The native language of over one billion people (approximately a fifth of the world’s population) Chinese is rightfully considered one of the most important languages nowadays.
Mandarin Chinese, the official language of the People’s Republic of China, is the first in the top of the most widely spoken languages in the world, having twice as many speakers as its runner up, English.
Famous for its complicated writing system and for its variety, Chinese sums up over two thousand dialects. Some of the most important dialect groups are: Mandarin Chinese, Wu, Cantonese, Min, Xiang, Hakka and Gan. The dialects in these groups are very seldom mutually intelligible and thus turn the learning of the Chinese language into a quite challenging process.
Linguists classified Chinese as being a part of part of the Sino-Tibetan language family. The language of a very powerful empire, Chinese reached different parts of the world (Korea, Japan, Vietnam). The Chinese influence is still easily traceable in the culture of the previously mentioned countries, especially in the writing systems of Korean and Japanese. These two countries have borrowed Chinese characters and built their alphabets (Hanja and Kanji) on this foundation.
The Chinese alphabet is said to have evolved from the early hieroglyphs. Generically called logographs, the units of the Chinese alphabet may stand for a morpheme or a syllable. The most recent and most popular writing system was implemented on 1954 and is called Simplified Chinese. The simplification refers to the use of fewer strokes when writing a glyph.
There are approximately twenty thousand Chinese characters of which only half are commonly used. Although the percentage of Chinese words in their vocabulary is overwhelming, Chinese people have borrowed quite a few foreign words from the peoples that traveled on the Silk Road along the centuries. Nowadays several words of English origin became part of their language, mostly technological terminology and words associated with the western culture.
The growing importance of the Chinese language in both industry and international trade is reflected in the constantly growing number of people learning it. A survey led by China’s Ministry of Education showed that, nowadays, approximately thirty million people are studying Chinese in universities, colleges or private courses.
China has registered one of the most spectacular economical booms of the century and it is thus considered by many companies a serious investment opportunity. The international interest in this particular Asian market is made obvious by the increased demand for translations from and into Chinese and for Chinese language professionals.