How to say Chinese in Chinese?
Although the question “how to say Chinese in Chinese?” may seem silly, this is actually a great question. How do you say Chinese in Chinese? Well, it depends on which type of Chinese you’re talking about. Today we’re going to learn ways to express the differentiation variations of the word “Chinese.”
This is useful for expressing language issues, asking questions, and more. Also, what people might not initially realize is that there are several ways to say Chinese and they all have slightly different meanings.
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#1 中文 / Zhōngwén / Chinese Language (all families)
This is how to refer to the whole Chinese language. 中 is the same as from 中国 meaning China and 文 is the word for text or language. So this is the language of China, Chinese. However, it doesn’t specify it’s Mandarin strongly. People often use other ones to more clearly say Mandarin.
Note: if you’re a student and say 学习中文, this is totally acceptable!
#2 汉语 / Hànyǔ / Chinese Language (Mandarin)
汉语 is another word for the Chinese language, but more specifically Mandarin. 汉 (Hàn) comes from the Han Ethnic Group. The Han Ethnic group is the majority ethnic group in China and speakers of Mandarin. 92% of the Chinese population and more than 97% of the Taiwanese population are Han. Out of the entire human population in the world, 19% are Han Chinese. 语 (Yǔ) means language. And so this is just “The language of the Han people” and is a good way to say Chinese or Mandarin.
#3 普通话 / Pǔtōnghuà / Mandarin (The Common Language)
普通话 breaks down into two words. 普通 Pǔtōng literally means “common” or “general.” 话 Huà is “speech” or “language.” So this is similar to the English saying “The common tongue” or the “the common language.” Since the common language learned by all Chinese is Mandarin, 普通话 is the “official language” in China and refers to standard Mandarin Chinese.
#4 国语 / Guóyǔ / The Nation’s Language (In Taiwan)
国语 Guóyǔ is using the 国 from 国家 meaning “country.” So, this a way to say the “language of the nation” or “the language of the country.” Interestingly, this phrasing is almost only used in Taiwan. It basically means Chinese and Mandarin Chinese at that.
#5 华语 /Huáyǔ / Chinese Language (for overseas Chinese)
The “华” Huá comes from “华夏” Huáxià。 Huaxia is a historical concept representing the Chinese nation and civilization. It came forth out of a self-awareness of the Han Chinese people towards their ancestral tribes, collectively known as the Huaxia. So, while this may sound similar to 汉语 or 国语， this word is often used by Chinese speakers that are not in China. Overseas Chinese people (Singapore, Malaysia, etc) will often use this way of saying the Chinese language.