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Chinese All Around Us

Chinese is a growing language in our country and city today. Imagine how many Chinese restaurants there are in Birmingham. Now imagine those run by parents of children. The community of Chinese speaking individuals in Birmingham is large. There are already several Chinese churches around the area including Birmingham Chinese Christian Church in Highlands.The following photos are examples of Chinese in our community.

The Language Links sections provides links to wonderful resources that will help teachers hear and learn the basics of Chinese.

Window for a restaruant

 This is an example of environmental reading.


Sauce Bottle

This is an example of instrumental reading.

Food Package

This is an example of instrumental reading.


This is an example of social-interactional reading.


This is an example of news-related reading.

Language Links: Chinese

The following websites are wonderful links to audio and videos that will assist teachers in learning basic Chinese language skills and survival terminology. The greatest thing is they are all free. Enjoy!


Detailed Overview of Chinese:


Chinese is the most popular language in the world. More than one billion people in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other places in East Asia speak Chinese. Significant populations of people who speak Chinese also live in urban centers around the world. For example, San Francisco has the largest Chinese-speaking population of any city outside of China.

Chinese actually consists of a large number of dialects which share a written language but are mutually unintelligible when spoken. Because of this, some linguists consider them separate languages instead of dialects. Mandarin Chinese is the official language of the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, and it is the most widely-spoken form of Chinese. Other important linguistic groups include Cantonese, Wu, Xiang, Hakka, Min, and Gan. Within each group, many variations in spoken language occur. It is said that speakers from one area may not understand those who live only a few miles away. The majority of Chinese speakers in the United States speak Cantonese.

Chinese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family, which also includes Tibetan, Karen, and Lolo-Burmese. The Chinese language has influenced many of the other languages of East Asia. Written Chinese originated more than 4,000 years ago and remained relatively stable until the People’s Republic of China decided on a campaign to make it easier to read Chinese by simplifying the characters, which can have as many as 30 strokes. To date, the simplified Chinese characters have been adopted only in the PRC and Singapore, but Hong Kong may start to use them, following its 1997 reunification with the mainland. Another change initiated in the PRC is the widespread use of Pinyin, a system of transliteration, representing the sounds of the Chinese language using the Latin alphabet. The Chinese government has expressed interest in eventually replacing the character system with a phonetic alphabet, but to date Chinese characters remain the standard in communication. The written Chinese language consists of about 40,000 characters.

Because Cantonese speakers were the first people to speak Chinese who came to the United States, many English words of Chinese origin come from Cantonese. They include chop suey (from the Cantonese tsap sui or mixed pieces), chop chop (from the Cantonese chop, meaning quick), and dim sum (from the Cantonese for little hearts; the same characters are pronounced "dian xin" in Mandarin Chinese). Other culinary terms come from Mandarin Chinese, including chow mein (from chao mian, to stir fry noodles), and tofu (do fu in Mandarin Chinese). Aside from food, Chinese martial arts terms have come into English, including kung fu (gong fu in Chinese) and tai chi (tai ji in Chinese). Recently, feng shui, the Chinese architectural principle, has also been adopted into English.

Nobody who is learning Chinese would look at Chinese characters and mistake them for English words! However, as you learn to speak Chinese, some words may sound familiar. Generally, however, they are not what you might think. For example, depending on its tone, the word shu can mean book, uncle, neglect, ransom, ripe, and comb. However, it never means "shoe."


For more on the history on Chinese Langauge click here.