China’s younger generation losing local dialects, 80% of Chinese population using Mandarin

Beijing, China: In the process of unifying cultures in china, Xi Jinping has forced people to learn Mandarin in result of which there is a significant decline in the local dialects in younger generations.

Mandarin is now spoken by more than 80 per cent of China’s population, up from 70 per cent a decade ago. Last month, China’s State Council promised to increase the figure to 85 per cent within the next four years, reported Taipei Times.

However, Xi’s initiative for a uniform Chinese identity is leading to fading of local dialects, including dialects of the Han majority, and ethnic languages such as Mongolian and Uyghur.

In Inner Mongolia, for example, local regulations in 2016 allowed ethnic schools to use their own language. The policy was aimed at developing students’ linguistic skills and cultivating bilingualism, but it was reversed in 2020 to favour Mandarin, a move that sparked protests from the ethnic population, reported Taipei Times.

In 2017, a survey showed that among the 10 dialect groups, Wu Chinese, which includes the Shanghai dialect and is spoken by about 80 million people in eastern China, has the smallest number of users aged between six and 20. It prompted concern among linguists in the region.

In 2014, the TV program Shanghai Dialect Talk was taken off the air after the government insisted that standard Mandarin be used for the channel to broadcast nationally.

In 2000, China passed laws to standardize spoken and written language. In each province, a language committee monitors and polices the use of Mandarin. The strength of the implementation varies, but it is not difficult for a determined government to enforce its policy, reported Taipei Times.

In September, Sichuan Province banned civil servants and party cadres from using the local dialect in the workplace.
“The state has been telling people there are visible and tangible benefits from speaking standard Mandarin Chinese,” said Fang Xu, an urban sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Since then, many regional languages, including Shanghainese, have suffered the same fate.”

A 2010 study by Beijing Union University found that nearly half of local Beijing residents born after 1980 prefer using Mandarin over the Beijing dialect.

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