Today’s spotlight languages are Mandarin and Cantonese – two languages spoken in China. Get some background info and interesting facts about the language, and recommendations for children’s books in Mandarin and Cantonese. Interested in learning about more languages? Check out our series of posts on various world languages including Hindi, Russian, Japanese and French!
Where is it spoken?
Mandarin (sometimes referred to as Standard Chinese) is the official language of China, Taiwan, and Singapore. Nearly 1 billion people around the world speak Mandarin, more than any other language.
Cantonese (sometimes referred to as Traditional Chinese) is spoken in and around the area of Canton, in southern China. There about 80 million Cantonese speakers in the world. Chinese people living overseas more frequently speak Cantonese than Mandarin.
How Many People Speak a Chinese Language in the US?
According to the most recent US Census data, there are about 2.8 million Chinese language speakers (of all varieties and dialects) in the US. That is a 290 percent increase since the 1980 Census.
There are large Chinese language speaking populations in New York, California, Texas and New Jersey. There are about as many Mandarin speakers as Cantonese speakers in the US, and also many others residents who speak other dialects.
Interesting Facts About Chinese Languages
Mandarin and Cantonese are both tonal languages, meaning intonation and pitch affect the meaning of words.
Chinese languages have no verb conjugation, gender-specific nouns or tenses (past, present, future).
“Pinyin” is a method of writing Mandarin words using the Roman alphabet.
Chinese Bilingual Children’s Books
If the kids in your life speak a Chinese language, or are learning, you may want suggestions on some of the best bilingual storybooks and Chinese audiobooks for kids. Some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and Mandarin or Cantonese include: Yeh-hsien (A Chinese Cinderella), Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and The Giant Turnip. You may also want to check out the illustrated dictionary with audio for children, available in Mandarin and Cantonese.
Do you speak Mandarin or Cantonese, or are you learning? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!
“China – Fenghuang” by melenama via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/8mf6ET