RAYMOND ZHOU X-RAY
who first arrive in Shanghai and their frustration in, say, asking directions. When I first heard Cantonese mention “afternoon”, I thought they were referring to “next week”. Generally speaking, the closer a dialect is toMandarin, the easier it is to grasp it. So, the most difficult dialects are all in southern parts of the country as Mandarin is based on the Beijing dialect. But that’s not taking into account ethnic minorities, many of whom have their own distinct languages.
It would be a chaotic and somewhat ludicrous scene to have a roomful of people talking in his or her own dialect and guessing what others are trying to get across. In the old revolutionary movies, all leaders would speak their own dialect, but they seemed to get along fine, without missing a single word muttered by others. Dialect, as I sawit then, was a big barrier to mutual understanding. It segments the country into thousands, if not millions, of small pieces where one’s identity is pigeonholed and confined.
At that time, every child in China had to learn two languages, or more accurately, two spoken versions of the same language, one vernacular and the otherMandarin. Some were required to speakMandarin in school and would revert to the
With or without government intervention, most dialects will vanish. But there is no sense in hastening their demise. There is a need for dialect programming on local radio and television stations. It is the proportion that should be calibrated.