It seems that the "language" descriptor on a movie, tv show, or comic is always listed using 语 instead of 文. (国语, 英语, 德语, etc) instead of 英文. This is common even when listing the subtitles (although with subtitles I also see 文).

Why is it that 语 is used so much in this context?


3 Answers 3


I think 语 refers more specifically to spoken language, which is what you find in a movie, as opposed to written language, 文


Technically 'X语' refers to the spoken language and 'X文' refers to the written form, but in everyday life people do not normally make such fine distinction. The two forms can often be used interchangeably. I think 'X语' is more common in mainland China, and 'X文' is more common in Hong Kong and Taiwan.


To add on accepted answer:

语 can be used not only as a reference to language, but as a reference to actually speaking/communicating. E.g. 低语 (diyu, whisper).

Whereas 文 can refer to anything written. For example 文件 (wenjian, generic for documents).

In Chinese language many [single] characters do not carry directly translatable meaning, but more of a concept, idea (for example 道, depending on a context and/or pairing with other characters can provide many translations). Only a few [single] characters have clear direct meaning.

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