The Chinese language known as Mandarin (HanYu, PuTongHua, GuoYu) is spoken by more people than any other language in the world, which is over 1.3 billion. Mandarin is the official language in China, and it is one of the six official languages used by the United Nations (UN). In China, Mandarin is the main language used in government, the media, and education. Also, Mandarin is mostly based on the BeiJing dialect and some other dialects spoken in the northern regions of China.
There are other languages spoken in China, and the main languages include: Yue (Cantonese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka, Min, and Wu. These Chinese languages are termed as dialects even though they are not mutually intelligible (on that basis could be classified as languages). They are classified as dialects because of sociological and political reasons, and these dialects have a lot of non-mutually-intelligible subvarieties.
Two Interesting Things
One interesting thing is that Mandarin and the non-mutually intelligible dialects share a common writing system, which is the use of Chinese characters (logograms or distinctive symbols). The Chinese writing system shares a common cultural background, which supports the argument that they are dialects of Mandarin, the official language. Also, the Chinese characters have two different kinds, which are simplified and traditional. The simplified characters (have less strokes and simpler) are used in Mainland China and Singapore, and the traditional characters are used in Taiwan Province, Hong Kong, and Macau.
Another interesting thing is that Mandarin (the official language) itself has different variations. Each region in China has its own particular style of Mandarin. In other words, there are differences in pronunciation and grammar in Mandarin, and the official language is based on the Bei Jing dialect.
PinYin, the English Form of Chinese
In order to make the Chinese language more understandable to the western world, China developed the pinyin system. The pinyin system uses the western alphabet and spelling to write and pronounce Chinese words. HanYu, PuTongHua, and GuoYu are examples of pinyin. They all mean Mandarin. PuTongHua is used in Mainland China. In Taiwan Province and HongKong, is called GuoYu while in Singapore and Malaysia, it is called HuaYu.