In China people speak Chinese

A common myth is that the Chinese all speak Chinese. China has a long history spread over a large area. The diversity of cultures that call or have called the area home is reflected in the languages spoken (or once spoken) in what we now think of as China.

Each of the logos says “Sinoglot” in a different language or script. Each time you visit a page on Sinoglot you’ll get a random logo. Below you will find all variations with information on the language or script used.


English is spoken by just about every college student in China, though often reluctantly. It’s also the language of this blog.


The Naxi language is spoken by around 320,000 people primarily in Lijiang, Yunnan province. It is written in the Dongba script, pictured here. For more on Naxi and the Dongba script, see the Naxi Script Resource Center, maintained by Sinoglot’s Duncan.

The name is pronounced /a˧˧ pa˨˩ dy˩˨ ɕi˥˥/


Uchen is the name of the script used to write Τіbеtаn, a language spoken in the Τіbеtаn plateau with somewhere between 5 and 10 million speakers. It is historically linked to the language spoken in Burma. The script is of Indic origin and is similar to Devanāgarī used to write Hindi.

It is pronounced [sinog͡lot], oddly enough.


Manchu is a Tungusic language spoken in Northeast China. The number of native speakers is less than 100. The closely related Xibe language found in Xinjiang has around 30,000 speakers. For more on Manchu, head over to the Echoes of Manchu maintained by Sinoglot’s Randy.

In the Möllendorff transcription the text would be dulimba gurun-i gisun


The Uуɡhur language is spoken by around 10 million people, primarily in Xinjiang in the Northwest China. It is a Turkic language and is usually written in a modified form of the Arabic script.

The transcription is pronounced [sɑɪnoglɑt]


Wu, sometimes known as Shanghainese after its largest dialect, has around 90 million speakers, making it the second largest language group in China. The logo is a transcription done in the International Phonetic Alphabet, pronounced /sã nɔ gə laˀ/.


Zhuang is spoken by around 14 million people, mostly in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. It is related to the language of Thailand. The logo is rendered in the pre-1982 standard for transcription.

The name is pronounced [vap˨˦ ʃuŋ˧˧ ko˧˩]


The script known as ‘Phags-pa, named after its creator, was designed during the Yuan dynasty to replace the old Uyghur script for writing Manchu. It has historically been used to write Sinitic sinitic as well.


Jurchen is an extinct language from which the Manchu language developed. It had a writing system based on the characters still used in modern Mandarin.

It should be pronounced /dulilɑ ɡurun ni xəlsə/.


Korean is an official language of the Yabian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in China’s Jilin province. Northeast China has a large number of ethnic Koreans, many of whom have retained their language. The logo reads 중국어 meaning simply “Chinese language” and is pronounced /t͡ɕuŋ.guk.ʌ/.


Mandarin is the official language of the People’s Republic of China and as such is a common topic here at Sinoglot. Shénzhōu 神州 is another name for China, meaning “holy place,” and wànyǔ 万语 is a way of saying “many languages.”

In pinyin it’s “shénzhōu wànyǔ”.

Traditional characters

The same as above but in the traditional characters used outside the mainland.

In Cantonese it’s pronounced “san jau maan jyu”.
In Wu it’s pronounced [zən tsɤ vɛ ɲy].

Chinese braille

A form of braille specifically designed for writing Mandarin for the visually impaired.

Oracle bone script

The oracle bones are artifacts from the Shang dynasty, bones with characters cut into them and dealing mostly with predictions about the future. It is unknown if they represented one language or many languages and dialects. The characters are commonly accepted as the earliest known form of modern Chinese characters.

The original pronunciations are not known.


The writing system known as xiao’erjing was initially devised to help Muslims in China become literate. Based on the Arabic script, xiao’erjing is one of the earliest known pinyin-style systems of transliterating Mandarin.

The pronunciation corresponds to pinyin “sheng zhou wan yu”.


Also called Zhuyin Fuhao 注音符号, Bopomofo is a system devised for writing Mandarin without characters. Once widely used in the Mainland, it has been almost entirely replaced by pinyin.

The pronunciation corresponds to pinyin “sheng zhou wan yu”.

Yi syllables ꍏꇩꉙ

The Yi languages are a number of languages spoken by the Nuosu people, an ethnic group in Southern China numbering over 7 million. The script is a phonetic syllabary used to write their different languages. Babelstone has a few lessons entitled 600 Phrases in the Liangshan Yi Dialect that are worth checking out. Romanised, it would read zho guop hxop.

It’s pronounced [tʂo˧˧ kɔ˨˩ ho˨˩].

Miao / Hmong (Tuam Tshoj lus)

The Hmong, in China known as Miao 苗, are an ethnic group living primarily in China and Vietnam. They are one of the PRC’s 56 official ethnic groups. It is believed their language is a family of its own and not belonging to the Sino-Τіbеtаn language family. The logo is done in the Pollard Miao script created by Sam Pollard in the 1930s. In standard Romanisation it would be dut hnebdand.

It’s pronounced [tu n̥ə tã].

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