Welcome to the Self-Access Centre materials database

The SAC is here to provide you with opportunities to study Mandarin outside class time. If you need advice and guidance on what to study, you should talk to your class tutor, who will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations on what to study.

A bit about the language

Mandarin (simplified Chinese; traditional Chinese; pinyin: Guānhuà) is a category of related Chinese dialects spoken across most of northern and south-western China. When taken as a separate language, as is often done in academic literature, the Mandarin language has more native speakers than any other language. The "standard" in Standard Mandarin (Putonghua / Guoyu / Huayu) refers to the standard Beijing dialect of the Mandarin language. In everyday use Mandarin refers to Standard Chinese or Standard Mandarin, which is based on the particular Mandarin dialect spoken in Beijing. Standard Mandarin functions as the official spoken language of the People's Republic of China, the official language of the Republic of China (Taiwan), and one of the four official languages of Singapore. "Chinese"—in practice Standard Mandarin—is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. In its broader sense, Mandarin is a diverse group of Mandarin dialects spoken in northern and southwestern China (Guanhua / Beifanghua / Beifang fangyan). This group of dialects is the focus of this article.

The latter grouping is defined and used mainly by linguists, and is not commonly used outside of academic circles as a self-description. Instead, when asked to describe the spoken form they are using, Chinese speaking a form of non-Standard Mandarin will describe the variant that they are speaking, for example Southwestern Mandarin or Northeastern Mandarin, and consider it distinct from "Standard Mandarin" (putonghua); they may not recognize that it is in fact classified by linguists as a form of "Mandarin" in a broader sense. Like all other varieties of Chinese, there is significant dispute as to whether Mandarin is a language or a dialect.