Chinese Spoken Dialects and “Classical” Written Chinese Language

With over 1 billion people speaking some form of Chinese, it is the most widely-spoken language in the world. Yet, within this widespread language, there are many different dialects. Historically, the Chinese have grown up speaking the dialect from the region in which they were born. If they learned to read and write, however, they learned a “classical” form of the language that wasn’t particular to any regional dialect.

Early Chinese writing was based on pictograms that evolved into characters formed by a series of brushstrokes, where each character represents a concept. The result, Chinese calligraphy, is not merely a system of writing; it is also considered a complex and refined art form. Simplified Chinese is derived from traditional Chinese, and many characters are the same in both simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese.