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September 4, 2009

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New rules for writing Chinese spell controversy

A NATIONAL education official said yesterday that authorities would "seriously consider public will" in deciding on the revision of 44 Chinese characters after the move triggered widespread controversy.
Li Yuming, director of the Education Ministry's Language and Words Information Administration Department, said authorities would proceed "gingerly" and "would not work against the will of the people" in deciding whether to adjust the written form of the characters.
In August, after eight years of effort, the ministry unveiled a list of 8,300 standardized Chinese characters in common use to solicit public opinion. The effort aimed to regulate the way the characters were written.
Ministry officials and language experts said the controversy was sparked over revisions to 44 characters. The reasons for the proposed alterations were never clearly explained, and many citizens, including language teachers, voiced objections to the ministry's decision on the grounds the changes would cause confusion.
Some members of the public also said the revisions could be costly, resulting in numerous amendments to books, dictionaries, signs, company names and ID cards, among other documents.
By the end of August, people in all walks of life from home and abroad, including teachers, university students, retired soldiers and government leaders, had sent nearly 3,000 comments via e-mail, letters and faxes to the Education Ministry.
The majority of the correspondents objected to altering the characters, fearing that it would cause inconvenience in writing, affect students' learning and increase financial costs.
"We will respect suggestions from all social sectors and seriously study them and take advice from the public," the ministry said.
"We will try to formulate a table of Chinese characters that both reflects public opinion and meets social demands."


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