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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.”

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