Chinese Language Facts

Here some fascinating Chinese Language Facts researched by children for children.

Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world. However, the term Chinese language includes about 300 different languages spoken in China.

Chinese Language Facts by Kids World Travel Guide

Languages in China

1.About 20% of the world’s population or more than 1.4 billion people speak Chinese.

2. Chinese languages are part of the Sino-Tibetan language family which is the second largest language family after the Indo-European languages.

3. The most widely used variety of the Chinese language is Mandarin with about 1.1 billion speakers. Other Chinese languages with many million speakers are: Yue (86 million), Wu (81 million), Min (76 million), and Jin (47 million).

4. About 40 million people worldwide learn Mandarin as second language.

5. Standard Chinese or Standard Mandarin is the official language of China and based on the Chinese dialect spoken in the capital city of Beijing.

Beijing in China - scenic evening viewThe Chinese spoken in Beijing is known as Standard Chinese

6. Chinese is an official language in the UN. There are six UN languages: Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Russian.

7. The Chinese language is one of the oldest languages in the world as some of the characters are more than 3000 years old. According to the legend, the first Chinese characters were invented by Canjie in 2650 BCE, who invented symbols to help report livestock numbers to the emperor. However, the first written records date back to the year 1250 BCE. And Chinese is the oldest language that is still in use today.

8. The written Chinese languages do not have any alphabet, but use characters. A Chinese character is composed of a variety of strokes that fit into square blocks. The most complicated character has 57 strokes! In general, a character represents a symbol or word not a sound.

9. Chinese is a pictographic language which means the language uses 'images' to describe the meaning of a word similar to the Egyptian hieroglyphs of ancient times. The Chinese language is written with the unique Chinese 'images' or drawings called "characters". For example:

  • The character 人 is pronounced rên and means person. The character depicts a symbolised person with two legs.
  • The character 山 is pronounced shān and means mountain. The character shows a mountain with three peaks. 

10. The Chinese language mostly consists of short words with only one or two syllables and shows one character or a combination of characters. Chinese is now written left to right, but until the last century any text was written and read from top to bottom and in left to right direction.

Chinese Language Facts Infographic by Kids World Travel GuideChinese Language Facts Infographic by Kids World Travel Guide

11. There are two styles of writing these characters, one is more traditional and more difficult as it has more strokes, while the other set of characters is simplified – and used mostly today. The traditional form is still used in Taiwan.

12. There are over 50000 characters, but while an adult has a vocabulary of about 8000 characters, Chinese children use about 3000.

13. To distinguish the different words, the Chinese language uses different tones when speaking and pronouncing the characters. The four five tones are: high level, raising, falling, falling-rising and neutral. Try to give the word ma these different tones when pronouncing them, as these different tones give different meaning to the word.

  • (high level tone) 妈 : mother
  • (rising-falling tone) 马: horse
  • ma (neutral tone) 吗: particle added to a question

14. The Chinese language also has many loan words from other languages:

  • From the French:芭蕾 bālěi from ballet
  • From the Italian: 咖啡 kāfēi from caffè
  • From the English: 粉丝 fěnsī "fan"

15. The Chinese grammar is similar to the English grammar in regards to the standard word order which is Subject – verb- object. The Chinese language however, does not use articles or distinguish between singular and plural nouns.

The Chinese language is considered difficult to learn due to the characters, but the grammar is quite easy to learn.

The Chinese Language
by Damon Zheng, age 10

The Chinese language is one of the hardest languages in the world.

In China, different places have different languages. Like in Beijing, we say "nǐ hǎo", but in Sichuan we say it with a different tone.

In China, "hello" is "nǐ hǎo", we write it like this 你好.

"Mother" this is the first word that I learnt. We say it as "mā" ma, we write it 妈.

In China, "please" is "qĭng" and we write it as 请. Thank you we say "xièxiè", we write it “谢谢”.

If you want to learn how to speak Chinese, you can see it on the phone or you can see it on the internet, they have all the characters and help there. Or sometimes, you can try to learn in a class too.

by Damon Zheng, Chengdu/ China

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This short article about the Chinese Language on this Chinese Language Facts page was written by Damon Zheng, age 10, from UP Ultra Phonics Reading Center in Chengdu/ China.

Thank you for this lovely article A huge thank you goes also to Lisa, their amazing teacher for her support in growing and expanding our China pages for young readers.

Resources used for Chinese Language Facts:

  • Candice Song. "Chinese Language Facts: 10 Basic, 12 Surprising." ChinaHighlights. 4 August 2022. Last accessed 19 September 2022
  • Min Min. "Types of Strokes in Chinese Characters." learnchineseeveryday.com. 9 May 2009. Last accessed 19 September 2022
  • Chinese English Dictionary. "Ma". Yabla. Last accessed 19 September 2022


Images on Chinese Language Facts: Shutterstock.com; Infographic created with Canva

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