Fenghuang Temple on the Water

What Language Do They Speak in China? (Chinese Language Guide)

The primary language spoken in China is Mandarin Chinese. In addition to Mandarin Chinese, several other languages are spoken in China including Cantonese, Shanghainese, Hokkien, and Hakka. These regional Chinese languages have distinct variations and are spoken by different ethnic groups within China but Mandarin Chinese remains the official language and is widely understood and used throughout the country.


Mandarin is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, and it has become a symbol of China’s economic and political power. belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family, which includes hundreds of Chinese dialects.

Standard Chinese is a standardized form of Mandarin that is used for official purposes and education throughout China. Despite its popularity, Mandarin can be a difficult language to learn due to its complex grammar and tonal system.

Many people struggle with mastering its four tones and pronunciation rules. However, mastering this language is worth it since Mandarin is most commonly spoken in China.

Mandarin has become essential for anyone looking to do business with China or engage with Chinese culture. Knowing how to speak Mandarin can open up many opportunities for travel, work, and personal relationships in China.

Hello你好 (Nǐ hǎo)
Good morning早上好 (Zǎoshang hǎo)
Good afternoon下午好 (Xiàwǔ hǎo)
Good evening晚上好 (Wǎnshàng hǎo)
Good night晚安 (Wǎn’ān)
How are you?你好吗?(Nǐ hǎo ma?)
I’m fine, thank you我很好,谢谢 (Wǒ hěn hǎo, xièxiè)
What’s your name?你叫什么名字?(Nǐ jiào shénme míngzì?)
My name is…我叫… (Wǒ jiào…)
Nice to meet you很高兴见到你 (Hěn gāoxìng jiàn dào nǐ)
Goodbye再见 (Zàijiàn)
Thank you谢谢 (Xièxiè)
You’re welcome不客气 (Bù kèqì)
Please请 (Qǐng)
Excuse me对不起 (Duìbùqǐ)
I’m sorry我很抱歉 (Wǒ hěn bàoqiàn)

Note: Mandarin is a tonal language, which means that the pronunciation of words can vary based on the tone used. The pronunciation provided here is in Pinyin, a romanization system for Mandarin Chinese.


Cantonese is one of the most famous Chinese dialects, and I have to say, it’s my personal favorite. It is a member of the Chinese language family and is most commonly spoken in southern China, particularly in Hong Kong, Macau, Guangdong, and parts of Guangxi. is known for its nine unique tones that add complexity to its pronunciation.

I must admit that mastering these nine different tones can be quite challenging, even for native speakers. But what makes Cantonese so special?

Well, for starters, it has a rich linguistic history dating back thousands of years that reflects the diversity of Chinese culture. Moreover, Cantonese has played an essential role in popular culture through cinema and television dramas produced throughout Hong Kong’s golden era.

You can listen to some classic Cantopop songs from legends like Leslie Cheung or Anita Mui and appreciate how beautiful this language can be. Furthermore, many people consider that speaking Cantonese is not only about knowing a dialect but also embracing a unique way of life associated with Southern China’s cuisine and traditions.

And let me tell you something; Cantonese food is simply delicious! From dim sum to roast meat dishes like char siu or crispy pork belly – you won’t find anything like it anywhere else in the world.

Sadly though, despite its cultural significance and popularity worldwide as well as within China (where it’s considered one (of) the most prominent dialects), Mandarin has become more dominant over recent decades due to being promoted as the primary language for education and government use. This situation has led some people to fear for the future existence of Cantonese amongst younger generations – which would be a shame because we should celebrate linguistic diversity rather than suppress it!

Hello哈囉 (haa1 lo)
Good morning早晨 (zou2 san4)
Good afternoon午安 (ng5 on1)
Good evening晚上好 (maan5 seung6 hou2)
Good night晚安 (maan5 on1)
How are you?你好嗎?(nei5 hou2 maa3?)
I’m fine, thank you我好,多謝 (ngo5 hou2, do1 ze6)
What’s your name?你叫乜嘢名?(nei5 giu3 mat1 je5 meng2?)
My name is…我叫… (ngo5 giu3…)
Nice to meet you幸會 (hang6 wui6)
Goodbye再見 (zoi3 gin3)
Thank you唔該 (m4 goi1)
You’re welcome唔使客氣 (m4 sai2 haak3 hei3)
Please請 (ceng2)
Excuse me唔好意思 (m4 hou2 ji3 si1)
I’m sorry對唔住 (deoi3 m4 jyu6)

Note: Cantonese is also a tonal language, and the romanization system used here is based on the Jyutping system. The tones are indicated by the numbers next to the syllables.


Hakka is one of the most fascinating Chinese dialects that has a rich history and unique cultural background. It is most commonly spoken in the southeastern part of China, primarily in Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, and Guangxi provinces. The language belongs to the Chinese language family and has several sub-dialects depending on the region.

The Hakka people are an ethnic group that has a distinct identity and customs compared to other Chinese groups. They have a long history of migration within China and Southeast Asia, which gave rise to their unique dialects.

Despite being a minority group in China, they have made significant contributions to Chinese culture and society. One notable feature of Hakka is its pronunciation.

It has a distinctive tone system that uses rising tones for words with two or three syllables, which can make it challenging for non-native speakers to learn. Another unique aspect of Hakka is its grammar structure, which differs significantly from standard Chinese.

Unfortunately, due to modernization and urbanization in China, many young Hakka people have started to abandon their language in favor of Mandarin or other more widely spoken languages. This trend represents a loss of cultural heritage not only for the Hakka people but also for all those who value linguistic diversity.

Hakka is an essential part of the rich tapestry of languages spoken in China today. Its unique history and cultural significance make it worthy of preservation and appreciation by all who care about linguistic diversity across the world.

Hello你好 (Ngi hó)
Good morning早晨 (Chóng-sǎng)
Good afternoon午安 (Ng5 an1)
Good evening晚安 (Vǎn-ngiǎng)
Good night晚安 (Vǎn-ngiǎng)
How are you?你好無?(Ngi hó mô?)
I’m fine, thank you我好,謝謝 (Ngǒ hó, siā-siā)
What’s your name?你叫恁名?(Ngi gió lùng mīng?)
My name is…我叫… (Ngǒ gió…)
Nice to meet you幸會 (Háng-fui)
Goodbye掰掰 (Bái-bái)
Thank you多謝 (Tò-siā)
You’re welcome唔使客氣 (Bē siāt-kheh-khì)
Please請 (Chhìng)
Excuse me對唔住 (Dui m ng diu)
I’m sorry我唔好意思 (Ngǒ m-hó-yi-sǐ)

Note: Hakka is a Chinese dialect with several regional variations, and the romanization system used here is based on the Taiwanese Romanization System. Pronunciation and vocabulary may differ in other Hakka communities.


Xiang, another Chinese dialect, is most commonly spoken in Hunan province. It is a member of the Chinese language family and has over 36 million speakers, making it one of the most widely spoken dialects in China. However, Xiang has often been looked down upon by Mandarin speakers as a “less refined” dialect.

Despite this discrimination, Xiang is a fascinating language that deserves recognition. Its unique grammar and vocabulary set it apart from other Chinese dialects and even Standard Chinese.

For example, Xiang has its own pronouns that differ from those used in Mandarin or Cantonese. Additionally, some words have completely different meanings in Xiang than they do in other Chinese languages.

It’s unfortunate that Xiang and other Chinese dialects are often dismissed as “inferior” to Standard Chinese. These attitudes only serve to perpetuate linguistic inequality within China and reinforce the dominance of Mandarin as the standard language.

We should celebrate linguistic diversity rather than stigmatizing certain versions of a language. After all, each dialect represents a unique culture and community with its own rich history and traditions.

Hello你好 (Nǐ hàu)
Good morning早晨 (Zǎo cēn)
Good afternoon午安 (Ng ừn)
Good evening晚上好 (Vāng sáng hàu)
Good night晚安 (Vāng àn)
How are you?你好吗?(Nǐ hàu mǎ?)
I’m fine, thank you我好,谢谢 (Ng ǫng, xīe xīe)
What’s your name?你叫什么名字?(Nǐ kiō sǐ mǎng cǐ?)
My name is…我叫… (Ng kiō…)
Nice to meet you认识你很高兴 (Jiǒng kiū nǐ hàn gǎu hǹg)
Goodbye再见 (Zǎi giǎng)
Thank you谢谢 (Xīe xīe)
You’re welcome哪才客气 (Nā cài hǹg kǐ)
Please请 (Cǐng)
Excuse me对唔起 (Dù vǔ qí)
I’m sorry我很抱歉 (Ng hǹg bāu qiǎn)

Note: Xiang, also known as Hunanese, is a regional language spoken in the Hunan province of China. The romanization system used here is based on the pinyin system. Pronunciation and vocabulary may vary among different Xiang-speaking communities.


Fujian is a southeastern province in China that boasts an array of Chinese dialects. The most widely spoken ones include Min Nan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Min Dong, and Pu Xian.

As a language family, Fujianese has been largely recognized as one of the most complex of all Chinese dialects. Min Nan or Hokkien-Taiwanese is most commonly spoken in the southern part of Fujian province as well as in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

It has approximately 50 million speakers worldwide, making it one of the most significant and influential Chinese dialects. On the other hand, Min Dong is predominantly spoken in Fuzhou city and surrounding areas.

The dialect has over 10 million speakers worldwide. Compared to other Chinese dialects, Min Dong is one of the most difficult to learn due to its complex grammar structure and vast vocabulary.

Pu Xian is spoken mainly by people living in Putian city and surrounding regions. Its structure differs significantly from standard Chinese with more distinctive pronunciations and word formations that can be quite challenging for non-native speakers to master.

Fujian province is home to some of China’s most challenging yet beautiful Chinese dialects. Despite their complexities and difficulties, these languages continue to thrive among local communities thanks to their historical significance as well as their preservation through generations.

Hello你好 (Lí hó)
Good morning早晨 (Choà-sáng)
Good afternoon午安 (Ngó-àn)
Good evening晚安 (Bán-àn)
Good night晚安 (Bán-àn)
How are you?你好无?(Lí hó bô?)
I’m fine, thank you我好,谢谢 (Góa hó, siā-siā)
What’s your name?你叫阮按怎个名?(Lí kiò gún án-chóa ê míng?)
My name is…我叫… (Góa kiò…)
Nice to meet you幸会 (Heng-hūi)
Goodbye再见 (Chài-kiàn)
Thank you多谢 (Toa-seh)
You’re welcome欢迎 (Huân-êng)
Please请 (Chhiàⁿ)
Excuse me不好意思 (Bō-hói-i-si)
I’m sorry对不起 (Toē-pō-ki)

Note: Fujianese, also known as Hokkien, is a Chinese dialect widely spoken in Fujian province and other regions with significant Fujianese communities. The romanization system used here is based on the Pe̍h-ōe-jī romanization. Pronunciation and vocabulary may vary among different Fujianese-speaking communities.


Shanghainese is one of the most interesting dialects in China, and also one of the most misunderstood. Many people think that Shanghainese is just a variation of Mandarin or Cantonese, but in reality, it is a distinct language with its own unique characteristics. Firstly, Shanghainese belongs to the Wu language family, which is different from Mandarin and Cantonese.

This means that even though it shares some similarities with these two languages, it has its own grammar rules and vocabulary. Secondly, Shanghainese is most commonly spoken in Shanghai and surrounding areas.

However, due to the increasing popularity of Mandarin as the standard Chinese language in China, many younger generations are not learning or using Shanghainese as much as their parents or grandparents did. Despite this decline in usage among younger generations, Shanghainese remains an important part of Shanghai’s cultural heritage.

It has a rich history dating back centuries and has even influenced other languages such as Japanese. In my opinion, it is essential that we preserve and celebrate the diversity of Chinese dialects like Shanghainese.

These languages are not just variations of Mandarin; they have their own unique identities that should be recognized and respected. As China continues to modernize and globalize, we must not forget our linguistic roots and the role they play in shaping our cultural identity.


Jiangxi is a province situated in the southeast region of China. The province has an area of over 166,000 square kilometers and is home to over 45 million people.

In Jiangxi, the most commonly spoken language is Gan, which is one of the most important dialects in China’s language family. Gan is a Chinese dialect that has its roots in ancient Chinese history and shares similarities with other dialects like Hakka and Mandarin.

While similarities exist, it’s also important to note that Gan has its own unique set of characteristics that set it apart from other dialects. Despite being unique, Gan remains unrecognized as an official language in China and hasn’t gained much attention outside Jiangxi Province.

This lack of recognition means that individuals who speak Gan are often required to learn standard Chinese for official communication, creating a sense of cultural marginalization. Some argue that the lack of attention given to Gan reflects a larger issue surrounding the preservation and recognition of minority cultures within China.

There have been efforts by some scholars and activists to promote greater understanding and appreciation for the diverse linguistic heritage found across China’s vast territories. Gan remains an important aspect of China’s linguistic heritage and serves as an example of how even within one country, there can be great linguistic diversity.


Hunan is one of the most fascinating provinces in China, offering a unique blend of culture, history and natural beauty. However, what makes it truly special is its rich linguistic diversity.

The province boasts a variety of Chinese dialects that are spoken by different ethnic groups living in the region. One of the most prominent dialects spoken in Hunan is Xiang, which belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family and is most commonly spoken in the central and southern parts of Hunan.

It has been said that Xiang is one of the five major Chinese dialects, alongside Mandarin, Wu, Cantonese and Minnan.

EnglishHunanese (Xiang)
Hello你好 (Lí hó)
Good morning早晨 (Zǎo cēn)
Good afternoon午安 (Ng-ŏng)
Good evening晚上好 (Vān-sǐn hó)
Good night晚安 (Vān-ŏng)
How are you?你好无?(Lí hó mô?)
I’m fine, thank you我好,谢谢 (Ng-ō hó, xièxiè)
What’s your name?你叫乜嘢名?(Lí kiū mĕ ya-míng?)
My name is…我叫… (Ng-ō kiū…)
Nice to meet you幸会 (Hói-fé)
Goodbye再见 (Zài-gĕn)
Thank you多谢 (Dò-sái)
You’re welcome哪才客气 (Nācăi hă-khī)
Please请 (Cǐng)
Excuse me对唔住 (Duì m hó-chǔ)
I’m sorry我很抱歉 (Ng-ō hǐn bǎu-qǐen)

Note: Hunanese (Xiang) is a language spoken in the Hunan province of China. The romanization system used here is based on the pinyin system. Pronunciation and vocabulary may vary among different Xiang-speaking communities.


Gan is one of the most spoken Chinese dialects, primarily used in Jiangxi Province. It is part of the Chinese language family and shares similarities with Mandarin, especially in terms of pronunciation.

However, it also has its own unique set of vocabulary and grammar rules that make it distinct from standard Chinese. One interesting aspect of Gan is that it has several different sub-dialects within its own language family.

This can make it difficult for outsiders to understand the nuances and variations in speech between different regions. Additionally, many Gan speakers may also use Mandarin or other Chinese languages in their daily lives, depending on their location or social context.

Despite its widespread use in Jiangxi Province and beyond, Gan often takes a backseat to more well-known Chinese dialects like Cantonese or Shanghainese. However, for those interested in learning about the rich diversity of Chinese culture and language, exploring the nuances of Gan can be a rewarding experience.


Yue is one of the most interesting Chinese dialects and is most commonly spoken in Guangdong Province, Hong Kong, and Macau. It belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family, which is one of the largest language families in the world. is also known as Cantonese, which means “Guangzhou speech.”

Cantonese has a rich history and culture. It has been around for over 2,000 years and continues to evolve today.

Cantonese is also one of the most difficult Chinese languages to learn because it has nine tones, compared to Mandarin’s four tones. Despite its complexity, Cantonese is still widely used today in Hong Kong and Macau.

However, there are some concerns that this may change in the future due to the increasing use of Mandarin as a standard Chinese language. In my opinion, it would be a shame if Cantonese were to disappear completely.

It has such a unique sound and cultural significance that should be preserved for future generations to come. While learning Mandarin may be important for business purposes or international communication, we should not forget about the importance of preserving regional dialects like Cantonese.


The Sino-Tibetan language family is one of the most widely spoken language families in China. It includes languages such as Tibetan, Burmese, and Karen. However, the most commonly spoken Sino-Tibetan language in China is Mandarin.

Mandarin is a standardized form of Chinese that is used as the official language in China. It is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

Mandarin has become increasingly popular over the years due to its usefulness in business and trade. Despite its widespread use, many people argue that Mandarin is not a true representation of Chinese culture or history.

They claim that other Chinese dialects within the Sino-Tibetan language family should receive more recognition and support. In my opinion, while it’s important to appreciate and preserve all forms of Chinese dialects within the Sino-Tibetan language family, it’s also important to recognize that Mandarin has become a global phenomenon for a reason.

Its standardization allows for easier communication between different regions and cultures within China, as well as on an international scale. Ultimately, we should strive for a balance between preserving linguistic diversity and practicality in communication – both within China and beyond its borders.


Hunanese is another dialect that belongs to the Chinese language family. It is most commonly spoken in the Hunan province of China and is one of the most fascinating dialects in my opinion. The Hunanese dialect has a unique pronunciation and tonality that sets it apart from other Chinese dialects.

It also has a distinct vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure that makes it stand out from other regional languages. One thing I love about Hunanese is how expressive it is.

The tone of voice used when speaking this dialect can change the meaning of words entirely, which adds a layer of complexity to communication that I find fascinating. However, this also means that it can be challenging for non-native speakers to learn and understand.

But despite its uniqueness, Hunanese has been overshadowed by Mandarin as the standard Chinese language in recent years. While Mandarin may be more widely spoken and understood across China and even worldwide, I think it’s important not to forget about regional languages like Hunanese that have their own rich history and culture behind them.


By-sa is a dialect of the Chinese language family, and it is one of the most fascinating ones. This language is most commonly spoken in the southwestern province of Yunnan, which borders Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam.

One interesting fact about By-sa is that it has no written form, which can make it difficult for non-native speakers to learn or even understand. This fact also puts By-sa at risk of being lost entirely as younger generations may not see the value in preserving this unique dialect.

Despite its challenges, however, By-sa remains an important part of China’s linguistic diversity and cultural heritage. Its pronunciation and syntax are distinct from other Chinese dialects and offer an insight into the rich linguistic history of China.

It’s also worth noting that while many people may not be familiar with By-sa specifically, they will likely have heard some elements of it in other languages or dialects from neighboring regions. Overall, there’s much to appreciate about By-sa as a unique part of China’s linguistic tapestry.

However, it’s important to remember that all Chinese dialects deserve attention and respect for what they contribute to our understanding of this complex language family. We must continue to work towards preserving these dialects so that future generations can appreciate their richness and diversity.


Pinghua, a Chinese dialect that belongs to the Yue language family, is most commonly spoken in the Guangxi province of China. It is one of the most unique dialects in China, with its own set of rules and grammar that differ greatly from Standard Chinese. However, despite its uniqueness and history, Pinghua is often overlooked and not given the recognition it deserves.

One reason for this lack of recognition may be due to the fact that Pinghua has relatively few speakers compared to other Chinese dialects. Additionally, those who do speak Pinghua may also be fluent in other more commonly spoken Chinese languages such as Mandarin or Cantonese.

But just because it has fewer speakers does not mean that it should be dismissed or forgotten. In fact, I believe that Pinghua’s unique features should be celebrated and preserved.

Its distinct tone system and grammar structures are fascinating linguistic phenomena worthy of study and admiration. Furthermore, by preserving Pinghua, we can also preserve a piece of China’s rich cultural heritage.

It is important to remember that language is not just a tool for communication but also a reflection of culture and history. By recognizing and valuing all Chinese dialects, including lesser-known ones like Pinghua, we can gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for China’s diverse linguistic landscape.


Wu is another Chinese dialect that is spoken by millions of people in China. It is a member of the Sino-Tibetan language family and it has several sub-dialects such as Shanghainese, Suzhounese, Wenzhounese, etc. Wu is most commonly spoken in the central-eastern coastal provinces such as Zhejiang, Shanghai, and southern Jiangsu. is one of the most fascinating and complex Chinese dialects because it has a unique tonal system that distinguishes it from other dialects.

It also has several distinct grammatical features that make it challenging to learn for non-native speakers. Additionally, Wu has a rich cultural heritage that includes various forms of art such as opera, folk music, and dance.

Despite its significance in China’s linguistic landscape, many people outside of Asia have never heard of Wu or even know that there are hundreds of Chinese dialects spoken in the country. This lack of awareness reflects the dominance of Standard Chinese (Mandarin) and the marginalization of other languages/dialects in China’s education system and media.

Overall, Wu is a beautiful and complex Chinese language/dialect with a rich cultural heritage that deserves more recognition both inside and outside of China. As a linguist who values linguistic diversity and cultural exchange, I hope more people will take an interest in learning about Wu and other lesser-known languages/dialects around the world.


Huizhou, a small city located in the eastern part of Guangdong province, is known for its unique dialect of Chinese. This dialect, which falls under the Min Nan language family, is most commonly spoken in Huizhou and its surrounding areas. As someone who has lived in China for several years and has studied various dialects of the Chinese language, I must say that Huizhou dialect is one of the most fascinating and challenging to learn.

It differs greatly from standard Chinese or Mandarin, which is more commonly taught in schools and used in official settings. One interesting aspect of Huizhou dialect is its use of tone sandhi, a linguistic process where tones change depending on the context they are used in.

For example, the third tone (a falling-rising tone) can become a second tone (a rising tone) when followed by another third tone syllable. This may sound confusing to non-native speakers, but it’s actually quite ingenious once you get used to it.

Another thing I appreciate about Huizhou dialect is how it reflects the city’s rich history and culture. The language has been passed down through generations and has evolved over time to include influences from nearby regions such as Guangxi and Fujian provinces.


As we conclude our exploration of the various languages spoken in China, it is evident that the country is a veritable linguistic mosaic. From the widely spoken Mandarin to lesser-known dialects like Shanghainese and Wu, there are over 200 Chinese dialects, each with its unique nuances and peculiarities.

It is encouraging to note that despite the linguistic diversity, most people in China can communicate with one another using Standard Chinese or Mandarin. It is also noteworthy that Chinese is one of the most widely spoken languages globally, with an estimated 1.2 billion speakers worldwide, making it an essential language for anyone seeking to interact with people from diverse cultures.

Moreover, as a member of the Sino-Tibetan language family, which includes other languages like Tibetan and Burmese, there are many opportunities for comparative analysis and cross-linguistic research. Exploring China’s diverse linguistic landscape has been both informative and intriguing.

While Standard Chinese remains the most commonly spoken language in China today, it’s fascinating to see how different communities across China have developed their unique tongues over time. As we continue to learn more about these languages’ distinctive features and diversities within them, we can only hope to gain a deeper appreciation for Chinese culture overall and humanity’s linguistic diversity as a whole.