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Use a language or dialect

Updated: 2014-01-30 08:27
( China Daily)

Comment on "Shanghai encourages children to study local dialect" (China Daily website, Jan 21)

The discussion or even a dispute over the relation between a local dialect and Putonghua is an interesting topic. As the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission tries to keep the Shanghai dialect alive by promoting dialect education in kindergartens, nationwide the public media are strictly regulated by the authorities to use Putonghua in their TV programs and radio broadcasts.

What's our general attitude toward Putonghua and Chinese dialects? Over the past decade, people all over the country have been encouraged to learn and speak Putonghua in order to dispel misunderstandings between people from different areas. This is necessary because China is a large country with many ethnic groups and dialects, and many of the dialects are really difficult to understand by outsiders. But it is also necessary to preserve local dialects from the sake of culture.

Moreover, languages relate to personal and community identification. As an international metropolis, Shanghai attracts people from across the world - from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds - who speak different languages and dialects. What if the parents of children studying in Shanghai's kindergartens come from different places? Should their children learn the Shanghai dialect, as the local authorities want them to, or should they learn the dialects of the parents' hometowns?

Language is the binding cultural force of a community, which can hardly be regulated. And Shanghai residents have the right to choose the language or dialect they use, be it Putonghua, the Shanghai dialect, the Sichuan dialect or English.

Xie Ying, via e-mail

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(China Daily 01/30/2014 page9)