Half of China can't speak in Mandarin


Wed, Sep 06, 2006 - Page 1

Nearly half of China's 1.3 billion people can't speak Mandarin, the country's official language, a news report said yesterday.

An Education Ministry study found that only 53 percent of the population can speak the version of Mandarin known as putonghua, or "the common language," the China Daily said.

The government has promoted putonghua since 1956 as a common language to bind together a vast country with dozens of languages and dialects.

It is used in schools, government meetings and for TV and radio broadcasts.

"Without a common language, people are unable to understand each other. This has become an obstacle to China's social and economic development," Yuan Zhongrui, director of the ministry's putonghua popularization department, was quoted as saying.