Mon, May 23, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Half of all Chinese people can't speak Mandarin: report


A recent survey has revealed that nearly half of China's population cannot speak the official language, Mandarin, despite decades of efforts by the communist government, state media said yesterday.

The National Language Commission's survey also found that many of the 53 percent of China's 1.3 billion people who can speak Mandarin are not frequent Mandarin users, preferring their local dialect, the Xinhua news agency said.

Mandarin -- known as putonghua in China -- is just one of the hundreds of dialects in the Chinese language. Cantonese and Shanghainese are other major Chinese dialects.

In addition to Chinese, people living in China also speak other languages such as Tibetan, Uighur, Fujianese and even Korean.

All of China's 55 ethnic minority groups have their own languages except the Hui and Manchu, who use Chinese.

Schools in predominantly ethnic minority areas conduct classes in the local language, using local-language textbooks.

Since the Communist Party began ruling the country in 1949, they have promoted the use of Mandarin.

In non-minority areas, schools must teach in Mandarin and television and radio stations are required to use Mandarin in broadcasts.

Officials attributed the low Mandarin usage to the wide variety of dialects in the country.

Historically, Chinese people did not need Mandarin to communicate because there was little trade among cities and provinces.

Today, Mandarin is popular mainly in the developed eastern part of China and major cities, the report noted.

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