Mandarin (traditional Chinese: 官話; simplified Chinese: 官话; pinyin: Guānhuà; literally "speech of officials"), or Beifanghua (simplified Chinese: 北方话; traditional Chinese: 北方話; pinyin: Běifānghuà; literally "Northern Dialect(s)"), is a category of related Chinese dialects spoken across most of northern and south-western China. When taken as a separate language, as is often done in academic literature, the Mandarin dialects have more speakers than any other language.
In English, Mandarin can refer to either of two distinct concepts:
1) It can refer to Standard Chinese or Standard Mandarin (Putonghua/Guoyu/Huayu/Hanyu), which is based on the particular Mandarin dialect spoken in Beijing. Standard Mandarin functions as the official spoken language of the People's Republic of China, the official language of the Republic of China (Taiwan), and one of the four official languages of Singapore. ‘Chinese’ — in practice Standard Mandarin — is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.
2) It can refer to all of the Mandarin dialects spoken in northern and south-western China.
In everyday use, Mandarin refers usually to just Standard Mandarin (Putonghua/Guoyu). In its broader sense, Mandarin is a diverse group of related dialects, some less mutually intelligible than others.