Most linguists prefer to call Chinese a family of languages because of its high level of internal diversity.
Of the main regional groups of Chinese, the most spoken is Mandarin (about 850 million), followed by Wu (90 million), Cantonese (70 million) and Min (50 million). Many of these groups are mutually unintelligible. If considered as a whole, there are approximately 1.3 billion people who speak Chinese across the world. Standard Chinese is a standardized form of spoken Chinese based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin Chinese. It is the official language of China and Taiwan and is one of the official languages of Singapore and the United Nations.
The debate on traditional and simplified Chinese characters has been a long-running issue among Chinese communities. Simplified Chinese was introduced in an effort to boost literacy rates by the government of the People’s Republic of China in the 1950s. Simplified Chinese is a standardized character set that contains characters that were newly created or were character substitutions of traditional Chinese characters. Simplified Chinese characters are used in mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia in official publications, while traditional Chinese characters are officially used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau and are commonly used in immigrant Chinese communities. Most universities on the west coast of the United States previously taught the traditional Chinese character set, most likely due to the large population of Chinese Americans who continue to use the traditional forms. The majority of modern textbooks teaching Chinese worldwide are now based on simplified characters.
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