中文 / 汉语 / 国语

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by Katie 999, Oct 2, 2012.

  1. Katie 999 Member

    U.S. - English
    Hey Everybody!

    我再寻味"word choice" aka 什么时候用什么单词。这个夏天去中国的西南听很多人说“汉语”。比如 “你的汉语挺好的”, “你的汉语没有她的好”, 等等. That was surprising since in the US most people say 中文 and not 汉语, well, at least in my university class. In China I also heard people use the word 普通话。A few peoples said 中国话, 但是第一个人用这个说法是小朋友,所以我以为是不太正式的单词。对不对?

    Anyhow, 回来的时候认识一个人,不会英文。 她说,“你的国语挺好的。” 我没听到这个“国语”,还有我们再美国,所以我以为她说我的英文挺好的。但是我问了她,她说”国语“是”汉语“的意思。 国语是不正式的单词? 常不常用的?

    -马凯琳 / Katie
    《〈请原谅我的中文水平不够高,so I use Chinglish! 》》
  2. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    ”国语“ is the word people in Taiwan normally use to refer to Mandarin.
  3. edisonyu New Member

    Generally speaking,you can regard them all as Mandarin. In our daily lifes,they mostly have the same meaning. But indeed,there are some differences between them. 普通话 means Standard Chinese(Mandarin),relative to dialect. 汉语and中文 mean Chinese, including both dialect and Mandarin, but if it is not pointed out particularly,in most cases they just means Mandarin. 中国话 is not a formal saying and its meaning is the same as 汉语and中文. 国语 is mostly used in Taiwan.
  4. meimeifish Member

    These are very clear explanation. In daily conversation, they don't make difference.
    However, if a political issue is concerned or in a political scenario, they make slight difference.

    <Daily usage but with regional/political difference>
    普通话 Common language: (Used in Mainland China)
    国语 Official language: (Mostly used in Taiwan, referring to "Mandarin" )
    *please notice that the statement "official" does not have political implication to imply which authority is dominant, but just what we call the language in Taiwan."

    <General usage>
    汉语 Han language (Han was an ancient Chinese dynasty, which was strong and thus widely used to represent "Chinese people or culture") => very formal usage ( mostly academic)
    中文 Chinese language => General usage, especially used when you want to omit the regional/political issues.

    Hope it helps!

    Last edited: Oct 2, 2012
  5. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    Basically, 汉语=中文. Both are formal and widely acceptable.

    普通话 is the PRC standard for Mandarin, the spoken standard.
    国语 is the Taiwan standard for Mandarin.
    So basically you hear Taiwanese call it 国语 while the mainland people call it 普通话. Almost the same, with some differences like AE and BE.

    If you are in places like Singapore, you'll hear they say 华语...
  6. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    There is a difference between 语, 文, 话。
    语 means (spoken) language, but today is used to indicate a language as whole
    文 means script, written language
    话 means speech

    So, to be strict, one should use 语 when referring to a language as whole, 文 written language only, 话 spoken language only.
    Applied to Chinese:

    To be rigid:
    You can speak and write 汉语 :tick:
    You can only write 中文 :tick:
    You can only speak 中国话 and 普通话 :tick:

    That's my preference and I tend to use the words in this pattern, but nowadays it's very common to "speak 中文" :tick:, maybe it's not considered a mistake anymore as I see from the posts above. But not "write 中国话":cross:, nor "write 普通话":cross: (我觉得可以用“写普通话”,为了强调不在写方言字,但是我不想复杂化).

    When talking about the spoken language, the choice between 汉语(or 中国话, 中文) and 普通话 is quite the same as Spanish and Castillan.
    汉语(or 中国话, 中文) : 普通话 = Spanish : Castillan

    1)We use 汉语(or 中国话, 中文)when comparing with foreign languages. [same usage as Spanish]
    这些在意大利出生的华侨只会讲意大利语了,不会讲中国话了!(Any resemblance to real events and/or to real persons is purely coincidental :D)

    2)We use 普通话 when referring to the spoken standard Mandarin, opposed to local dialects. [Same usage as Castillan]
    我小时候在家里只讲青田话和温州话,后来很努力地学了普通话!(Again, any resemblance to real events and/or to real persons is purely coincidental :D)

    In Taiwan 国语 is used for both meaning 1 and meaning 2.
    About the meaning 2, the main dialect in Taiwan is Taiwanese, in Mainland we would call it 台湾话,but in Taiwan they call it 台语。So they have the opposition 国语~台语。
    Occasionally, I've found 国语 used in Mainland too, for example in telephone cards, where the voice says: "国语服务请按1。For English press 2".

    Historically, 国语 was used in Mainland too, when it was still Republic of China. When it became R.P.C. the government decided not to use 国语,because it was disrespectful for the ethnic minorities. So they called the language 汉语, meaning the language of the Han ethnic group, thus implying that other ehnic groups are also part of the country.
    While Standard Mandarin was called 普通话=common language.

    In Malaysia and Singapore they use 华语 instead, implying that Chinese is not only the language of people from China(中国人) but also the language of all ethnic Chinese all over the world (华人)。
    On the internet, in music downloading sites, Chinese songs are called 华语歌曲, even in Mainland websites. Maybe because they included Malaysian and Singaporean singers?
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2012
  7. BODYholic Senior Member

    Chinese Cantonese
    Yes, both of you has correctly pointed out that in Singapore, Chinese language, is officially known as 华语. Depending on context, 华语 which is short for 人的言 may mean Chinese language as a whole (as what cited by Youngfun) or it may also simply mean spoken Mandarin.

    I have no qualms accepting Youngfun's definitions of 语, 文 and 话. But in Singapore, there is a direct correlation between 语 and 话 when both are engaged to mean spoken language. Here, 语 is a formal word, while the latter is colloquial. It's almost impossible to find printed words like "马来话", "印度话" in government gazettes. The official terms are "马来语", "淡米尔语". Therefore, even if there is a day when Singapore decides to adopt the same term as China. My guess is that it will very likely to be renamed as "普通语".
  8. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    Thanks BODYholic for the clarifications.
    I suppose that in Singapore 华语 has the same meaning as 国语 in Taiwan, carrying both meaning 1 and meaning 2.
    I heard that some years ago you had the 讲华语运动,in English called "Speak Mandarin Movement" so I guess 华语=普通话。
    So in Singapore: Cantonese, Hokkien, Hainanese etc. are not considered 华语?

    But when talking about music, it's even more complicated.
    In Karaoke menus and music downloading sites, Chinese songs are called 华语歌曲 even in Mainland, and include Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien/Min nan/Taiwanese songs, etc.
    But songs in Mandarin are called 国语歌曲 even in Mainland!

    I agree with you that 话 is colloquial and 语 is formal, I think it's like this in all Chinese-speaking regions.
    In many places it's very common to refer to the Chinese spoken language as 中国话。There is even a song by S.H.E. called 《中国话》。
    But the proper term for Chinese language is 汉语 in Mainland, 国语 in Taiwan and 华语* in Malaysia & Singapore.
    And I guess 中文 everywhere.

    Apart from 普通话, all languages should be called with X语 or X文,while all X话 are colloquial forms.
    In Italy, in everyday speech we even say 意大利话 for Italian. But the proper term is 意大利语 or 意大利文。
    In my dialect it's very common to call Japanese 日本话,maybe because many people feel that Japanese writing is very similar to Chinese, only the speech is different, so maybe we think Japanese is a Chinese dialect? :D
    By the way, the Japanese are much more straightforward, calling Chinese 中國語。

    *Some people say that 华语 is used among all Chinese communities oversea, but according to my experience it's common only in Malaysia and Singapore. Never heard it in Europe or America.

    华文 is also a term very used when teaching Chinese oversea.
    In Italy, the week-end Chinese language courses aimed to 华侨、华人子弟 (Chinese children born there) are often called 华文学校。In China there are various organizations that teach Chinese to foreigners and Oversea Chinese, such as 华文教育基金会中国侨网华文教育国务院侨务办公室的华文教育网
  9. Miyazakehime Senior Member

    Mandarin Chinese
    Although we often say 说中文,I think 中文 has something more to do with writting.
    In addition,the Chinese language department in universities of China is called 中文系,so I guess 中文 is a more formal word refering to Chinese comparing to 汉语 or staff.
    However,there is a major in China called 对外汉语(Chinese language education for foriegners).

    Instead of 说中文, I‘d like to say 说汉语 which sounds a native and casual way.
    If I say 说中国话,I'm emphasizing that 我是中国人.
  10. viajero_canjeado Senior Member

    English - Southeastern USA
    順便指出,在台灣「華語」字也存在,例如「華語中心」或「華語系」。 不過...在口語場合中,我很少聽見過別人把它用來叫Mandarin,平常是說國語、中文而已。
  11. BODYholic Senior Member

    Chinese Cantonese
    1. If we take spoken Mandarin as the definition of 华语 in the your question, I would say yes. Cantonese, Hokkien, Hainanese are considered as Chinese dialects (方言).

    2. And yes, you may say that Singapore's 华语 is similar to the 普通话 language used in Chinese.

    3. But I've to say that the term 普通话 (to mean Chinese Mandarin) is unlikely to be used in Singapore. 普通话 means a common language. Singapore is a multi-racial country. To bridge the communication gap, English language is our business and as well as common language (普通话). I guess it is a fair choice, since that is not a native tongue to any of the major race groups here. :)

    In educational institutions, I always thought that 中文 means 中国文学/中华文学. In Singapore, Chinese textbooks should rightfully be known as 华文课本, but I've heard teachers said 中文课本 too.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 7, 2012
  12. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    In China dialects are called 汉语方言 since 汉语 is a generic term for the Chinese language, including all the dialects, spoken by 汉族.
    So I guess in Singapore you don't call them 华语方言. :cross: Right?
    I feel Singapore's 华语 is closer to Mandarin spoken by the Southern Chinese, and to 台湾国语.
    But, you guys say “懂” instead of 知道、认识;“看戏” meaning 看连续剧、电视剧;“我走先” (in 温州 we also say this) instead of 我先走了 etc.
    I don't know if these usages are accepted as standard 华语, for example taught in school, used in the media and in public speeches, in the written language etc.
    I think in China 普通话 can only mean Standard Mandarin. I guess that what you're talking about is called lingua franca in linguistics, in Chinese 通用语。
    But in Singapore 80% of the population are Chinese, so why not? You are the majority :D
    To make a comparison, in Prato (an Italian city) 20% of the city population are Chinese, a percentage even higher than Malays and Indians in Singapore, but Chinese didn't become an official language in the city. :D
    Italy is also becoming a multi-racial country.
    In Italy, among the Chinese community the lingua franca is 温州话, and to a lesser extend 青田话. While among different ethnic group it's certainly Italian. Many people find it strange when in the multi-ethnic area of Rome they see Chinese, Morrocans and Bangladeshi speaking Italian among them. :)
    Sometimes 普通话 is used to talk about the standard variety of a language, as opposed to regional varieties and dialects.
    So e.g. RP could be called 英国的普通话. When I teach Italian to the Chinese, I would tell them that I don't speak 意大利语普通话,but Italian with strong Rome accent.
    Agree. In university context, 中文 means Chinese literature. When teaching Chinese to foreigners, it's usually 汉语.
  13. BODYholic Senior Member

    Chinese Cantonese
    I can't ascertain that the term "华语方言" does not exist, otherwise you are spot on. Here, I've heard 新加坡方言 and 地方方言.

    Obviously those that you mentioned are not acceptable in schools, and let alone taught by the teachers.

    • Yes, we definitely sound a lot like Southern Chinese. But that is probably because majority of our great ancestors
      were mostly Southern China emigrants.
    • As you know we don't sound like Taiwanese at all when we speak. But our contemporary Chinese is deeply influenced by them because of a plethora of mass media that came to our shore from Taiwan ever since 1970's. That's how we pick up new words/lines. 说你懂吗? :)
    • “懂”, “看戏” : I hate to say this but .... the fact is we say these, in lieu of the proper words, because these have less words to spill. Yes, we are lazy (or efficient. Depending which side of the coin you are looking at). :p
    • “我走先”, "你去先": You are indeed good in washing our dirty laundry. And yes, those are extremely common and even I hear/use them at least several times a day. I'm not exactly sure why we say it that way, but it could be a direct translation from Cantonese. Honestly speaking, to me, it's just broken Chinese. This is akin to the infamous English sentence "He don't know". You hear it so often that, one day, it makes me feel so guilty to say "He doesn't know".

  14. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    Thank you for your answers!
  15. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    A member from Mainland China posted this sentence:

    I'm curious about the word 国语 here. I assume it should be 普通话 for Mainlanders, so is the use of 国语 as in the sentence common in China? Is it a new use? Or is it from an old book? I know it's standard for Mandarin in Taiwan.
  16. Ben pan Senior Member

    Mainlanders very seldom use it. I never heard of it. :)
  17. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    Not common, not a new use. I think it's a special case for the member to write or quote this sentence.
    Oh, the member can answer by himself. He's here, right?
  18. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    Mystery solved! :)
    The sentence is an example cited in a dictionary (nciku.com), so it could originate from anywhere (Taiwan, more likely).
  19. goodatchinese Member

    It's common in my hometown.
    We began to use 国语 since late 1990s in dialect and there is an expression "开国语" which means "讲普通话"。
    Cause "开国语" is more easy to pronounce in my dialect than "讲普通话".
    After years used and spread, we use 国语 when we speak Madarin now too.
    Maybe its from Taiwan, I don't know, many Taiwanese lives in my city now.
  20. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    Thank you, goodatchinese! The information is good to know. I'm sure this word 国语 was also in use in mainland China before "普通话" taking its place.
  21. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    国语 is also very common in the Chinese community in Europe, differently from South-east Asia we don't use the word 华语。
    I think 国语 emphasizes China, contrasting the foreign languages, while 普通话 emphasizes the Standard Mandarin as opposed to the other dialects.

    To me, a sentence like 你讲普通话还是英语?sounds weird. While 国语 sounds better.
  22. name my name

    name my name Senior Member

    I guess it relates to our history----the establishment of Mao's China!
  23. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    南宋汪元量: 木老西天去,袈裟說梵文。==> 宋代就有「說X文」了.
  24. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    Then it's a very ancient "mistake". ;)
    Now that I think of, many Southern dialects including Cantonese and my very own one, prefer to use 文 instead of 语 for languages, even when referring to the spoken one. Such as 英文、法文、德文, etc.

    In my dialect we use 文 for nearly all languages. For English we use both 英语 and 英文. For Japanese we use 日本文 or 日本话 (probably because it uses some Chinese characters, we kind of think it as a Chinese dialect ;) )
  25. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    To a native speaker: "你的中文挺好的" ==> Here 中文 means 中国语言文学 "knowledge in Chinese linguistics or literature" (knowledge about theories or uses of the Chinese language).
    To a foreigner: "你的中文挺好的" ==> Here 中文 means 中国话 "Chinese language". It is similar to the archaic term 秦言 "Chinese language" (秦 > Iranian Čīn [tʃin] > English China), which contrasts with foreign languages (e.g., 胡言). Interestingly 说中文 is idiomatic but *说中话 and *说中语 are not.
    Unlike 中文, which contains the nation name 中(国), 汉语 blurs the notion of nation and highlights ethnicity (Note: 汉, an ethnic term, refers to the Han Chinese). It is thus the preferred term in regions (e.g, 西南) where the Han Chinese coexist with other ethnic groups (e.g., 彝, 白, 苗). It contrasts with languages (e.g., 彝语, an aboriginal language; 梵語, a foreign language) that are not Chinese languages.
    普通话 and 国语 correspond to the ancient term 雅言, which contrasts with 方言 "regional languages and dialects".

    "你的中文挺好的" ==> The speaker is conscious of your being a foreigner.
    "你的普通话/国语挺好的" ==> The speaker does not adjust his word choice just because of your nationality.
  26. peter199083

    peter199083 Senior Member

    Moderator's note: the following posts are moved from this thread.

    I myself also found '汉语' unnatural in the given colloquial context. Sounding to my mainland ears, it is more frequently used in academic or competitive settings (as 汉语大赛), although '汉' carries a ethnic connotation. I would recommend you to use 1. '普通话', 2. '国语', 3. ‘华文’ and 4. '中文'when addressing 1. to mainlanders, 2. to Hongkongnese and Taiwanese, 3. to Singaporean Chinese and 4. to anyone who is neither associated nor concerned with the complexity of the global Chinese spread or when no confusion arises.

    The concept of 'China' as a nation-state did not come until 1911: the founding of the Republic of China (ROC). 国 (as in 国语) refers to ROC. Before that Manchurians rather than Hans ruled China as an empire. Mandarin was renamed 普通话 after Communists took power who founded the People's Republic of China (PRC). Hopefully you will also become interested in Chinese history.:)
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 8, 2014
  27. Kueh New Member

    Mandarin Chinese - Taiwan
    I agree with Peter199083 about "汉语," and in Taiwan we also use "语(文)"
    I am curious about when people would use "
    中囯话." I was quite shocked when I first heard of it in a pop song.
  28. AsifAkheir Senior Member

    English - Canada
    Hi Kueh,
    I recall from my Asian Studies class that the designation Han "漢" is simply one of convenience and can not in any way be interpreted as referring to one set of genetic traits. People of various ethnicities and even races found it convenient to associate and form political alliances by intermarriage and thereby throw their lot in with the original Han population. Do you know if any genetic research is being done on the ethnic composition of the individual Warring States before they were all subsumed into Qin "秦" and then inherited by the Han?
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 8, 2014

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