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Media Focus

Protection of Dialects

NewsChina, Chinese Edition July 6, 2020

By NewsChina Updated Sept.1

China is home to 10 major dialect families and 97 dialect zones across the country. In 1956, China began to promote the use of Putonghua at schools and workplaces in order to level up literacy, enhance communication and drive economic growth. Alongside rapid urbanization and growing population mobility, the number and popularity of dialects have declined and are facing the worst crisis ever. According to a report by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences in 2012, only 60 percent of students at primary and junior high schools in the city could understand and speak Shanghainese. In 2015, China launched a project to protect language resources which aimed to collect and record more than 1,700 dialects nationwide. In 2017, the State Council released a directive to standardize language use, protect dialect culture and make films with people speaking in dialect. Since then, some local governments have encouraged television stations to air programs and play ads on buses in local dialects. For dialects with only hundreds of speakers, it is a matter of time before they disappear. For dialects with a large population of speakers, however, protection, respect and language environment are of crucial importance.