William Patten Primary School
Stoke Newington Church Street
London N16 0NX

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020 7254 4014

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William Patten Primary School


Chinese is spoken by more people than any language in the world. It has many dialects, the main one being Mandarin which is spoken by over 90% of Chinese people. It is spoken by the Han Chinese, considered the largest single ethnic group in the world (about 19% of the entire global human population).

Another dialect is Cantonese which is spoken in the Chinese province of Canton and is widely spoken in Hong Kong.

Chinese is a tonal language made up of 4 basic tones. Exactly the same words said in a different tone can completely change meaning. For example the same set of words in one tone that means I want to read a book, in another tone means I want to cut trees !

Chinese can be written from right to left in vertical columns but it is usually written horizontally from left to right (like English).

Chinese characters, with some modifications, are also used in written Japanese and Korean, and were once used to write Vietnamese.

Since the 1950s in an effort to increase literacy, about 2,000 of the characters used in China have been simplified. These simplified characters are also used in Singapore, but in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and Malaysia the traditional characters are still used.