Chinese Dialects: A Simple (But Complete) Guide

Table of Contents

Chinese dialects are seen almost everywhere, each having its unique feature. Have you been feeling the urge to learn Chinese characters or, perhaps, know about its history? The most commonly spoken dialect is Mandarin, which is the official language of China.

Furthermore, Chinese dialects are also important for communication. This is because they vary in terms of the ways that they express different concepts. For example, some dialects use different words to refer to different types of animals, while others use different words to refer to different types of vegetables.

What are Chinese Dialects?

Each dialect is unique and can only be understood by people who speak that dialect. Some of the most well-known dialects include Mandarin, spoken in the northern regions of China, and Cantonese, spoken in the southern regions. With a whole variety of dialects, you’ll need to decide which Chinese dialect piques your learning desire the most!

 Mandarin is a good choice if you’re interested in doing business in China or communicating with Chinese people in general. Other popular dialects include Wu Chinese, spoken in the Eastern regions, Min, spoken in Central and Southern China, and Hakka, spoken in the South Eastern regions. 

Standard Chinese

The official tongue of China is Standard Chinese, which is commonly categorized as Mandarin. A language that is native to Chinese people, the pronunciation is based on the Beijing dialect, whose lexicon is drawn from Mandarin dialects spoken throughout Northern, Central, and South Western China. It is the first language of Han Chinese, who make up the majority of the population in China. It is a fairly tonal language. Therefore, the meaning of a word may change depending on the tone in which it is uttered. Standard Chinese is written using Simplified Chinese characters, which were developed in China in the 1950s.

Major Chinese Dialects

  1. Mandarin:

Being one of the oldest languages of all time, it is said to have millions of words, and only around a few thousand are there in the largest Chinese dictionary. The mandarin language logograms are also said to have influenced the making of many other east Asian languages. They are said to have many words derived from Chinese, making them related to most east Asian languages. Some of the Mandarin speakers’ favorite words and phrases are perhaps unsurprisingly related to love and romance. Words such as qing tian, which means “autumn,” and qingnian meaning “autumn beauty, ” are usually used to describe the season or convey feelings and affection.

  1. Cantonese:

Cantonese dialects are spoken throughout southern China. Middle-Cantonese, Central-Cantonese, Northern-Cantonese, Southern-Cantonese, and Eastern-Cantonese are the six main dialects of Cantonese. It is Yue Chinese’s ancient prestige dialect. Although Cantonese specifically refers to Guangzhou, Yue dialects generally are also frequently referred to by this word.

  1. Hakka:

Hakka, which is often referred to as Hokkien, is a Chinese dialect used by the Hakka people in the southern region of China. It is a melodic language with a long history. The dialects of Hakka are also well-known and differ greatly from region to region. It is also acknowledged as one of China’s six official languages.

  1. Xiang

The Chinese language family includes the Xiang dialect. It is used in China’s Hunan Province. Xiang has been variously categorized as a language or a linguistic category. The Xiang dialect is distinguished by a variety of unique vocal characteristics. For instance, it uses several retroflex consonants that are absent from other Chinese dialects. There are also numerous distinctive tonal patterns in Xiang.

  1. Wu Chinese:

Wu Chinese dialects are in a wide variety and can be split into two categories, i.e., the Northern Wu and Southern Wu. The Yangtze River Delta area, which includes Shanghai and Suzhou, is home to speakers of the Northern Wu dialects. They are frequently employed in more formal settings and are thought to be more standard. The Southern Wu dialects are spoken in the areas south of the Yangtze River, including Hangzhou and Ningbo. They are frequently used in more casual settings and are considered to be more conversational and informal.

Standard Chinese v/s Common Chinese

China’s official language is Standard Chinese, which is commonly referred to as Mandarin. Additionally, it is one of Singapore’s four official languages. While Common Chinese is a phrase used to characterize the different Chinese dialects spoken in China, Standard Chinese is based on the Mandarin dialect of Chinese spoken in Beijing. Common Chinese is a collection of languages that are connected. The most widely spoken dialect of Chinese is Mandarin.

Common Chinese is based on several other Chinese dialects spoken in various regions of China, whereas Standard Chinese is based on the Mandarin dialect, which is spoken in the North of China. Standard Chinese and Common Chinese share several other characteristics, such as the use of Chinese characters and grammar. 

However, there are also a lot of variances, including tone, vocabulary, and pronunciation. China’s official language is Standard Chinese, which is utilized in the government, media, and educational systems. 

Because the two types of Chinese are not mutually comprehensible, there has been a language barrier between the two.

Why Are There So Many Chinese Dialects?

Chinese is supposed to have originated in the Yellow River region of north-central China. Regional Chinese languages developed when the Chinese population spread out across the country. Chinese language dialect, Taiwanese dialect, and Hong Kong Chinese dialect are practiced in places where Chinese people have settled, and a variety of unique Chinese dialects are spoken. The most common dialect of Chinese is Mandarin, which is also the official language of China. Different regions of China are where the various popular Chinese dialects have their roots.

How Should Dialects Influence Your Chinese Learning?

You might be wondering how dialects should affect your learning if you’re learning Chinese. After all, there are numerous varieties of Chinese, and not all of them are comprehensible to one another. Here are a few things to consider when it comes to dialects and your Chinese learning:

  • Understanding Mandarin Chinese is the most crucial step. The majority of Chinese people speak this, the country’s official tongue. Mandarin should be the one dialect you focus on learning.
  • Having said that, learning a second dialect can be useful, especially if you want to travel or reside in a location where that dialect is spoken. For instance, studying Cantonese would be an excellent option if you intend to travel to Hong Kong or Guangzhou.
  • Avoid becoming mired down in the specifics of various dialects. There is no need to become proficient in every variety unless you intend to pursue a career in linguistics.

Which Chinese dialect is taught in schools?

While there are other popular Chinese dialects, Mandarin is the one that is most frequently taught in schools. The majority of China’s population speaks Mandarin, which is the country’s official language. In addition, it is among the languages that are most often spoken worldwide.

What Are The Benefits of learning Chinese and the Different Chinese Dialects?

One of the most extensively used languages in the world is Chinese, so learning Chinese and its dialects has several advantages. Additionally, learning Chinese can help you in your understanding of Chinese society and culture. It will enable you to interact with Chinese citizens more efficiently. It will also help you comprehend Chinese culture and history better. Last but not least, it can create a lot of employment prospects in China.

Which Chinese Should I Learn?

Mandarin and Cantonese are the two Chinese dialects that are most widely spoken, but which one should you learn? Your goals and motives for studying Chinese may have an impact on the response. Mandarin is the language to learn if you wish to visit or conduct business in China. Cantonese will be a better choice if you want to learn Chinese for its literary and cultural value. Cantonese, a language spoken in southern China, Hong Kong, and Macau, has a different written heritage than Mandarin. You will be exposing yourself to a dynamic and fascinating culture by learning any dialect of Chinese.


Immersion in a Chinese dialect is the greatest way to learn it. Learning every Chinese dialect might be challenging because there are so many. You may learn several dialects, which can help you comprehend the Chinese language more thoroughly. Read books, and articles, and watch movies and TV shows in the accent. You will eventually be able to speak the dialect conversationally, but with time and work. We at Curiotory want you to utilize the best of your learning resources, so we will assist you at every step. For further details, refer to our site or contact us so that we can help you!


  1. Is there a need to study Chinese?

Yes! China is one of the top spoken languages due to its growing popularity. China has been gaining popularity with its growth over time. You can learn about its culture and history through the language and see how developed the country has become compared to its past. After all, there’s no better way to learn the intricacies of a culture rather than study its language.

  1. How long will it take me to study Chinese?

That depends solely on you! However, linguistically speaking, a study claims that it could take up to 4 years to learn the language fluently. But that’s no reason to feel demotivated- we are here to help you with your resources. Given proper research, time, and dedication to learning the language, you’ll be able to inch your way through being a professional speaker in no time!

  1. How are there different dialects of Chinese languages?

That is because each dialect has come from the prospect of being developed through different generations. For instance, Mandarin was developed during the Qing Dynasty, while Cantonese developed during the Tang Dynasty. Shanghainese developed during the Ming Dynasty, whereas Hokkien developed during the Song Dynasty. Hence we can see a variation in each dialect of China.

  1. Why is the Chinese dialect important?

Chinese accent dialects are very diverse, each with unique features. This is why Chinese dialects are so important. They provide a unique window into the culture and history of the Chinese people. For example, some dialects are associated with specific provinces or regions and reflect those regions’ unique cultural traditions. The different dialects are not only spoken in different regions of China, but different ethnic groups also speak them. For instance, Mandarin is spoken by Han Chinese, while Yue Chinese speak Cantonese.