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ChinAfrica - - PROS AND CONS -

ZHAO LE A cit­i­zen of Guilin in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Au­tonomous Re­gion

ZENG JIN A teacher in Guilin

WANG ZHENJUN Pro­fes­sor with Zhengzhou Univer­sity

I strongly en­cour­age chil­dren to learn indige­nous di­alects. I am from Gansu Prov­ince in north­west China and my hus­band is from Guilin. So I want my daugh­ter, who is now one and a half years old, to learn both Guilin and Gansu di­alects so that she knows the cul­ture of her two home­towns.

In my opin­ion, di­alect in­di­cates a per­son’s af­fec­tion to his or her home­town. How­ever, nowa­days, a large num­ber of peo­ple from dif­fer­ent places are flood­ing into big cities such as Bei­jing, Shang­hai and Guangzhou. To bet­ter in­te­grate into the cities, they grad­u­ally pick up Man­darin and lose their di­alects. It’s very sad.

It’s al­ways pleas­ing to meet some­one from your home­town. One will feel cor­dial when he or she hears lo­cal ac­cent in a for­eign land. Di­alect is a re­minder of who we are and where we are from. As a pri­mary school teacher, I think stu­dents should be en­cour­aged to learn indige­nous di­alects. Nowa­days many par­ents speak Man­darin with their chil­dren and they en­cour­age their grand­par­ents to speak Man­darin with their grand­chil­dren at home. In school, stu­dents learn Man­darin and English. Though it is con­ve­nient for peo­ple to com­mu­ni­cate in Man­darin, noth­ing can re­place the vibe and beauty of indige­nous di­alects. Proverbs and slang are usu­ally rich with lo­cal sound and in­ter­est­ing to speak. They all re­quire di­alects to ex­press their full mean­ing. For in­stance, di­alect in north­east China is con­cise, vivid, rich and dy­namic, and iden­ti­cal to lo­cal peo­ple’s char­ac­ters of bold­ness, straight­ness, and hu­mor. Mas­ter­ing indige­nous di­alects will help stu­dents bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ate lo­cal cul­tures and tra­di­tions. That’s why we should study lo­cal di­alects in our com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion, es­pe­cially in Chi­nese text­books. I am wor­ried about the fu­ture of indige­nous di­alects. China’s vast ter­ri­tory has cul­ti­vated var­i­ous di­alects. Di­alects, be­ing the car­ri­ers of lo­cal cul­ture, re­flect the tra­di­tions deeply rooted in peo­ple’s hearts. It is worth men­tion­ing that the de­gen­er­a­tion of di­alects has be­come ev­i­dent in re­cent years. This phe­nom­e­non has be­come highly preva­lent in cities than in ru­ral ar­eas. The fre­quency of indige­nous di­alect usage has re­duced. Lan­guage is an in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage, as well as the car­rier of other in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itages. Each di­alect rep­re­sents a knowl­edge sys­tem and a va­ri­ety of cul­tural tra­di­tions. If a di­alect is dead, we would lose a cor­re­spond­ing cul­ture sys­tem.

I sug­gest that pri­mary and sec­ondary schools set up di­alect cour­ses and more mea­sures should be taken to cul­ti­vate a friendly en­vi­ron­ment for the use of lo­cal di­alects.

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