Chinese speaking countriesChinese is an official language in Hong Kong, China, Macao, Taiwan and Singapore and is spoken in 20 other countries as monther tongue by a part of the population.
With 1.31 billion native speakers, Chinese has the highest prevalence in China. As a percentage of the total population, the largest share of around 95 percent is in Hong Kong. A total of about 1.4 billion people worldwide speak Chinese as their mother tongue.
Subdivision of Chinese LanguagesThe Chinese languages (also standardized as "Chinese") do not denote an independent language, but a group of languages based on the Sino-Tibetan and Tibetan-Burmese language families. All Chinese languages have a uniform script and are considered as a unit by the ISO 639-1 standard, among others.
The best-known and most widely used languages are Mandarin and Cantonese. The official language in China is "High Chinese," which is based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin. There are also other Chinese languages:
Mandarin is spoken by about 955 million people. The main distribution areas are in China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Wu and Min each have about 75-80 million native speakers. Both languages are only spoken in Taiwan and some regions of China. Cantonese (also called "Yue") is the fourth-largest Chinese language with 70 million speakers, although it is only spoken in Hong Kong, Macao and neighbouring Chinese regions. The languages Gan, Jin, Hakka and Xiang are further, lesser-known languages with less than 50 million native speakers each and are spoken almost exclusively in individual regions of China.
Chinese languages abroadThe high spread of Chinese languages and dialects in Southeast Asian countries, as well as overseas, goes back to China's history. The south of China, especially the regions around the Pearl River Delta near Hong Kong, has been strongly influenced by trade and emigration for over 2,000 years. In the 19th century, numerous Chinese fled from poverty and unrest to neighbouring countries. The term "foreign Chinese" is used today not only to refer to emigrated Chinese, but also to those whose ancestors once lived in China. In 2005, the number of Chinese living abroad in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia was over six million each. In Thailand alone, the proportion of the population with at least partial Chinese ancestry is estimated at over 40 percent, although exact statistics are no longer possible to obtain due to the strong assimilation.
|China||East Asia||yes||92.0 %||1,311,617,000|
|Taiwan||East Asia||yes||87.5 %||20,633,000|
|Thailand||Southeast Asia||no||12.3 %||8,807,000|
|Hong Kong||East Asia||yes||94.8 %||7,028,000|
|United States of America||North America||no||0.9 %||2,987,000|
|Singapore||Southeast Asia||yes||50.8 %||2,770,000|
|Malaysia||Southeast Asia||no||7.4 %||2,484,000|
|Philippines||Southeast Asia||no||1.9 %||2,164,000|
|Vietnam||Southeast Asia||no||1.4 %||1,365,000|
|Australia||Australia/New Zealand||no||2.8 %||719,000|
|Macao||East Asia||yes||92.0 %||632,000|
|Cambodia||Southeast Asia||no||3.1 %||514,000|
|Canada||North America||no||1.2 %||459,000|
|Japan||East Asia||no||0.2 %||251,000|
|New Zealand||Australia/New Zealand||no||2.2 %||113,000|
|South Korea||East Asia||no||0.1 %||52,000|
|Brunei||Southeast Asia||no||9.3 %||41,000|
|North Korea||East Asia||no||0.1 %||26,000|
|Reunion||Eastern Africa||no||2.8 %||20,000|
|Costa Rica||Central America||no||0.2 %||10,000|
|French Polynesia||Polynesia||no||2.5 %||8,000|
|Northern Mariana Islands||Micronesia||no||6.7 %||3,000|
Unless otherwise described in the text, this page is about native speakers — not the total number of speakers. How many people understand or speak Chinese as a subsequently learned language is not the subject of this page. Countries where native speakers make up only a few thousand, or even a few hundred people, or countries with a percentage well below 1% are unlikely to be listed here.