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Can you tell me something about Chinese languages and characters?

There are dozens of languages in China, apart from Mandarin Chinese, the official language of China. Minority nationalities in China have the freedom to use and develop their own languages and written characters. Chinese and its written characters are in common use in China and also one of the five working languages designated by the United Nations. Because of historical and geographical reasons, there are many dialects in the Chinese language, such as Wu, Guangdong and Fujian dialects. The government has defined that the common speech of the Han nationality is used as the common language/. It is known as Mandarin too. Most of the 55 ethnic groups in China have their own language, 30 of them have their own written languages.
>> You may need Survival Chinese with the most frequently-used Chinese phases and expression for your China tour

Mandarin – the Only Official Language in China

Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world and one of the six official working languages of the United Nations.
Used by 91.59% of the total population in China, Mandarin is a category of related Chinese dialects spoken across most of northern and south-western China. Because Mandarin mainly includes the northern dialects, the term "northern dialect(s)" is also referred to Mandarin Chinese informally. When the Mandarin group is taken as one language, as is often done in academic literature, the Mandarin language has more native speakers than any other language. The "standard" in Standard Mandarin refers to the official standardized language of China based on the Beijing dialect.
Apart from northern dialect, there are also seven other main dialects spoken in China including Wu dialect, Hunan dialect, Jiangxi dialect, Hakka dialect, Cantonese dialect, Hokkien dialect, Minnan dialect. Regional dialects in China also show the various cultures in this country. Among these dialects, Cantonese or Guangdong dialect has some influence even in the English words. For example, the word ‘kowtow’. Cantonese is used in the area around the Guangdong, Hong Kong and parts of Guangxi. But it also has some subtle differences in the pronunciation. 

Chinese Characters – with a History of around 6000 Years

Chinese characters are used to record the Chinese language. Since the discovery of inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells of the Shang Dynasty, the Chinese characters can be traced back 6,000 years.
In the Chinese writing system, the characters are monosyllabic, each usually corresponding to a spoken syllable with a basic meaning. However, although Chinese words may be formed by characters with basic meanings, a majority of words in Mandarin Chinese require two or more characters to write (thus are polysyllabic) but have meaning that is distinct from but dependent on the characters they are made from. Cognates in the various Chinese languages/dialects which have the same or similar meaning but different pronunciations can be written with the same character.
Chinese characters
Today, people of a dozen minority groups have also used mandarin Chinese characters for records, books and daily used, though, 21 minority groups keep and perfect the writing system of their own languages, with the help of the government. So we can see characters of Zhuang, Naxi, Buyi, Miao, Yi, Hani, Dong, etc. in many minority areas of China.  
Everyone can have a Chinese name because of the Chinese pronunciation characters. No matter where you come from, when you tell Chinese people how your name read, they can immediately find some corresponding Chinese characters with the same pronunciations. And your name can be written into some Chinese characters as well.

>> Further Reading:Chinese Calligraphy, the art of Chinese characters