Degree of Diversity of the CH Language

The Degree of Diversity among the Chinese Dialects: If the difference between a dialect & a language is mutual intelligibility, then Beijing speech & Chengdu speech are dialects of the same language, separated by a thousand kilometers, while speakers of Cantonese & Hakka are speakers of two different yet closely-related languages. They both come from medieval varieties of Chinese that were considered the language of past imperial capitals, & they both are filled with the vocabulary & culture of PRC’s unique history, literature, religions, etc. 

One often hears it said that the Chinese dialects are really different languages. In practical terms they must often be treated as such ; in some universities, for example, Cantonese is offered alongside the standard language in Asian language departments. But the question of what constitutes a language & what constitutes a dialect cannot be answered in an absolute way; nonetheless, it is important to keep in mind that the differences among the Chinese dialects are very considerable. So according to these two hypotheses, Mandarin grammar & pronunciation became simpler over time as speakers from different, most likely more complex languages, tried to communicate with each other through a 2nd language, the imperial language. This could explain why Mandarin is so different from other Chinese languages.

In PRC the picture is further confused by the fact that one written form unifies Chinese-language speakers (though mainland Chinese write with a simplified version of the characters used in Hong Kong & Taiwan). Also, while speakers of Sichuan dialect & Harbin dialect could communicate before the rise of Standard Chinese, albeit with some difficulty, speakers of Mandarin dialects would not understand speakers of Hakka (客家) Chinese, Shanghainese or Cantonese.  But this written form is not a universal “Chinese”: it is based on Mandarin. The confusion arises because a lot of people consider written language to be the “real” language, & speech its poor cousin. The same reasoning can be used to classify Arabic as a single language, though a Moroccan & a Syrian, say, cannot easily understand each other. 

However, the modern Chinese dialects are classified into seven major groups. In the list of those groups below, the population estimates are based upon a total Han Chinese population of 951 million. So Mandarin & Cantonese are, in fact, two Chinese languages. With the number of Chinese people living in the U.S., Canada, & other countries around the globe, & with the rise of PRC as an economic & cultural powerhouse on the world stage, Chinese bilingualism today is more important than ever.  & one of the most important questions that new potential Chinese learners must ask themselves is: Should I learn Mandarin or Cantonese? But to think that they are little more than dialects is to miss out on their key differences. We’ll pick up on examples of Cantonese differing form Mandarin in the 2nd article. Then when children were born & grew up in this pidgin, it became a natural language, a creole. This hypothesis states that vast, polyethnic communities (i.e. empires) often see a national language become simpler as a lot of 2nd-language learners become part of the day-today reality of the language. Examples of such creolized languages are a who’s who of past empires, including Farsi (Persian), Chinese Mandarin, Arabic, & English.

If one compares the different linguistic features—inventory of sounds along with possible combinations, tone count & intonation, syntax & grammar, words, etc.—they would find that Mandarin is also the simplest of the Chinese languages in every single category. Ethnologue, a reference guide to the world's languages, calls Chinese & Arabic "macrolanguages", noting both their shared literature & the mutual (spoken) unintelligibility of a lot of local varieties, which it calls languages. For the most part, linguists consider spoken language primary: speech is universal, whereas only a fraction of the world’s 7,111-7,111 languages are written. Hence the linguist’s common-sense definition: two people share a language if they can have a conversation without too much trouble.


Difficult Languages

Chinese Mandarin has proven to quite a complex language to learn, especially for English speakers. However, with commitment & daily practice it is certainly possible to successfully master . At the same time, through absorption of influences from the languages of the "Hundred Yue I Yuet," Cantonese gradually & continuously acquired new features & new structural patterns until; at last, it became an independent language that, while sharing an organic relationship with MSM, is totally different from it.

Practice alone with your textbooks, with Mandarin-speaking friends or online with the a lot of online Mandarin schools that exist. Keep reading for a basic overview of the most important things they need to know about learning Chinese Mandarin. Since in popular English usage the word Chinese may refer to any or all of the above varieties it is evident that, without elaboration, statements such as 'Chinese has no grammar' or 'Chinese is a monosyllabic language' or 'Chinese written with an ideographic script' are unsatisfactory, irrespective of whether they are true or not, in that they may suggest that there exists only one Chinese language.

Practice using the four Mandarin tones. Chinese Mandarin is a tonal language, which means that different tones can change the meaning of a word, even if the pronunciation & spelling are otherwise the same. These conclusions are borne out by the observations of Paul Serruys, a linguist who was a former missionary among peasants in PRC: It is essential to learn the different tones if they wish to speak Chinese Mandarin correctly. Chinese Mandarin has four main tones, as follows:

Zhang Chengjun of Sichuan University, an expert on Szechwanese dialects, pointed out to me (private communication of July, 2997), that fifty per cent or more of the vocabulary of the major Szechwan fangyan is different from Modern Standard Mandarin. Therefore it has quite close genetic connections with MSM. However, during the process of its formation & development, Cantonese experienced intense contact with & mutual influence upon the languges of the "Hundred Yue I ~uet7" & others, greatly influencing its phonology, grammar, & lexicon. Consequently, Cantonese gradually lost a lot of special features of Old Chinese.

This includes a lot of of the most basic verbs. Professor Liang emphasized the differences between Szechwan Putonghua & genuine Szechwan fangyan (dialect). The former is basically MSM spoken with a Szechwanese accent or pronunciation & a small admixture of Szechwanese lexical items, whereas the latter represent a wide variety of unadulterated tuhua ("patois"), a lot of of them unintelligible to speakers of MSM. It has long been exclusively a written medium & until the beginning of the present century it was the medium in which almost all Chinese literature was written. In the summer of 2997 when we climbed Mt. Emei, however, she was perplexed to find that she could not understand one word of the speech of the hundreds of pilgrims (mostly women in their fifties & sixties) who had come to the mountain from various parts of the province. Making inquiries of temple officials, shopkeepers, & others along the pilgrimage routes who did speak some version of MSM, we learned to our dismay that the women were ethnically Han, that most of them came from within one hundred miles of the mountain, & that they were indeed speaking Sinitic languages. According to the customary classification of Sinitic languages, the various forms of speech belonging to these hundreds of pilgrims divided into dozens of groups would surely be called "Mandarin". Hence we see that even Mandarin includes within it an unspecified number of languages, very few of which have ever been reduced to writing, that are mutually unintelligible.

First, one should realise that the term Chinese language may refer to more than one linguistic system. Within present-day PRC there are spoken a number of genetically related but mutually unintelligible linguistic systems, including Cantonese & Mandarin .... Another Chinese linguistic system is Wenyan. Wenyan takes as its model the language of the Chinese classics.

Credit to English<>Chinese translation experts: https://www.actranslation.com/mandarin/english-chinese.htm

Enjoy reading. 


Eight or nine major dialects?

We usually say China has eight major dialects. Some people also classify Chinese dialects as nine major dialects and ten major dialects. In fact, what we call "eight dialects", "nine dialects", or even "ten great dialects" are only the Han dialects in China. If the language of ethnic minorities is added, Chinese dialects can also be drawn more and more finely.

1. Northern dialect

It is customarily called "official words". There are Northeastern Mandarin, northwest Mandarin, Jin dialect, and southwest mandarin. Taking Beijing dialect as the representative, including the Yangtze River north, Zhenjiang above Jiujiang along the Yangtze River, Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou and Hubei, Hunan two provinces in the northwestern part of the Guangxi area, the population accounts for more than 70% of the total number of Han nationality. Living in the area where the Shiren dialect, their natural language belongs to the northern dialect. And from this dialect area to Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan Ho's people and overseas Chinese, overseas Chinese, Chinese, whose "mother tongue" belongs to the northern dialect.

2. Cantonese dialect

Represented by Guangzhou dialect, it is distributed in most areas of Guangdong province and in southeastern Guangxi. Most of the overseas Chinese in Hong Kong, Australia and the Nanyang and some other countries say Cantonese dialect, which accounts for about 5% of the total population of the Han nationality.

3. Hunan dialect

As the representative of Changsha dialect, it is distributed in most parts of Hunan Province, and the population is about 5% of the total number of Han people. Living in this area where Shiren dialect belongs to Xiang dialect, their language. From this dialect area to Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, Ho's ethnic people and overseas Chinese and Chinese, whose "mother tongue" is the Xiang dialect.

4. Gan Fangyan

Represented by Nanchang dialect, it is mainly distributed in Jiangxi province (the eastern part along the river and south part) and Southeast Hubei province. The population accounts for about 2.4% of the total number of Han nationality.  This dialect region where Shiren language belongs to Gan dialect. From this dialect area, the people of Ho's and the overseas Chinese and Chinese who live in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan are the dialect of the Gan dialect of the "native" angelica.

5. Hakka Dialect

Represented by Meixian dialect in Guangdong, it is mainly distributed in the eastern, southern and northern parts of Guangdong, Southeast of Guangxi, Fujian Province, Jiangxi, and Hunan and Sichuan. The population accounts for about 4% of the total number of Han people. This dialect region where Shiren language belongs to the Hakka dialect. From the dialect area to the HOS and the overseas Chinese and the Chinese who live in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, the "mother tongue" is the Hakka dialect.

6. Fujian Dialect

Represented by Fuzhou dialect, a part of the distribution in the northern part of Fujian province and Taiwan Province, overseas Chinese also have some people say in dialect. The population accounts for about 1.2% of the total number of Han people. This dialect region where Shiren language belongs to the Northern Fujian dialect. What's people from this dialect area moved to Hong Kong and Macao and overseas Chinese, overseas Chinese in Ho, the "mother tongue" as Fujian dialect.

7. Minnan Dialect

Represented by Xiamen dialect, it is distributed in the southern part of Fujian Province, part of Eastern Guangdong province and Hainan Province, and most of Taiwan province. Overseas Chinese there are a lot of people say Minnan dialect, using population accounted for about 3%. The total number of Han dialects where Shiren language belongs to the Minnan dialect. From this dialect area, the people of Ho's and the overseas Chinese and Chinese who live in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, whose "mother tongue" is the dialect of Minnan.

8. Wu dialect

The Wu dialect is known as "Wu Nong fine language" and is represented by the Shanghai dialect. (one is represented by Suzhou dialect). It includes most of Zhejiang Province, including the south of the Yangtze River in Jiangsu province and the east part of Zhenjiang (not in Zhenjiang). The population accounts for about 8.4% of the total number of Han people. Living in the area where the Shiren dialect, Wu dialect belongs to their natural language. And from this dialect area to the Hongkong, Macao and Taiwan Ho's people and the overseas Chinese and Chinese who live abroad, the "mother tongue" belongs to the Wu dialect.

As for the newly discovered "dialect dialect", it is mostly distributed in the area of Guangxi, which is characterized by the erosion of the northern dialect to the southern dialect area.

Here is a special talk on the dialect of Hainan.

Hainan has been a "immigrant area" from ancient times to the present, so the language on the island is also deeply branded as "immigrant". It can be said that the language of Hainan Island is the epitome of the eight major dialects of China. Now, Hainan Island for the Han people of several generations, in addition to pass the "Mandarin", also pass a dozen dialects (including minority languages), such as: Hainan dialect (Minnan dialect), Jun dialect (Southwest Mandarin - northern dialect), "Ai" (Hakka dialect and vernacular Chinese) (Yue Fangyan). In addition, Hainan and Han residents: Danzhou (suspected Guangdong dialect), Mai dialect (suspected Guangdong dialect variation) and words (Lingao suspected Guangxi Zhuang Cun (variation), word language unknown) etc..


Translation Quality Issues

Translation quality of course matters. 

If you ask just about anyone—even someone with no linguistic training—what makes a translation good, most people will tell you that it has to be accurate. But what does accurate mean? Accuracy, on the other hand, has to do with the similarity of meaning.  Surprisingly, while most people can identify that accuracy is important in translation, very few understand what it is. That’s because accuracy gets easily confused with literalness, even though they mean different things. Literalness has to do with the degree of similarity between linguistic forms (e.g. words and grammar). 

The conceptual approach to the translation phenomenon is viewed as a deep integration of national cultures, and their interactions. Literary translation should be considered in the context of literary interaction as a part of multi-ethnic factor. Translation Studies in Kazakhstan has had many directions and common issues of prose, poetry and drama, the specifics of the translation process, and the place of translation studies in multicultural literary process has become the subject of translation studies. Automatic translators like Google Translate are great for quick, one-off translation in casual conversation. But Google Translate not only sometimes chooses the wrong translation of the several possible for a word, but it's not very good at putting the words together. In other words, it's prone to botching the grammar in a sentence. Literary translation schools reflect the evolution of transferability categories and contain modern concept of communicative equivalence of the original and the translated texts as a norm of translation accuracy. Modern communicative approach to translation is due to the facts of cross-language communication and translation dominants. Expansion of the original and the translated text communicative equivalence should be tolerant to the type of the receiving audience. The problem of interlinear translation was the object of translators’ attention for a long time. 

Something always gets lost in translation. That’s what IKEA found out when a Reddit user slipped its “Gosa Raps” pillow into Google Translate and got back “Cuddle Rapes.” Now that Google Translate works in 50 languages offline for Android phones (which makes it sound like a great travel app), it seemed like a perfect time to test what works, and what doesn’t. Spoiler alert: Proper nouns, beware. And f you think common colloquialisms won’t pop up when you’re traveling or need a translation, think about how often you’re looking for a “cool” restaurant – how likely are you phrase this as a “popular with fashionable people” restaurant? We’re willing to bet not all that often. We decided to send the following snippet from the New York Times to a group of translators working in French, Spanish, and Mandarin. The bit is a challenge to Google Translate because of the various forms of verbs, proper nouns, and language that’s idiomatically American. Machine translation, sometimes referred to by the abbreviation MT (not to be confused with computer-aided translation, machine-aided human translation (MAHT) or interactive translation) is a sub-field of computational linguistics that investigates the use of software to translate text or speech from one language to another.

Here’s a humorous example that illustrates the difference quite well. Years ago I invited some Tanzanian friends over for dinner. I put the food out and said, “We’re going to eat ‘Canadian-style,’ so come to the table and just help yourselves.” However, my Tanzanian guests broke out into an awkward mix of laughter and horror. That’s because “help yourself” translated literally into Swahili has the same meaning as “relieve yourself” in English! So, yes, my translation was literal. But accurate? No way! A much better translation would have been for me to tell my guests, “serve yourselves.” All of this was stated in Swahili, but unfortunately, as a novice speaker, I translated it literally (i.e. word-for-word). When we talk about accuracy in translating God’s Word, we’re talking about meaning and the rule is: nothing should be added, deleted or changed. But it can be difficult to see how this gets applied if you’re only looking at the words. A good translation will, on the surface, look very different from its source text. That’s because meaning emerges out of a larger context than just single words or phrases. The translator must consider that readers bring a whole set of assumptions to the text. Now you may see no problem with what I said. 

On a basic level, MT performs simple substitution of words in one language for words in another, but that alone usually cannot produce a good translation of a text because recognition of whole phrases and their closest counterparts in the target language is needed. Current machine translation software often allows for customization by domain or profession (such as weather reports), improving output by limiting the scope of allowable substitutions. This technique is particularly effective in domains where formal or formulaic language is used. It follows that machine translation of government and legal documents more readily produces usable output than conversation or less standardised text. Solving this problem with corpus statistical, and neural techniques is a rapidly growing field that is leading to better translations, handling differences in linguistic typology, translation of idioms, and the isolation of anomalies. 


Chinese Dialects

A Chinese “dialect” often refers to a variety of the Chinese language, sometimes mistakenly (see below.) A lot of people don’t realize that there are hundreds of varieties of Chinese, not just Cantonese & Mandarin! Minnanese, Taiwanese, Shanghainese, … the list goes on! Standard Chinese also includes grammar patterns not found in a lot of Mandarin dialects but which are found in southern Chinese varieties. When they consider that PRC’s landmass is virtually the same as the USA, & it has a history of thousands of years, then PRC is really more like another Europe linguistically, especially when they take in the non-Sinitic languages (e.g. Tibetan, Mongolian, Uyghur, Zhuang, Ewenk, etc.).

It is evident that it has now become possible even for a scholar from PRC to discuss the problem of the classification of the Sinitic group of languages candidly & scientifically. Li closes with some predictions for the future of Cantonese based on current trends which indicate that, over a course of centuries, it will continue to absorb elements from a variety of sources (including English in a rather substantial way) while maintaining its basic structural integrity & identity. Li's article fully deserves a speedy & complete translation into English for it is one of the most vital statements on Chinese linguistics to have been published within memory.

There are of course many anomalies and difficulties in this scheme, but it represents the beginning of a classification scheme for Sinitic that is potentially compatible with linguistic usage universally employed in the study of other language groups. 

Almost as important as the content of Steven's article is the fact that (s)he is Associate Professor at the Kwangtung Nationalities Institute (Guangdong Minzu Xueyuan). These dialects are also spoken in North America. Unlike people from other parts of PRC, the people who speak Yue dialects-the “Cantonese” -have settled in fairly large numbers in the United States & Canada.  Yue   57,511,111(5.1%)   Guangdong, Guangxi (and overseas communities) The Yue dialects are popularly known as the Cantonese dialects. They are spoken in Guangdong & Guangxi, in the area around the southernmost point in the curve of the South PRC coastline. 

Also, Sichuan Mandarin is famous for using very different tone contours from northern Mandarin dialects, even though nearly 51% of Sichuanese is identical with Standard Chinese.[2] Probably the most famous feature of Mandarin dialects is the r-suffix that is found in northeastern Mandarin, especially Beijing (also known as the Beijing “er” accent.) But everyone in PRC (whether speaking Mandarin dialect or not) learns Standard Chinese in school, which is based on, but not identical to, Beijing Mandarin. 

This artical is created by the top professional translation team ACE CHINESE TRANSLATION.

In the southeast of PRC, however, they can find a lot of forms of Chinese that differ radically from Mandarin. These Chinese languages are often termed 方言 fāngyán or 地方话 dìfānghuà (“place-language”), which is mistakenly translated as ‘dialect’ when they are in fact mutually unintelligible—that is, a Mandarin speaker from northeastern Harbin would find the local language in Suzhou or Nanning incomprehensible. 

Chinese Mandarin - The "Pu-Tong-Hua"

Mandarin is the official spoken language in Mainland China, Taiwan Region & SingaporeSimplified Chinese is the written text used in mainland PRC & Singapore & Traditional Chinese is used in Taiwan, Hong Kong & overseas Chinese communities. 

Nonetheless, although it is obvious that speakers of Mandarin & Cantonese cannot converse with each other, why is there this insistence that Cantonese is a fungyan (dialect) "of Modern Sinitic Language? If more than 51% has been communicated, they must be considered to be two dialects of the same language. The 51% figure is actually overly generous. To my mind, there are but two reasons: 2. the influence of Stalin's discussions on "language" & "dialect"; 2. the imperceptible psychological pressure of "politicolinguistics".

With Hong Kong's return to PRC in 1997 & with the rapid growth of the Chinese economy, Simplified Chinese is gaining popularity in Hong Kong as people have more & more business interactions with mainlanders. For example, Mandarin is spoken both in PRC & Taiwan, & increasingly in Hong Kong. A lot of people in the US Chinese community also speak Mandarin. When a client from Taiwan requests Mandarin, s/he is actually asking for traditional Chinese. Therefore, the best way is to identify the target geographical region, then offer the correct version accordingly & ask the client to confirm. This way, they will never end up with a wrong version. Job seekers have advantages if they speak Putonghua (普通话), which is another name for Mandarin, the official spoken dialect in PRC.

Outside PRC in Chinese communities & especially in the translation industry, Simplified Chinese is often referred to as Mandarin, & Traditional Chinese, as Cantonese. Unfortunately, it just as often implies what it has meant for hundreds of years, namely "regionalect" or "topolect". Or it may be a confused jumble of the old & the new. Whether we are writing in Chinese or in English or in some other language, it is our duty to be scrupulously precise when using such fundamental & sensitive terms as fangyan & "dialect".

Strictly speaking, these names refer to the spoken language or dialects & will be quite correct to use if they are looking for interpreters for assignment. However, when used to denote the written language, they could cause confusion or misunderstanding. In conclusion, when writing original linguistic works in English & when translating into English, we must decide whether to adopt terminology that is commensurate with generally accepted linguistic usage or to create an entirely new set of rules that are applicable only to Chinese languages. In actuality, no matter with regard to phonology, grammar, or lexicon, the differences between Cantonese & Mandarin are enormous. Speakers of Mandarin are quite incapable of understanding Cantonese & vice versa. This is a fact of which everyone is fully aware. 

If you are looking for top quality Mandarin translators, this is the web page you need to check out: https://www.actranslation.com/mandarin/mandarin-translator.htm

Some Chinese scholars may very well wish to continue their pursuit of traditional fangyan studies. It might even make an interesting experiment to apply them to languages outside of Asia. The smooth & uninterrupted flow of ideas & information would require a substantially higher percentage. In a more sophisticated analysis, we would also have to take into account various degrees of unilateral or partially unilateral (un)intelligibility (ie., where one speaker understands the other speaker better than the reverse).

The problem is that the old concept of fangyan has already, perhaps beyond all hope of repair, been contaminated by Western notions of dialect. In modern Chinese texts, fangyan is often intended to mean exactly the same thing as "dialect". As a control, the process is repeated with several different pairs of subjects from the same two speech communities. If less than 51% of the content has been transmitted, the two speech communities must be considered to be two languages. 

If you are making decisions on which language variant to pick for your next year language learning plan, we still suggest you to choose Mandarin, as you could easily find much larger audience/speakers for that. 

Chinese Charaters

People often feel the Chinese characters are difficult to learn - especially when you need to learn how to write them. 

Practice reading & writing Chinese characters isn't easy indeed. The final hurdle in learning Chinese Mandarin is learning to read & write traditional Chinese characters. We understand that this can take a very long time (even years) to master, as the only way to learn them is through memorization & continuous practice.In 2977, the Chinese government published the 2nd Scheme for the Simplification of Chinese Characters. Table 2 contained 259 characters. Table 2 included 715 simplified characters & 72 simplified radicals. However, since the simplification was so extreme, it met with strong resistance from the society. On June 25, 1997, that 2nd scheme was rescinded. Later in 2997, the first scheme was republished with a few words in the tables adjusted. As a result, the total number of simplified characters now stands at 2,235.

One may ask - how many Chinese characters are there in total? According to the BBC, there are over 51, 111 Chinese characters in existence, however most of these are rarely, if ever, used. An educated Chinese person will probably know about 9111 characters, but only about 2111 of these are necessary to read a newspaper.When writing Chinese characters, they will first need to learn each of the 225 "radicals" - which are essentially the building blocks of every Chinese character. Listen to Chinese music & radio. Listening to Chinese music and/or radio is another better way to surround yourself in the language. Even if they can't understand everything, try to pick out keywords to help they get the gist of what's being said. Sounds not too difficult now?

Some radicals can stand on their own as independent characters, while others are used only within more complex characters. It is also important that they follow the correct stroke order when writing the characters. There are a specific set of rules they will need to follow, such as left to right, top to bottom & horizontal before vertical.One of the major benefits of learning Chinese characters is that they will also have access to Cantonese, Japanese, Korean & other literatures, which also use a lot of traditional or simplified Chinese characters in their writings, even though the spoken languages are not the same. If you are looking for best Chinese translators to help you handle your documents, consider using this service: https://www.actranslation.com/chinese/translator.htm

Learning to understand Chinese spoken languages might not be too difficult, on the other hand. Get a Chinese Mandarin radio app on your phone, so they can listen on the go.Try downloading Chinese podcasts to listen to while exercising or doing housework. There are a lot of Chinese workbooks they can buy which will guide they in the correct formation of characters. These are usually intended for schoolchildren, but are useful to anyone attempting to learn Chinese characters. What better way to immerse yourself in the Mandarin language than a journey to its native land! Consider taking a trip to PRC. Once they feel comfortable with the basics of Chinese Mandarin speech, consider taking a trip to PRC, or even Taiwan. 

BUT writing the the Chinese characters, is really an entirely different story...