Are Chinese & Mandarin the same thing?
Should you be learning Chinese or Mandarin?
This is something pretty confusing, especially for beginners of the Chinese language. You often see the words being used interchangeably. There are also occasions when they are used together, describing the language has Chinese Mandarin.
The question is: do they mean the same thing? Is Chinese Mandarin?
The answer is yes and no.
First of all, you should be aware that Mandarin is to be spoken. To be more specific, it is the official spoken Chinese. In this context, speaking Mandarin is akin to speaking the Chinese language, and Chinese is Mandarin.
The Chinese language, however, can be spoken in many ways. Mandarin is only one of them. From this perspective, Mandarin is not Chinese, it is only one of the ways to speak Chinese. In addition to Mandarin, Chinese is also being spoken as dialects, including Cantonese, which is spoken widely in Hong Kong and many Chinatowns in the West.
What I like to add here is that if you have to decide what spoken Chinese to learn, I would without doubt recommend Mandarin, rather than other dialects including Cantonese. This is because Mandarin is the only Chinese spoken language that can be understood throughout China, wherever you go.