Caution: important differences from Cantonese. The official language of China and Taiwan, derived from different dialects but not itself a dialect, or regional variety of a language, like Cockney English. The term Mandarin refers to the spoken language. One speaks Mandarin but writes Chinese. While the Cantonese dialect is more prevalent in older American Chinatowns, Mandarin is increasingly spoken in newer Chinatowns. China has one written language using characters understood by anyone who is literate, but many spoken regional dialects such as Shanghainese and Fukienese, which are unintelligible to people from other regions.
« Back to Glossary Index