"Mandarin" in Mandarin
I'm still somewhat confused about what Mandarin speakers call their own language. In my travels throughout China and Taiwan it seems that I mostly hear 中文， as in 我會說中文。I don't think I ever heard anyone say 普通話， even though some Mandarin courses insist on using that term. Other terms are 中國話 and 漢語。Last but not least, many of the Mandarin-speaking people that I know in the U.S. say 國語。It seems that if I say 中文， everyone understands me, even if they say something else，but I fear that I might not be using the term correctly because I've heard that technically 中文 only refers to written Chinese. Even worse, I fear that I may be unintentionally taking a political position by saying 中文 when the other speaker is expecting one of the other terms. Could you shed some light on the finer nuances between the different terms that can be used to refer to the Chinese language and what the proper context would be for using each of them?
ZhouRuiAugust 08, 2015, 03:23 PM
国语 and 普通话 are politicized. 中文 is not. A neutral term for the spoken language is 华语. Another approach is to say 中文 or 普通话 in China and 国语 in Taiwan. In SE Asia, I think they say 国语 but I can't remember. Really, 中文 is good enough. The only people I know who make a habit of saying 华语 are those that need to be politically neutral and highly accurate with their speech.
tbajorasAugust 09, 2015, 08:34 AM
ZhouRui, 謝謝！In that case I will stick with 中文， because that's what I learned first and that's what comes out of my mouth unless I make an effort to say one of the other ones. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't offending someone in China if I don't say 普通話 or someone in Taiwan if I don't say 國語. Good to know!