Shanghai Dialect Makes Comeback Among Youth

While Shanghai strives to be an international city, locals are worried about the preservation of its cultural identity. After the 1990s, when Shanghai increased its efforts to become an international metropolis, the use of Shanghainese, the local dialect, decreased in favor of English or Putonghua. According to the South China Morning Post, the success of Shanghai comedian, Zhou Libo, and young people creating groups for the promotion of their local dialect reflects the  comeback of Shanghainese:

A study by Shanghai’s Academy of Social Sciences found that only 60 per cent of pupils in local primary and junior middle schools were able to speak the local dialect. Only a few were fluent and anecdotal evidence showed that some children of native parents were not able to speak a single word of Shanghainese.

In 2011, a group of young people, mostly university students, launched a campaign to promote the local dialect. The group, called Hu Cares, gathers at the People’s Square every week, calling on people to preserve the Shanghai dialect. The word Hu is the short form of Shanghai in Chinese.

Their efforts attracted the attention of local education authorities, who introduced the dialect in music and art lessons in the September semester and provided students with new textbooks featuring poems and folk songs in Shanghainese.

Unlike people in Guangdong, who insist on Cantonese’s superiority because it has a richer linguistic history than Putonghua, educators in Shanghai suggest that outsiders learn Shanghainese because a command of the local dialect will make them more confident residents of the city.

See also Zhou Yunpeng: We Want to Sing in Dialect, via CDT, which discusses the use of dialects in music as well as the tensions between dialects and Putonghua.

February 24, 2013 10:22 AM
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