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01 July, 2007:
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Interaction With Other Languages

Many languages are important in China today

The name Chinese give their own country is 中国 zhong1guo2, which literally means "Middle Kingdom." Chinese have long considered their homeland to be the center of the world. It is not surprising then that elements of language have emanated out from the center to surrounding peoples. Vocabulary and grammar from Chinese have become  deeply embedded in the nearby languages Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese.

The written language of China was also adopted and adapted by nearby language groups. Everyone is familiar with Japanese writing that looks like Chinese characters with extra squiggly bits to the side, and many have puzzled over Korean restaurants that appear to have signs in Chinese.

Even areas that are far away from China are not free from the influence of Chinese. Overseas Chinese live all over the world, and their language use naturally affects the language around them. Even English and other European languages have been influenced by Chinese through trade and commerce.

That said, Chinese has not been completely isolated. In the same ways Chinese has influenced foreign languages, it has in turn been influenced. Japanese usages of Chinese characters have become Chinese words, English terms have found their place in Chinese syntax, and vocabulary from countless languages has become Chinese over the years.

If it's not all Chinese to you yet, then choose from the topics below to find more about the interaction between Chinese and other world languages:

Where Hanzi are Used

Chinese characters are not only used in China. Such an attractive written language could not help but be adopted by other languages in need of a writing system. Find out more about where and how Chinese characters are used outside of China.


Influence in Asia

Not only did Chinese characters spread to other languages, but parts of spoken language were picked up by the neighbors as well. Click here to learn more about Chinese influence on other Asian Languages.


Interaction With English

Language can travel across seemingly large spacial boundaries. Learn more about the influence of Chinese on English.