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.

Recently Played

Latest Headlines

in Music

Chris Brown is a victim of identity theft

Fresh
chrisbrown

The singer is believed to have lost documents while in the San Bernardino County Jail last year.

in Music

Adele planning her first world tour

Fresh
adele

The" Rolling In The Deep" singer will kick off the shows after the release her long-awaited third album.

in Entertainment, Sports, Viral Videos

WATCH: Leaked Super Bowl commercials

Fresh
25-overlay7

A 30-second commercial on Super Sunday will cost $4.5 million, but will it be money well spent?

in Entertainment

‘Birdman’ wins big at SAG Awards in march toward Oscars

SAG

The satirical film won top honors from Hollywood's actors in an important show of support for its march toward the best picture Oscar.

in Sports, Trending, Viral Videos

TODAY’S MUST SEE: ‘SNL’ takes on Tom Brady and DeflateGate

13-overlay2

The New England Patriots QB reminds people that he is not a "science computer" and had nothing to do with deflating footballs.