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

in Music

Activists urge Kid Rock to ditch Confederate flag

Fresh
kidrock

The rocker often displays the banner during his shows, but members of a civil rights group in his native Detroit, Michigan have asked him to stop using the flag.

in Weird

Insane stunt lifts Canadian man sky high

Fresh
10-overlay4

Daniel Booria was charged with mischief after he tied more than 100 balloons to a lawn chair, strapped a parachute on his back, and set sail over the city.

in Sports, Trending, Viral Videos

TODAY’S MUST SEE: NASCAR driver walks away from incredible wreck

21-overlay4

Austin Dillon walked away from a dramatic wreck at the finish line of the Daytona International Speedway and it was all caught on camera.

in Weird

Man posing as security guard steals $75K from Walmart

14-overlay3

The suspect was dressed in clothes similar to those of an armored truck employee and was able to walk out without raising suspicion.

in Weird

Police: Man shoots off firework from top of his head, dies

21-overlay2

A man celebrating the Fourth of July used his head as a launch pad.