Thursday, 12 January 2012

You are learning Putonghua 普通话, not Hanyu 汉语

Chinese teachers, esp. those from China, use the term 'Hanyu 汉语' to refer to Chinese. I am not in favour of this because in reality no native Chinese (except teachers) uses this in a daily conversation. This term is rather historic. Hanyu, belonging to the Hanren (Han-people), was used to contrast with languages spoken by other ethnics, like Zangyu (Tibetan) or Mengguyu (Mongolian), that exist in China. Hanyu, just like Zhongwen 中文 (Chinese language, usually refers to the written language), can by and large include the regional dialects like Yue (Cantonese), Wu, Min, Hakka, etc. Hence, it is not appropriate for those who are learning only Mandarin Chinese.

I use 'Putonghua 普通话' (lit. common language), which refers to the official common spoken language in China. Taiwanese use 'Guoyu 国语' (lit. country language). Singaporean, Malaysian or overseas Chinese use 'Huayu 华语' (Hua - ancient term for China/Chinese). These are all acceptable depending where your teachers come from. Zhongwen is also commonly used.

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