News

400 million Chinese can’t speak national language

400 million Chinese can’t speak national language

A seven year-old boy, one of the youngest in the class, catches a nap during a reading lesson at the only school in the poor mountain village of Yanmaidi, in China's southwest Sichuan province Friday March 18, 2005. Children who normally speak the local Yi minority language often struggle to keep up with classes taught in Mandarin Chinese. Photo: Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) – More than 400 million Chinese are unable to speak the national language Mandarin, and large numbers in the rest of the country speak it badly, state media said on Thursday as the government launched another push for linguistic unity.

China’s ruling Communist Party has promoted Mandarin for decades to unite a nation with thousands of often mutually unintelligible dialects and numerous minority languages, but has been hampered by the country’s size and lack of investment in education, especially in poor rural areas.

Officials have admitted they will probably never get the whole country to be able to speak Mandarin, formally called Putonghua in China, meaning “common tongue”, suggesting everyone should be able to speak it.

Ministry of Education spokeswoman Xu Mei said that only 70 percent of the country could speak Mandarin, many of them poorly, and the remaining 30 percent or 400 million people could not speak it at all, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The country still needs to invest in promoting Mandarin,” it quoted her as saying, ahead of an annual campaign to promote Mandarin held every year since 1998.

“This year the ministry will focus on the remote countryside and areas inhabited by ethnic minorities,” Xu said.

The promotion of Mandarin has long been a contentious issue in China, despite the practical benefits of having the entire population fluent in one tongue, and in some cases has lead to violent unrest.

Tibetans have protested against having to use Mandarin in schools, while in 2010 several hundred people took to the streets in the southern city of Guangzhou over fears the authorities were trying to marginalize Cantonese.

Recent Headlines

today in Music

William Hurt exits George Allman biopic

williamhurt

The actor has pulled out of "Midnight Rider," two months after a camera assistant died while filming a scene.

52 minutes ago in Sports

Tracy McGrady signs with baseball team

Fresh
Retired NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady throws a pitch at the Sugar Land Skeeters baseball stadium Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Sugar Land, Texas. McGrady hopes to try out as a pitcher for the independent Atlantic League Skeeters.

The former NBA star signed Wednesday to pitch for the Sugar Land Skeeters in the independent Atlantic League.

today in Sports

Suns’ Dragic voted NBA’s most improved

suns

Phoenix guard Goran Dragic, whose breakout campaign helped his team to a 23-win improvement, was named most improved player.

today in Music

Rick Springfield embarking on solo tour

springfield

The "Jessie's Girl" hitmaker will head to his native Australia for a tour.

today in Viral Videos

It’s not Pitbull, it’s Amy Poehler

amy

Do you think she fooled anyone?

Bellingham Traffic