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May 13, 2011

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Stopping the local dialect becoming derelict

Apart from the old authentic Shanghai dialect varieties, the Shanghainese more commonly spoken among urbanites is becoming less used, losing to the nationwide promotion of putonghua, or standard Mandarin.

Many people who are worried the Shanghai dialect is dying have recently been proposing more promotion of the local dialect to save an essential part of Shanghai culture. Some primary schools and kindergartens have introduced courses to teach children to speak the dialect.

A weekly optional course has been launched in Jing'an Primary School to teach pupils Shanghai dialect, history, culture and folklore.

At Modern Baby Kindergarten, a campaign called "Shanghai Day" is held every Friday which involves a Shanghai-style breakfast, learning Shanghai-dialect ballads and playing native Shanghai games.

Chen Yiyang, an 8-year-old primary school pupil, speaks no Shanghai dialect even though he is a genuine Shanghai resident.

"I can understand the language, but I simply can't speak it," Chen says with a little regret.

Most of his peers, especially children born after 1990, have problems using the local dialect.

Li Qinyun, a local student, tells Shanghai Daily that she'd rather speak English when communicating with classmates and parents than talk in the Shanghainess. She does not know how to speak the dialect.

And her father believes that Mandarin and English are more important.

Despite the decline of the Shanghai dialect among locals, many of the outsiders to Shanghai are picking up the local language. A Shanghai dialect club at the Shanghai University of Engineering Science, which was set up five years ago, is becoming increasingly popular.

Li Jun, a student at the club, which was originally established to help people from other parts of the country to be integrated into the local society, says more Shanghai students have joined to learn how to speak Shanghai dialect correctly.

Maggie Yang, 26, a Jiangsu Province native who came to study at a local university six years ago and settled in the city after graduation, has mastered Shanghai dialect. "People usually cannot tell whether I'm a Shanghainese or not by judging my accent," Yang says proudly.

And she is only one of the city's large number of non-locals who are learning the dialect and regard it as a way to enhance their work opportunities and general life in the city.

Yang who learned the dialect with the help of her college roommates feels it is more convenient to communicate in Shanghai dialect, especially when she's talking to taxi drivers and old people.


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