Welcome to the Chinese Department at Wikiversity, part of the Center for Foreign Language Learning and the School of Language and Literature.

See also the award-winning Chinese Study Guide.

Introduction to Chinese

You are here because you want to learn or teach Chinese. Great! First, pick a dialect you wish to focus on. Your current options are Cantonese and Mandarin. There are more native Mandarin Chinese speakers than any other language in the world and it is the official language of both China Mainland and Taiwan and one of the official languages of Singapore. Cantonese, originating in the area around Guangdong Province, is spoken by about 70 million people worldwide and is the predominant language of overseas Chinese.



Courses currently being offered by the Chinese Department:


Mandarin (Gu?nhuà ) with Simplified Chinese Writing

This is the Chinese (Zh?ngwén ) dialect spoken by 867.2 million speakers worldwide. Learning Mandarin Chinese will help you communicate to the largest linguistic group in the world. The classes here will focus on Standard Mandarin which is based on the Beijing dialect. This is spoken throughout the PRC as P?t?nghuà ("common speech"), in ROC as Guóyu ("national language"), and in Singapore as Huáyu ("Chinese language"). Mandarin is the official language in the PRC and ROC while being the official Chinese dialect in Singapore. Simplified Chinese characters (ji?nt?zì ), the official Chinese characters (Hànzì ) of the PRC and Singapore, will be exclusively used in the courseware here, along with the PRC's Hàny? P?ny?n ? romanization system, to avoid confusion and enable communication to the maximum number of Chinese speaking people possible.

Cantonese (Yue Yu ) with Traditional Chinese Writing

This is the native Chinese dialect for all of historical Canton province and the majority of overseas Chinese in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and North America by the common name of Kwong Tung Wah ("Speech of Canton"). It is also the de facto official Chinese spoken language of Hong Kong and Macau. The Chinese written language used by most of these groups, except in modern Canton province and Singapore, is the Traditional Chinese character system, and that is what will be used in this coursework along with using the Yale romanization system. Since it is argued that Cantonese is closer in form to historical Chinese, this may be a more direct way to understanding Classical Chinese once Classical Chinese courses taught in English and Cantonese are created. Also note that the usage of Traditional Chinese in this coursework will also be a benefit to Mandarin students that will be traveling to Taiwan so that they can familiarize themselves with how the traditional characters look from viewing the vocabulary lists before their trip.

Language reference


Mandarin verb conjugation

  • Compared to many other languages, verb tenses in Mandarin Chinese are very simple. Verb conjugation in Chinese utilizes participles to imply various ideas rather than straight forward verb endings. Verbs are the same for all persons and tenses.

Mandarin English
kan4 to see or to watch
wo3 kan4 dian4shi4. 我看电视。 I watch the television.
ta1 zai4 kan4 dian4shi4. 他在看电视。 He is watching the television.
ni3 kan4 le dian4shi4. 你看了电视。 You watched the television.
wo3men kan4guo dian4shi4. 我们看过电视。 We have watched the television before.

Notice how throughout subject and tense changes, 看 remains without any verb endings. For all practical purposes, verbs are not conjugated in Mandarin Chinese.


Typing characters

Department news

  • October 15, 2006 - ! Department founded!

External links

Open source programs to assist learning Chinese

  • MyChineseFlashCards - program consisting of 1,500 Chinese character flashcards. Free version is GPL with 50 characters and all 1500 character combinations examples, as well as 50 out of 250 radicals. (Windows and Mac OS)

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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