ZHOU XIAO A Guilin resident
I am against children learning dialects. I grew up learning Guilin dialect and ended up with non-standard Mandarin. My major in the university required an extremely high level of Mandarin. I spent a lot of time correcting my pronunciation. It was at that time when I realized that my children should learn Mandarin in early childhood. Many parents I know share the same idea. Between each other as parents, we speak Guilin dialect, but with our children, we communicate in Mandarin.
My son has never visited my hometown in the rural area because we now live in Guilin. Local dialect would be of no use for him and speaking Mandarin is definitely easier. During class, on TV, and in academic literature, people are using Mandarin. When he begins to attend university in perhaps another city, he can communicate in Mandarin. I have been working in the field of pre-school education for 25 years. According to my research and experience, there is more harm in cultivating a child’s language ability if there are different dialects within a family. The child will become overwhelmed by them and it would slow down their language development.
To avoid this, when teaching your child basic Chinese, it’s advisable to start with standard Mandarin. This is unlikely to compromise your child’s expression ability in the language learning process.
It’s easier for students to learn and speak Mandarin from TV and books, which helps build up their vocabulary. They become more sensitive to phrases and words. Indigenous dialect-speaking students, however, would find it more difficult to understand the linguistics of Mandarin.
CHEN SHAOLING A resident in Huizhou City, South China’s Guangdong Province
DONG JIAN Professor with School of Chinese Language and Literature, Nanjing Normal University
It is inappropriate to promote the use of dialects at present. The death of language or dialect is a natural process. We cannot sympathize for the loss of certain dialects. For example, people in modern times do not feel frustrated when they fail to read inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells from the Shang Dynasty (16001100 B.C.).
For certain dialects, which will not disappear in short term, we can use them, but should not make special efforts to promote them. The disappearance of dialects is a loss indeed. But, as long as our society keeps moving forward, there is no ground to blame such phenomena.
I think they go toward the wrong direction when some people are promoting dialects. Indigenous dialects break the integrity of the Chinese culture. They do not cohere with the Chinese philosophy of “grand unity.”