Chinese People do not Understand Each Other

Published on 03/07/2015

We all know that it is only a matter of time before China becomes the world's first economic power. China has many unique characteristics, linguistics without a doubt being one of them.

Did you know that when we talk about the Chinese language we are usually referring to standard Mandarin? However, several language groups are spoken in China, and they are so different that speakers of the different language groups cannot understand each other.

Chinese dialects and number of speakers

Mandarin (or Northern dialects), 836 million speakers, Wu, 77 million, Min dialects, 70 million, Cantonese or Yue, 55 million, Jin, 45 million, Xiang or Hunan, 36 million, Hakka or Kèjiā, 34 million, Gan, 31 million, Hui, 3.2 million, Pinghua, 3.5 million.

If you had to hire the services of an interpreter, using the correct dialect would have commercial value. Your client would feel more comfortable and would relate more if the interpreter shared the same maternal dialect rather than using standard Mandarin. Standard Mandarin is used in China as the lingua franca, like English is in EU.

Written Chinese: Simplified and Traditional

Despite the fact that these languages can be incomprehensible orally, they all use the same written symbols. Without a doubt, this characteristic of Chinese is fundamental in enabling the cohesion of such a diverse country. 

When translating to Chinese we must remember that if our product is aimed at China then it should be written in Simplified Chinese, but if it is intended for Taiwan, Hong Kong or Macao then it should be written in traditional Chinese. Simplified Chinese emerged from a reform of written Chinese in 1965 by the communist government of the People's Republic of China.

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Josh Gambin

Josh Gambin holds a 5-year degree in Biology from the University of Valencia (Spain) and a 4-year degree in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Granada (Spain). He has worked as a freelance translator, in-house translator, desktop publisher and project manager. From 2002, he is a founding member of AbroadLlink and currently works as Marketing and Sales Manager.

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