion people speaking one or more varieties of Chinese, Mandarin is by far the most widely spoken language in the world. The vast majority of Mandarin speakers are found in mainland China and Taiwan, where it is the official language, as well as Singapore, where it is a co-official language.
Mandarin is also spoken by groups in Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mongolia, Philippines, Russia, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam.
The Chinese language is really a collection of numerous Chinese languages or dialects that are different enough from one another to be mutually unintelligible.
The main dialectical groups of Chinese are divided in this way:
- Mandarin (Northern, Central, and Western China)
- Wu, Northern and Southern Min, Kan, Hakka, and Hsiang