Proposal for news in Mandarin angers Guangzhou citizens

21:00, July 09, 2010      

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The recent suggestion of using Mandarin more in TV news programs has sparked a heated debate in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, which will host the 16th Asian Games from Nov. 12 to 27.

The proposal was put forth at the city committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference July 5 and advised Guangzhou TV to broadcast its news programs more in Mandarin or launch a new Mandarin channel.

An online survey on the committee' s official website, however, showed that of the 30,000 respondents, among whom two-thirds were Guangzhou natives, 79.5 percent opposed the proposal while only 20.5 percent supported it.

A man surnamed Luo, who was born and raised in the city, while opposing the proposal, said, "I feel more comfortable hearing Cantonese, especially listening to news broadcasted in Cantonese while having dinner with my family."

If history is any guide, the proposal may not be a smart move. Guangzhou TV's economic channel shifted from Cantonese to Mandarin in 2009, and its viewer number plummeted.

But the committee has its reasons. "We made the proposal because one-third of Guangzhou's population came from elsewhere and their language preference should be also considered at the municipal TV station," said Han Zhipeng, a member of the committee.

"The upcoming Asian Games are another reason for the proposal. The Games are expected to attract millions of visitors who cannot understand Cantonese and for most foreigners who learnt Chinese, what they know is also Mandarin not Cantonese," said Han.

Even those born in other cities of the province cannot totally understand Cantonese.

Guo Jitong, who has stayed in Guangzhou for four years, said there are times that he could not understand Cantonese.

"I support the proposal since I am more familiar with Mandarin," Guo said.

Many opponents believe that the proposal, if adopted, would lead to extinction of Cantonese as well as related local culture.

But Zhan Bohui, Jinan University professor engaged in dialect studies, believes that Mandarin and Cantonese can coexist.

"For example, during the National Games in 1987, all bus conductors used both Mandarin and Cantonese to inform people about bus stops, which was very convenient for visitors. The practice lasts till today and Cantonese is still popular," said Zhan.

Cantonese is a dialect mainly spoken in and around the city of Guangzhou and by the majority of the population in Hong Kong and Macao.

The proposal is now considered by the publicity department of the municipal committee of the Communist Party of China. If the department finds it feasible, it will submit the proposal to the provincial Radio, Film and Television Bureau which will have the final say.

TV stations in China are required to use Mandarin. But since Guangdong is adjacent to Hong Kong and Macao where Cantonese is widely used, Guangzhou TV was approved by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television in the 1980s to use Cantonese in order to attract viewers from the two regions.

China has eight major dialects, but the number may vary due to different classification. It is generally difficult for others to understand another dialect.

The Asian Games were initiated in 1951 and have been held for 15 times. The upcoming games will be held in Guangzhou after China hosted the games for the first time in Beijing in 1990.

Source: Xinhua


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