Although Mandarin Chinese is the official language of the country, there are many dialects in China. So, when you take a professional project to China, it is important to consider the province you are targeting and which of the subdialects in each dialect you should use.
What is the Chinese language?
Although this question may seem a bit strange at first glance, it is worth putting a language like Chinese into context. Chinese is the language spoken not only in China, but also in many other parts of Asia.
Chinese is divided into 8 main dialects, each of which has several subdialects. It is also important to consider that these are tonal languages–the meaning of the words changes completely depending on the tone used–, so it is not enough just to know which dialect you are going to use, but you also need to consider the tone used to pronounce it.
Main Chinese dialects
These are the eight main groups linguists use to classify the Chinese language.
The main language: Mandarin
Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in the country, with 836 million speakers. It is comprised of dozens of subdialects, with Beijing (Peking) being chosen as the standard language.
Standard Chinese is also official in Taiwan and Singapore.
That said, there are many places that do not use the official dialect. They use different dialects that make understanding difficult, even if it is from the same family. When it comes to translation services, the translating websites into Mandarin is one of the most in-demand services.
Wu is spoken by 77 million people who use more than 6 subdialects. It is predominant in the easternmost parts of China, such as Shanghai and the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang.
The Cantonese dialect (Yue) is spoken by some 71 million people, mostly in the Guangzhou area. It encompasses more than 11 subdialects and includes nine tones and much longer vowel lengths than Mandarin.
Min is spoken by 60 million people in the Fujian province and in parts of Taiwan, Zhejiang, Guangdong and Hainan. It has more than 4 subdialects that are not mutually intelligible with each other or with standard Chinese.
This dialect is spoken mainly in the south of the country, where the approximately 60 million Hakka people live in the provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Sichuan, Hunan, Hainan, Guizhou and Taiwan. It has more than nine dialects, some with differing pronunciations. Hakka is not mutually intelligible with most other dialects.
Jin is a dialect spoken by some 45 million people in an area in northern China that includes the provinces of Shanxi, Hebei, Henan and Shaanxi. It is also used in the central area of Inner Mongolia.
Xiāng subdialects are spoken in the Hunan province by more than 36 million people. Some of its more than four subdialects are closely related to the Wu dialect. The meaning of Xiāng dialect words varies depending on which of its five tones are used.
The Gan dialect is predominant in western China, mainly in the Jiangxi province, and has more than 41 million speakers of one of its more than 10 subdialects. It has quite a few concordances with Hakka and some with Mandarin and Wu.
There are more than 300 living languages in China that make this immense country a linguistic labyrinth in which you need to know how to get around in order to undertake a project.
The dialects in China vary greatly among themselves, so it is important to have a professional translation agency like Linguaserve, which has native professionals specialized in the communication services you need.