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December 7, 2011

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Home » Metro » Public Services

City dialect to get voice on subway

THE public is giving mixed responses to whether Shanghai dialect should appear along with the current Mandarin and English broadcast announcements on the city's public mass transit.

The discussions have come since Shanghai Metro managers recently announced their intention to make such a change. One local bus route has already launched trials.

Officials with the city's Metro management said over the weekend that they were preparing to introduce Shanghai dialect to the current system. That means subway riders would hear transfer information and station names delivered in Mandarin, English and Shanghai dialect.

Metro officials have not given the motive for such a change nor detailed a scheme. But they said it would take some time to complete the project, which requires the current broadcast content on all Metro routes to be replaced and reproduced. That would be a major effort, given that Shanghai boasts the longest subway system in the world.

Bus lines get trial

Meanwhile, a public transit bus route, No. 785 running in the Pudong New Area, started providing local dialect broadcast as a complementary service this week. The route is the first in town to do so, but the service was suspended yesterday amid concerns that the accent wasn't quite right.

Some native residents said they found it pleasant to hear reminders of boarding safety delivered in folk language but other riders complained that it made them feel discriminated against because the dialect was odd to them.

The Shanghai Transport Bureau, which is in charge of all city buses, is supporting a trial for two more bus lines - Line 24 in Songjiang District and Line 11, which has not yet started.

But the effort might not be expanded to a majority of bus lines. Lu Gaosheng, an official with the local transit bus oversight agency, said he understood some bus routes had shown interest in introducing dialect broadcast but said there's no groundswell of support for it to be adopted as a citywide practice.

"Service on a trial basis could be allowed but there would not be support from the watchdog for a larger-scope application at present," Lu said.

He argued the distance between stops on many bus routes was too short to allow the broadcast to be delivered in three languages.

"The obligation of the public transit service producer is to make sure about 80 percent of the passengers are able to understand the broadcast information," he said. "There's no need for change since the current broadcast can already be understood by nearly all the riders."

But his view was disputed by a group of aged Shanghai native passengers less fluent in Mandarin as well as sociologist Gu Jun.

"I give full support to the new service," said Gu. "Many senior locals are much more sensitive to local dialect. The dialect broadcast for them could be much easier to understand and follow."

He added that many foreign visitors and non-local residents are eager to dive into local cultures.

"They may not understand exact meanings of the words but by listening to the intonation of the dialect broadcast, they could find a way to bond with the local culture and the folk language, or the voice of the city," Gu said.


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