🇨🇳 Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese 🇨🇳 What exactly is Chinese? And which one should you use on your website?! I’m gonna try to keep it simple.
Chinese (中文 the general term and 汉语 mostly for the spoken language) describes a group of languages spoken by the Han majority and many minority ethnic groups in China.
There are many varieties of Chinese. The most spoken ones are Mandarin (普通话), Min (闽语), Wu (吴语) and Yue (粤语) or Cantonese (广东话).
The most popular ones are definitely Mandarin and Cantonese.
Mandarin (普通话) is the standardized and simplified Chinese as well as the official language of the People’s Republic of China and one of the four official languages of Singapore.
Cantonese (广东话) or Yue (粤语) is the second most popular variety of the Chinese language, spoken in Guangdong, Guangxi, Hong Kong, Macao and most of the overseas Chinese communities. Cantonese is usually written with traditional Chinese characters.
Besides that there are many dialects like Shanghainese (上海话), which belongs to the Wu group.
And yes, all of them use Chinese characters – Hanzi (汉字). What’s important to know, there are two writing systems: simplified (the standardized system) and traditional (used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao and most of the Chinatowns around the world; the traditional characters are more complex and more complicated).
Since Mandarin is the official and most spoken language it is recommended to use Mandarin and the simplified characters on your website. Even though Cantonese dominates some of the biggest cities as well as Chinatowns around the world, the internet is dominated by Mandarin and simplified characters.
According to Statista, Chinese was the second most common language used on the internet in January 2020! [Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/262946/share-of-the-most-common-languages-on-the-internet/, 14.05.2022]. And since 66 % of Chinese speakers use Mandarin as their first language [Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_language, 14.05.2022], it’s not a surprise that by far most of the online content is published in Mandarin.
What’s interesting, the percentage of websites using content in Mandarin has grown extremely fast in the last few years. There are predictions that Mandarin will be the most common language used on the internet in the next few years.
PS: All Chinese words in this post are written in Mandarin and Simplified Characters.