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Say It Right Series

"Mandarin" in Mandarin

Posted by tbajoras August 6, 2015 in the Group I Have a Question.

I'm still somewhat confused about what Mandarin speakers call their own language.  In my travels throughout China and Taiwan it seems that I mostly hear 中文, as in 我會說中文。I don't think I ever heard anyone say 普通話, even though some Mandarin courses insist on using that term.  Other terms are 中國話 and 漢語。Last but not least, many of the Mandarin-speaking people that I know in the U.S. say 國語。It seems that if I say 中文, everyone understands me, even if they say something else,but I fear that I might not be using the term correctly because I've heard that technically 中文 only refers to written Chinese. Even worse, I fear that I may be unintentionally taking a political position by saying 中文 when the other speaker is expecting one of the other terms.  Could you shed some light on the finer nuances between the different terms that can be used to refer to the Chinese language and what the proper context would be for using each of them?

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