Mandarin's influence reaches deep in China: survey

Mandarin's status as China's standard language has been further enhanced as nearly 53 percent of the 1.3 billion Chinese in the country can communicate with others via Mandarin, said a national survey released here Sunday.

The survey shows there are huge gaps in the number of Mandarin-speaking people if different resident localities, age groups, and educational background are taken into account.

Two thirds of the citizens in China's cities and towns speak Mandarin, 21 percent higher than that in the rural areas.

The proportion of Mandarin-speakers decreases as the age group rises, with more than two thirds of people aged between 15 and 29 and less than one third of those aged between 60 and 69 can speak the standard language.

The spread of education also helped to break down linguistic barriers, the survey said.

Only ten percent of the Chinese who have never gone to school speak Mandarin, while the proportion rockets to nearly 87 percent as for those with at least two-year college education.

Mandarin, known in China as "putonghua" or "common tongue", has been promoted as the standard pronunciation of Chinese language for more than fifty years.

The survey also shows 86 percent of the population can speak regional Chinese dialects, and nearly 5 percent use the languages of China's 55 ethnic minority groups to communicate.

Use of dialects is most common in China's families, while in offices, people tend to communicate in Mandarin more frequently, said Tong Lequan, official with the Institute of Applied Linguistics, when referring to the survey.

Half of the respondents attributed lack of opportunity to speakas the most tricky problem when learning Mandarin, while 43 percent said getting rid of their regional accents is the most difficult.

Launched in the autumn of 1998, the survey is sponsored by the State Language Commission of China, and was the first national survey on language use since the founding of the New China in 1949,said Yang Guang, director with the language usage administration bureau under China's Ministry of Education.

The survey covered more than 160,000 households and 470,000 people in China's 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities.

Source: Xinhua

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