World Languages: Languages index
   Most spoken
   By country
   North American
   South American
   The Canopy
   Forest Floor
   Forest Waters
   Indigenous People
   Saving Rainforests
   Country Profiles
   Works Cited
 Deforestation Stats
 Site Map
 Mongabay Sites
   Animal Photos
   Travel Tips
   Tropical Fish

Chinese language resources

Chinese is spoken on a daily basis in: Cambodia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Trinidad and Tobago, Viet Nam, Antigua, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, United States Chinese--> --> --> -->

Additional background on Chinese

Chinese (??/??, Pinyin: Hànyu; ??, Zhongwén; ??/??, Huáyu; or ??/??, Huáwén) is a language (or language family) that forms part of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. According to Guinness World Records 2006, Chinese, with 1.4 billion speakers in the Mandarin dialect alone, is the most commonly spoken language in the world. About one-fifth of the people in the world speak some form of Chinese as their native language.

In general, all varieties of Chinese are tonal and analytic. However, spoken Chinese is also distinguished for a high level of internal diversity. Regional variation between different variants/dialects is comparable in many respects to the Romance language family; many variants of spoken Chinese are different enough to be mutually incomprehensible.

There are between six and twelve main regional groups of Chinese (depending on classification scheme), of which the most populous by far is Mandarin (c. 800 million), followed by Wu (c. 90 million), and Cantonese (Yue; c. 70 million). The identification of the varieties of Chinese as “languages” or “dialects” is a controversial issue. If Chinese is classified as a single language rather than a group of languages, it has the largest number of speakers in the world; if not then speakers of English as a first and second language number more, though Mandarin still holds the title for most native speakers.

The standardized form of spoken Chinese is based on the Beijing dialect, a member of the Mandarin group; it is described in the article “Standard Mandarin”. Standard Mandarin is the official language of the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China on Taiwan, as well as one of four official languages of Singapore. Chinese—de facto, Standard Mandarin—is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Spoken in the form of Standard Cantonese, Chinese is one of the official languages of Hong Kong (together with English) and of Macau (together with Portuguese).

Vernacular Chinese, which is most closely based on the Mandarin group, is the standardized written language used by speakers of all Chinese spoken variants. Some other variants, including Cantonese and Minnan, have also developed written forms that correspond more closely to the spoken form of those variants, though these are used predominantly in informal contexts.

Listen to the introductory section of the article (help·info)


What are the most spoken languages on earth?

All data is derived from UNESCO.


  • Most spoken
  • By country
  • People
  • African
  • Asian
  • North American
  • Pacific
  • South American

  • Mission
  • Introduction
  • Characteristics
  • Biodiversity
  • The Canopy
  • Forest Floor
  • Forest Waters
  • Indigenous People
  • Deforestation
  • Consequences
  • Saving Rainforests
  • Country Profiles
  • Works Cited
  • Deforestation Stats

    For kids
    Tropical fish

  • what's new | tropical fish | help support the site | search | about | contact

    Copyright Rhett Butler 2005-2013