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29 October 2014
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Elizabeth l allegedly spoke nine different languages, including Welsh, and did a number of translations.

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Chinese today
The history of Chinese
Names and writing system

The history of Chinese

Chinese has eight main varieties, none of which can be easily understood by speakers of the others. Of these, the two spoken most commonly by UK Chinese are Cantonese and Mandarin or Putonghua ('common speech'). Mandarin is based on a northern dialect and serves as the standard language for the country as a whole; it is also used in Taiwan and Singapore. Cantonese is spoken in the south of China and in Hong Kong.

All varieties of Chinese use tone to signal differences in meaning between words. Cantonese, for instance, has nine tones; Mandarin has four, as illustrated by the different meanings of the word 'tang' below:

  • high level tone: soup
  • high rising tone: sugar
  • falling and rising tone: lie down
  • falling tone: hot

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