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The Chinese-speaking world is nearly the entire continent of Asia. However, there are about 10 major regional Chinese languages. Standard Chinese, or Mandarin, is spoken by 70 percent of the chinese-speaking population. That translates to about 847.8 million people. Other dialects include Wu, Min, Yue, Jin, Xiang, Hakka, Gan, Huizhuo, and Pinghua.
The Chinese language has been loaned extensively to other languages, where concepts have been expanded on and even readopted as new words in Chinese. In this way, the Chinese languages have grown similar to one another, despite retaining characteristics that make them separate languages and not just dialects of one greater language.
Chinese writing has traditionally been based on characters that are read in columns from top to bottom and from right to left. In the mid 1950s, the Chinese government introduced the Simplified Chinese character system as a way to promote literacy by making characters easier to form, similar to short hand. Being functionally literate means understanding about 2000 characters. A more educated person might understand around 6000 characters. There are around 10,000 commonly used characters and dictionaries can contain upwards of 40,000 characters.