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What is Chinese
Chinese language distribution map

Differences between Northern dialects are largely tonal, differences between Southern dialects are distinct. Those who speak Northern dialects tend to be able to understand each other while those speaking Southern dialects need to rely on the common written script in order to communicate.

What is Chinese? - A brief introduction

There are seven major Chinese languages (dialects / fāngyán 方言) spoken by the China's majority Han Chinese. Standard Chinese is based on Northern dialects (北方话) and the pronunciation of the Beijing dialect (北京语音). Chinese spoken in Beijing is very close to standard Chinese but it is not standard Chinese per se. Standard mandarin, or pŭtōnghuà , was adopted in all Chinese schools in 1956. The following terms can all be used to refer to standard Chinese:

中文 zhōngwén - Chinese language in general
汉语 hànyǔ - Language of the Han Chinese(academic)
普通话 pŭtōnghuà - Common language (China)
國語 guóyŭ - National language (Taiwan)
华语 huáyŭ - Chinese language (Singapore)

Standard Chinese, often referred to in English as Mandarin, is the official spoken language of China and Taiwan, one of the six official languages of the United Nations. and one of the four official languages of Singapore. A recent survey shows that only 53% in China could speak the standard Chinese language, or roughly about 700 million people.

Chinese in the Netherlands

Chinese Indonesians are mostly of Fujian origin. The Chinese words found in the Dutch vocabulary such as thee, tahoe, bapao, tauge, loempia come from the South Fujian dialect mǐnnánhuà 闽南话 (also known as Hokkien). The first Dutch-Chinese dictionary is in fact Dutch-mǐnnánhuà.

Until recently, the ‘Chinese’ you hear in shops and restaurants are mostly Cantonese or Hakka. Due to the large numbers of Chinese students and tourists arriving in Amsterdam in recent years, what you hear spoken by the Chinese may be the standard Chinese, but more often one of the many non traditional regional dialects including the Wenzhou 温州 dialect of Zhejiang 浙江 province.

Most Chinese papers and shop signs you see in Netherlands are written in traditional (non-simplified) Chinese characters. The street signs in Amsterdam's Chinatown is also written in traditional characters.
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