Countries That Speak Chinese // + The Best Place to Study

What are the Countries that Speak Chinese?

Chinese isn’t just spoken in China you know! In fact there are many places and countries that speak Chinese.

Today we discover the main protagonists!
Places that speak Chinese
Places that speak Chinese & the best place to learn

It is no exaggeration to say that Chinese is one of the most important languages of human civilisation.

Not only is Chinese one of the oldest languages in the world, but it is also one of the most widely spoken. 

Currently, Chinese is the language with the most native speakers in the world with over 1.3 billion native Chinese speakers.

It is also the second language with the most total speakers in the world. 

However, this can seem hard to believe to people who live outside of East Asia or have not visited China before.

If English is the global language, where are all the Chinese speakers? Where are the countries that speak Chinese?

The truth is, the overwhelming majority of Chinese speakers are native speakers, and most native speakers live in mainland China. 

Only about 1/14 (7%) of Chinese speakers are non-native speakers. Compare this to English, where about 75% of English speakers are non-native speakers

This means that outside of the Sinosphere—the Chinese-speaking world—it may be very hard to come across speakers of Chinese. 

However, the Sinosphere is not limited to mainland China. There are a number of places and territories whose official language is Chinese. 

Additionally, there is a large ethnic Chinese diaspora that has carried the language to different regions all around the globe.

These pockets of Chinese civilization can be large enough to give you a glimpse into the Chinese-speaking world.

Chapter #1 – Places Where Chinese Is The Official language

Chapter #2 – Places With A Large Chinese Speaking Population

Chapter #3 – Best Place To Learn Chinese

Chapter #4 – FAQ’s

Places Where Chinese Is The Official language

People’s Republic of China

Perhaps to no one’s surprise, Mainland China is the place with the most Chinese speakers in the world.

China is home to close to 1.4 billion people and 92% of them speak Chinese while the remaining 8% speak minority languages like Mongolian, Uyghur, Tibetan, and Zhuang. 

The math works out to well over 1.28 billion speakers of Chinese in Mainland China alone. That makes up almost all of the native speakers of Chinese worldwide.

If you’re looking for the place with the most Chinese speakers, then Mainland China is the obvious answer. 

However, keep in mind that Chinese is an agglomeration of many dialects, such as Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese, etc.

If you’re looking for strict Mandarin speakers, then the percentage of speakers in China drops to only about 70%. 

As Mandarin—or 普通话 pǔtōnghuà as they refer to it—becomes the standardised national language, proficiency is becoming more common among the younger generation.

So, if you’re interacting with a young Chinese person in China, chances are they will be able to speak Mandarin.

Places that speak Chinese

Taiwan

Unsurprisingly, the island of Taiwan is another place where Chinese is widely spoken.

Indeed, Chinese is the native language of over 80% of the 23 million people who live on the island, making Taiwan one of the places with the highest concentrations of Chinese speakers in the world. 

Taiwanese Mandarin—or 國語 guóyǔ—is considered to be the primary language of Taiwan and is largely intelligible with the Mandarin spoken on the Mainland. 

The main difference between Taiwanese Mandarin and 普通话 pǔtōnghuà is that traditional characters are used in Taiwan as opposed to simplified characters.

Additionally, Taiwanese Hokkien (or simply Taiwanese) and Hakka dialects are widely spoken on the island, with many locals being able to speak one or two dialects in addition to Mandarin.

Hong Kong 

Hong Kong is a specially-administered region of the People’s Republic of China. As such, Chinese is one of the official languages of this region. 

However, the history of Hong Kong as a former British colony makes the situation a little more complex than that of the Mainland. 

First, the Basic Law of Hong Kong states that both Chinese and English are the official languages of the region. 

Second, the native language of close to 90% of Hong Kong residents is actually the Cantonese dialect of Chinese.

That means that if you’re a Mandarin speaker, you might not have the easiest time moving around Hong Kong. 

The demographics of Hong Kong are rapidly changing however. Many languages are spoken in Hong Kong as it plays host to nationalities from all over the world.

DID YOU KNOW – Mandarin proficiency in Hong Kong has increased from 25.3% in 1996 to 48.6% in 2016. 

Macau

Macau is another specially-administered region of the People’s Republic of China.

As such, one of its official languages is Chinese. 

As a former Portuguese colony, the list of official languages of Macau includes Chinese, Portuguese, and English. 

Much like Hong Kong, the majority of Chinese speakers in Macau speak the Cantonese dialect.

Singapore

This Southeast Asian city-state also lists Chinese as one of its official languages.

As a richly multicultural nation, the Constitution of Singapore lists English plus the three languages of the largest ethnic groups as the official languages of the country.

This makes English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil the four official languages of Singapore. 

Approximately half of all Singaporeans speak Chinese as a native language, with Mandarin being the most prevalent dialect.

Countries With A Large Chinese Speaking Population

As mentioned earlier, there are large numbers of ethnic Chinese people living outside of China.

There are many countries with millions of ethnic Chinese citizens whose native language is Chinese.

Malaysia

Although not an official language, Chinese is spoken by a large portion of the ethnic Chinese population of Malaysia.

Making up close to 25% of the total population of Malaysia, most of the 6.7 million ethnic Chinese Malaysians speak Mandarin as their native language.  

United States

Home to one of the largest populations of overseas Chinese, the United States is the country with the most Chinese language speakers outside of Asia. 

It is estimated that 2.9 million people speak Chinese in the United States. This makes Chinese the third-most-spoken language in the country, only behind English and Spanish.

Indonesia

Indonesia is another country that is home to a large ethnic Chinese population. Currently, there are about 2.6 million Chinese speakers living in Indonesia. 

In contrast to other countries where the largest dialect is Mandarin or Cantonese, the most common Chinese dialect in Indonesia is the Southern Min, or Hokkien, dialect.

Canada

Much like the United States, Canada is home to millions of ethnic Chinese people, most of whom speak Chinese as their native language.

As of 2016, there were 1.2 million people in Canada whose native language is Chinese.

Did You Know About Chinese Sign Language? A Guide to 中国手语 Thumbnail

Did You Know About Chinese Sign Language? A Guide to 中国手语

Did you know there was a Chinese Sign Language? Or did you think, like me, that sign language was universal? A simple guide to help you learn a thing or two

Best Place To Learn Chinese

If you’re looking to learn Chinese, you might be considering an immersion experience in China or another Chinese-speaking country. 

There are many countries that speak Chinese, but the best one for you will depend on your learning objectives. 

If you want to learn Chinese to do business with Mainland China, your best option will be to study Standard Mandarin and learn the simplified characters.

This would make Mainland China the best option for you.

Singapore is another great option for those who want to learn simplified Mandarin outside of Mainland China. Although there are four official languages in Singapore, it is certainly possible to study Mandarin in Singapore.

On the other hand, if you have family, business interests, or anything that would attract you specifically to Taiwan but not the rest of China, then studying Mandarin in Taiwan and learning traditional characters would be your best bet. 

Macau and Hong Kong are good places to study Chinese only if you’re interested in learning Cantonese.

Although many schools in Hong Kong offer Mandarin classes, don’t forget that most people speak Cantonese and pretty much every sign you see on the street will be in traditional characters. 

Places that speak Chinese

If you’re currently unable to study Mandarin in Mainland China because of COVID travel restrictions, you may be interested in our revolutionary Flexi Classes system. 

Created out of the need for online immersion experiences due to COVID travel restrictions, Flexi Classes allows students to take Mandarin classes 24/7, 365 days a year.

Check out our unique program and see why this can be a viable alternative for you!


COUNTRIES THAT SPEAK CHINESE – FAQ’S

What are some places that speak Chinese?

For starters, Chinese is an official language in mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau.

Then, there are countries with large Chinese speaking populations, such as the United States, Canada, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Where is Chinese an official language?

Chinese is the (or one of) the official language(s) of:

– The People’s Republic of China

– Taiwan

– Hong Kong

– Macau

– Singapore

What countries have a large Chinese speaking population?

Several countries in fact:

In Malaysia, most of the 6.7 million ethnic Chinese Malaysians speak Mandarin as their native language.

It is estimated that 2.9 million people speak Chinese in the United States.

Currently, there are about 2.6 million Chinese speakers living in Indonesia

As of 2016, there were 1.2 million people in Canada whose native language is Chinese.

What is the best place to learn Chinese?

There are many Chinese-speaking countries, but the best one for you will depend on your learning objectives. 

Mainland China is a good option if you are interested in Standard Mandarin and simplified characters.

On the other hand, if you have family, business interests, or anything that would attract you specifically to Taiwan but not the rest of China, then studying Mandarin in Taiwan and learning traditional characters would be your best bet. 

Macau and Hong Kong are good places to study Chinese only if you’re interested in learning Cantonese.

If you cannot travel at the moment, there’s always Online Classes!

Can I study Mandarin online?

It is indeed possible to study Mandarin online, now more than ever.

Online learning allows for more time flexibility, and you’ll get Mandarin lessons just as efficient as in a Chinese speaking country.

Check out our new online platform Flexi Classes, where you can book lessons 24/7 whilst choosing your study time and study topic.

If you’d prefer a fixed schedule for your online Mandarin classes, here are our fixed programs.

We also offer Cantonese, Shanghainese and Hokkien classes, so you’ll definitely find something you like with us !

Where can I learn more about mainland China, Taiwan and Singapore?

If you are thinking about an immersive language program in one of our destinations, here are the links for more details about each places:

LTL in Singapore

LTL in Taiwan

LTL in mainland China

Want more from LTL?

If you wish to hear more from LTL Mandarin School why not join our mailing list.

We give plenty of handy information on learning Chinese, useful apps to learn the language and everything going on at our LTL schools!

Sign up below and become part of our ever growing community!

.
Ask us a question!
  • LTL Avatar Alexander Krasnov
    Alexander Krasnov , Student Advisor

    Welcome to LTL Mandarin School!

    How can I help you?