The Difference Between Mandarin, Putonghua, Guoyu and Huayu

To the English-speaking world it’s simply called Chinese, or more technically, Mandarin. But to those who speak it, there are slightly differing terms. I grew up being told it was Huayu. But when I was in China I mentioned the term and got a quizzical look.

Putonghua,” the lady said, smiling at me in that ‘aww-look-at-the-gwai-lo‘ way.

So what’s the difference? Wikipedia to the rescue!

Standard Chinese is officially known

  • in the People’s Republic of China (including the SARs of Hong Kong and Macau) as Putonghua (simplified Chinese: 普通话; traditional Chinese: 普通話; pinyin: Pǔtōnghuà; literally “common speech”).
  • in Taiwan as Guoyu, and unofficially in Hong Kong as Gwok Yu (simplified Chinese: 国语; traditional Chinese: 國語; Mandarin Pinyin: Guóyǔ; Jyutping: gwok3 jyu5; literally “national language”).
  • in Malaysia and Singapore as Huayu (simplified Chinese: 华语; traditional Chinese: 華語; pinyin: Huáyǔ; literally “Chinese (in a cultural sense) language”). In other parts of the world, the three names are used interchangeably to varying degrees, Putonghua being the most common.

I’ll stick to Huayu, thanks.


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