Mandarin Chinese, or Putonghua (common dialect) is the language that most Chinese use either as their native dialect or as their second dialect. The best means to understand China is to learn to speak Mandarin. Mandarin sentence structure is simple and follows the basic structure of subject-verb-object as English does.
The more complicated aspect of language is the culture and implications behind the words themselves. There is often a deeper meaning associated or implied behind a simple sentence. For a long time, the Chinese have worshiped the “middle road”. Confucianism teaches people not to be extreme, that is, neither too active, nor too inactive; neither too positive nor too negative. Although a person may have a clear intention behind their speech, when they speak, they generally use vague or indirect language because they do not want to appear too aggressive or too dominant. For example, if someone does not like your idea, he or she would not overtly say so, but rather say, “let me consider it”, or “let’s leave it for further discussion.” By doing this, the person allows you to save face and does not come across as “rude”. Sometimes a Chinese says yes, but this does not necessarily mean the yes you would assume it does. His yes may imply “yes, I know what you think” not “yes I agree”.
With the development of modern education and China’s opening up to the world, more Chinese accept the western, more direct style of speaking. With that said, however, many Chinese are still traditional in their expression, especially the older generations.
> Culture 101