Which Countries and Regions Speak Mandarin Chinese?

Mandarin Chinese is one of the most spoken languages in the world, spreading across Mainland China and into Taiwan and Singapore.

Sep 5, 2023By Rosie Lesso, MA Contemporary Art Theory, BA Fine Art

which countries speak mandarin chinese


Mandarin Chinese is the second most spoken language in the world, with approximately 1.118 billion native and non-native speakers combined. However, there are 929 million first language speakers of Mandarin Chinese, making it the highest native speaking language of them all. The official language of Mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore, Mandarin Chinese is also spoken across large areas of Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia and Tibet, often as a second language. It is also alive and well in Chinese communities or Chinatowns across the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, and Madagascar. We take a closer look at some stats and facts on the nations that speak this widespread language.


Mainland China

The Great Wall of China, photo by Hung Chung Chih, via National Geographic


Undoubtedly Mainland China has the highest number of Mandarin speakers in the world, with more than 80 percent of the population following a uniform Mandarin language. Some linguists worry that a push to nationalize one single language across the vast areas that make up China means local dialects are in danger of dying out. But others argue having a standardized language means greater unity across the social, economic, and educational landscape. One resident from Gegye county, Ngari Prefecture, Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, named Sonam Rinchen said, “Using Mandarin helps me better understand the outside world, achieve better development and enjoy a better life.”



The National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan


Mandarin Chinese has been the lingua franca of Taiwan since 1945, following an influx of Chinese people to the island in the wake of the Chinese Civil War. While the majority of people living in Taiwan today speak the language as a first language, Taiwanese is also commonly spoken on the streets. Meanwhile the Mandarin Chinese spoken in many parts of Taiwan is infused with aspects of Taiwanese to create a more localized dialect. In other areas there are a small number of Hakka speakers. However, Mandarin, Taiwanese and Hakka share the same writing script, which demonstrates how similar the languages of Taiwan are to one another.



An aerial view of Singapore

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Singapore has an incredibly diverse population; so much so, the government here has assigned Singapore four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese and Tamil. Around half of the population speak Mandarin Chinese, making it widely prevalent. This is in part because Singaporean children of Chinese families are taught Mandarin Chinese as a second language, and across the country a bilingual education policy is followed that means the majority of citizens can speak at least two of the national languages. 


Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia and Tibet

Hong Kong cityscape, via Getty images


Mandarin Chinese speakers are growing across much of the Asian world, with the numbers of speakers across Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia and Tibet on the rise. In the administrative region of Hong Kong, Cantonese is the most widely spoken language, but many residents are now becoming proficient in Mandarin as a second language. Much like in Singapore, Mandarin is taught in many schools across Hong Kong, and the language is often spoken in international governmental and business settings. A large portion of the population in the region of Macau speak Cantonese, but since Macau’s handover to China in 1999, the number of Mandarin Chinese speakers here has been on a significant rise.


Aerial view of Malaysia at night


Meanwhile, of the impressive 137 different languages spoken in Malaysia, including the official Malay, Mandarin Chinese and its various dialects are among the most spoken, particularly amongst its citizens of Chinese origin. In Tibet, the traditional language is standard Tibetan, but growing relationships with mainland China in recent years means speakers of Mandarin Chinese here are on a sharp rise, especially amongst younger generations of Tibetan residents. 


Chinatowns Around the World

Chinatown in Manhattan, New York, where residents speak both Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese


Chinatowns composed of Chinese neighborhoods and districts with a significant Chinese population are found in many major cities throughout the world today, including San Francisco, Manhattan, Honolulu, Toronto, London, Paris, Vancouver and more. Within these communities the traditionally spoken language has predominantly been Cantonese. However, in recent decades Mandarin Chinese has become increasingly popular among younger generations, in line with mainland China’s push for a standardized language, which can sometimes cause communication barriers between older and younger residents.

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By Rosie LessoMA Contemporary Art Theory, BA Fine ArtRosie is a contributing writer and artist based in Scotland. She has produced writing for a wide range of arts organizations including Tate Modern, The National Galleries of Scotland, Art Monthly, and Scottish Art News, with a focus on modern and contemporary art. She holds an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from the University of Edinburgh and a BA in Fine Art from Edinburgh College of Art. Previously she has worked in both curatorial and educational roles, discovering how stories and history can really enrich our experience of art.