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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 18:32, February 22, 2005
Chinese language is really very important
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February 21 is the world mother tongue day. Two days ago this author, Lin Zhibo, wrote an article saying that English is not so important, which is based mainly on a comparison with the Chinese language. For the Chinese, the importance of the Chinese language as the mother tongue is, of course, much higher than English.

But what about the mastery of the Chinese language by the Chinese people, especially by the youngsters? The situation about this is not so optimistic. My wife is teaching at a university, the students' exam papers and graduation theses she brought home are full of wrongly written or misused characters and grammatical mistakes, and most of them are mistakes of simple and basic things, which are laughable and pitiable.

There are many factors accountable for this. For instance, the study atmosphere in the school and the students' attitude toward study are not as what they were before; some teachers are not so devoted to their work; some people worship things foreign and fawn on foreigners and despise their own parent language; one more reason not to be neglected is that the students are burdened so heavily with English lesson that they have no time to attend to the study of the Chinese language. Of course, there are also people, including some decision-makers and teachers, who think since students are Chinese, the Chinese language is naturally no problem, so they pay no attention to the teaching and learning of Chinese language, maybe this also constitute a reason.

As a Chinese, he or she uses the Chinese language all the time. The Chinese language is a tool without which the Chinese cannot do even for a moment in their daily life and work. If a person's knowledge about the Chinese language is not up to the required standard, if he cannot speak distinctly and fluently, or what he writes does not read smoothly, then the effect on him as a Chinese is all-weather and all-directional, so the influence is obviously far greater than that of English. To go deeper into the matter, we can say that the Chinese language is not only a tool for communication, but also is the foundation on which the Chinese nestle themselves for a living. Spoken and written language is not only a basic carrier of culture, but itself is also a kind of culture and a precious heritage handed down to us by our ancestors. Mastering it means that you have grasped the critical key, the broad and profound treasure-house of Chinese civilization will be opened wide to you, then you search after the treasure of civilization, absorb the essence of tradition and arm yourself mentally with the fine Chinese civilization, only then can you be a Chinese not living to no purpose.

The Chinese have every reason to be proud of their own mother tongue, and have no reason whatsoever to despise or ply down their own parent language and recklessly mix some foreign words with the parent language. Particularly today when China's overall national strength is increasing, its international status is rising and its international influence is expanding with each passing day, we should all the more take pride in our own unique, time-honored mother tongue, we should even have such an ambition: Let our Chinese language go global as does English.

Oral and written language is the base of culture, and is the most fundamental and essential part of various kinds of cultural elements. If English is a kind of tool for foreign exchange, then the Chinese language is the foundation on which we settle ourselves for a living, the former is the incidental while the latter is the fundamental; the former is skill while the latter is the way; the former is sesame seed while the latter is watermelon. Attending to the incidental to the neglect of the fundamental, distracting efforts from the way to skill, picking up sesame seeds and taking no notice of watermelons��this is acting like a fool appearing as a wise man, which definitely ends up with the loss outweighing the gain.

By People's Daily Online

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