world cuisine | languages
search help | about us | allergies
Chinese (中文 or 汉语/漢語 or 华语/華語)

Chinese or the Sinitic language(s) (Hanyu, Huayu  or Zhongwen) can be considered a language or language family. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the two branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages. About one-fifth of the world’s population, or over 1 billion people, speak some form of Chinese as their native language. The identification of the varieties of Chinese as "languages" or "dialects" is controversial.

Spoken Chinese is distinguished by its high level of internal diversity, though all spoken varieties of Chinese are tonal and analytic. There are between six and twelve main regional groups of Chinese (depending on classification scheme), of which the most populous (by far) is Mandarin (c. 850 million), followed by Wu (c. 90 million), Min (c. 70 million) and Cantonese (c. 70 million). Most of these groups are mutually unintelligible, though some, like Xiang and the Southwest Mandarin dialects, may share common terms and some degree of intelligibility. Chinese is classified as a macrolanguage with 13 sub-languages in ISO 639-3, though the identification of the varieties of Chinese as multiple "languages" or as "dialects" of a single language is a contentious issue.

The standardized form of spoken Chinese is Standard Mandarin (Putonghua/Guoyu), based on the Beijing dialect. Standard Mandarin is the official language of the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan), as well as one of four official languages of Singapore. Chinese—de facto, Standard Mandarin—is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Of the other varieties, Standard Cantonese is common and influential in Cantonese-speaking overseas communities, and remains one of the official languages of Hong Kong (together with English) and of Macau (together with Portuguese). Min Nan, part of the Min language group, is widely spoken in southern Fujian, in neighbouring Taiwan (where it is known as Taiwanese or Hoklo) and in Southeast Asia (where it dominates in Singapore and Malaysia and is known as Hokkien).

According to news reports in March 2007, 86 percent of people in the People's Republic of China speak a variant of spoken Chinese. As a language family, the number of Chinese speakers is 1.136 billion. The same news report indicate 53 percent of the population, or 700 million speakers, can effectively communicate in Putonghua. (Ref: Wikipedia)

Chinese on

To find foods and foods and food-related items in in China you may search by any of the following terms:
Cantonese China Chinese Hanyu Huayu Mandarin Zhongwen 中文 or 汉语/漢語 or

These terms associated with languages are hidden behind the scenes as there is some crossover with other languages. The traveller  may not be precisely certain which language is in use, and can search using other  terms such as "Cantonese'' or "Mandarin".

There is also the issue of Pinyin. Pinyin is the standardised agreed transliteration of Chinese characters into English. If the Pinyin in is present then this will be included in the list for 'Search Languages'.

See also Pinyin, Mandarin, Bân-lâm-gú - Minnányu, Cantonese, Hakka, Hanzi, Hokken, Shanghainese, Taiwanese.

You may use any of the above terms in any search you make using 'Translate from English' so that if you wish to search for a translation of  cloud ear mushroom, choose whichever of these language terms that you think is most appropriate, say:
'Chinese cloud ear' and then click on 'Translate from English'.

One of the problems of providing searches in a multilingual world-wide food dictionary is trying to help people reach the things they are searching for. People do not always know the precise language being used, so other searches, such as 'Cantonese' should result in a successful search.

Also included in the glossary are dishes from the cuisine of the region, cookery terms, cooking methods, drinks, food festivals, days of the week, months of the year etc.

<< go to main page

Feel free to e-mail us if you have any comments, but be aware that the database is just being maintained, not updated.

© Suzy Oakes, all rights reserved
All data appearing on this site are copyright protected