More than one billion people speak Chinese as their first language — that’s more than any other population in the world! UNESCO (part of the United Nations) first created Chinese Language Day in 2010 to celebrate Chinese as one of the six official languages of the United Nations. We’ve enjoyed it every year since on April 20. The day also celebrates Cangjie, who invented Chinese characters about 5,000 years ago. Legend says that when Cangjie finished, the gods rained grain upon the earth.
Chinese Language Day timeline
One-fifth of the world
Around 1.3 billion people speak some form of Chinese — ranking it No. 1 in the world. Standard Mandarin remains the official language in the largest part of mainland China and Taiwan. It's also an official idiom of the United Nations.
UN General Assembly adopted Chinese
The UN Security Council would soon follow suit — making Chinese its "working language" in 1974. After that, more and more UN offices and staff members began to work with Chinese.
UN established Chinese as an official language
Still, the UN did not commonly use Chinese at first. The situation improved after the People's Republic of China regained lawful rights in the UN 25 years later.
China adopted Mandarin as national language
Mandarin was one of the 10 major dialects. It became the national language after Dr. Sun Yat Sen overthrew the Qing Dynasty.
- 2650 BC
Chinese written for the first time
Canjie invented the written Chinese language.
Chinese Language Day Activities
Learn some Chinese
To say, "Thank you" you say, "xiexie." Written phonetically, it's like "she-ye she-ye." Just say it all together like one word. Easy right? Now you know some Chinese!
Visit a Chinese restaurant
Most everyone has a favorite Chinese dish, but if you don't, try Peking duck. You will never taste anything else like it. Then, at the end of your meal with taste buds in nirvana, you can prove you're a citizen of the world by thanking your server — in Chinese of course.
Watch a Chinese movie
You're in luck. Some of the most visually stunning movies in the world come from China. Maybe start with "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." After realizing how beautiful the Mandarin language sounds and how great Chinese movies are, you'll have a whole new genre with thousands of films to explore on Chinese Language Day.
Why We Love Chinese Language Day
We can say thank you to China
It's the day we get to say "xiexie" (thank you) for the wonderful stuff China has brought us. Like spaghetti? It came from Italy, but the noodles (the critical part) originated in China. We can thank China for inventing paper. Who could live without it? Plus, do you like Earl Grey tea? Captain Picard did. Despite the name, the tea originated in the Chinese Imperial court. Think about all that during Chinese Language Day.
China has some choices
China can claim 11 languages — lumping together related ones — with Mandarin as the national language. Adding to that, the Chinese speak more than 1,500 different dialects.
The stars speak Chinese
Chinese movie stars rock, and they speak Chinese. Jackie Chan is arguably the world's funniest stuntman and Jet Li is the world's most famous martial artist. Michelle Yeoh was a gorgeous and deadly Bond girl. Zhang Ziyi has starred in some great films. The facts bear the truth: some of the world's coolest people speak Chinese.