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Chinese or the Sinitic language(s) (汉语/漢語, pinyin: Hànyǔ; 华语/華語, Huáyǔ; or 中文, Zhōngwén) is a language family consisting of languages mutually unintelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in Mainland China, it forms one of the two branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages. About one-fifth of the world’s population, or over one billion people, speak some form of Chinese as their native language. The identification of the varieties of Chinese as “dialects” instead of “languages” is considered inappropriate by some linguists and Sinologists.

Spoken Chinese is distinguished by its high level of internal diversity, although all spoken varieties of Chinese are tonal and analytic. There are between seven and thirteen main regional groups of Chinese (depending on classification scheme), of which the most spoken, by far, is Mandarin (about 850 million), followed by Wu (90 million), Min (70 million) and Cantonese (70 million). Most of these groups are mutually unintelligible, although some, like Xiang and the Southwest Mandarin dialects, may share common terms and some degree of intelligibility. Chinese is classified as a macrolanguage with 13 sub-languages in ISO 639-3, though the identification of the varieties of Chinese as multiple “languages” or as “dialects” of a single language is a contentious issue.

The standardized form of spoken Chinese is Standard Mandarin (Putonghua / Guoyu / Huayu), based on the Beijing dialect, which is part of a larger group of North-Eastern and South-Western dialects, often taken as a separate language, see Mandarin Chinese for more, this language can be referred to as 官话 Guānhuà or 北方话 Běifānghuà in Chinese. Standard Mandarin is the official language of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC), as well as one of four official languages of Singapore. Chinese—de facto, Standard Mandarin—is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Of the other varieties, Standard Cantonese is common and influential in Guangdong Province and Cantonese-speaking overseas communities, and remains one of the official languages of Hong Kong (together with English) and of Macau (together with Portuguese). Hokkien, part of the Min language group, is widely spoken in southern Fujian, in neighbouring Taiwan (where it is known as Taiwanese or Hoklo) and in Southeast Asia (where it dominates in Singapore and Malaysia).

1/17/2012 Specialized Chinese Language Program Launched at Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University has announced the launch of a Chinese language and research program specifically for people involved in the sciences, technology, engineering, and medicine. The program, titled Johns Hopkins-China STEM, will be held this summer at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center in Nanjing China. The eight-week program is geared for English-speaking scholars of engineering or the health sciences and a strong background in Chinese.

The program includes language classes and research trips to hospitals, laboratories, and academic instiutions in Nanjing and Beijing. The curriculum is designed by Johns Hopkings faculty and leading experts in Chinese language instruction.

“Johns Hopkins–China STEM will help to satisfy a growing demand at Hopkins and around the world for Chinese language training in technical fields,” remarked Kellee Tsai, vice dean for humanities and social sciences at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, in an article of the Johns Hopkins Gazette. “Many of the great STEM breakthroughs are now occurring in China, and it is imperative that English-speaking researchers and innovators learn to communicate with their Asian counterparts to share this knowledge with the rest of the world. Just as important, many Western advances are yet to reach all corners of the East, due in part to technical language barriers.”

The program is also supported by the Henry Luce Foundation, which works to broaden knowledge as well as inspire service and leadership. Members from Johns Hopkins and outside institutions are also in support of Johns Hopkins-China STEM.
“College and professional school graduates with first-rate language training in specialized areas will enter today’s transnational job market with a competitive advantage,” commented Tobie Meyer-Fong, an associate professor in the History Department, in an article by the Johns Hopkins Gazette. “Hopkins-China STEM offers a unique opportunity for students to be at the forefront of a global scientific future.”

To read more about this issue, access the original Johns Hopkins Gazette article here.