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Shanghai promotes Mandarin for 2010 expo
By Cao Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-09-14 06:04

SHANGHAI: Professor Hu Mingyang from Beijing was surprised and somewhat confused when told that the organizer of an international language forum was a religious organization.

The confusion was caused by a receptionist at a hotel, who mistook jiaowei, the Chinese abbreviation for the education commission, for jiaohui, a religious organization.

In the Shanghai dialect the pronunciation of the two terms are the same, although they sound distinctly different in Mandarin, or putonghua.

While most Shanghainese can speak Mandarin, mistakes stemming from confusion with their native dialect often arise at restaurants, shops and other public places.

The government is taking the initiative to end the confusion in preparation for the World Exposition in 2010, and has introduced a regulation to standardize the usage of Mandarin.

The regulation will be submitted to the Standing Committee of the Shanghai Municipal People's Congress for approval on September 22.

It seeks to establish a comprehensive system to require local people to improve their putonghua, according to Sun Xiaoguang, an official with the Language and Character Department under the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission.

Every neighbourhood committee will form a team to patrol their area to correct incorrect Mandarin speech and characters used on signs, menus and notices.

Anybody who has difficulty speaking putonghua or writing correctly will be required to take remedial classes organized by the neighbourhood committee while any shops displaying incorrect Chinese characters on their signboards will be asked to correct them.

Any individual or enterprise that refuses to comply will be fined.

It is required that all the employees in the service industry pass a standard Mandarin test before 2010, and must then greet customers in Mandarin. They are, however, free to chat with their customers in Shanghai dialect after the initial greeting.

Additionally, all abbreviations and newly invented terms commonly used in Internet chat rooms are forbidden from use in schools and official documents.

Zhang Weijiang, director of the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission, said at the International Forum on Improvement of Language Environment for World Expo 2010 held yesterday, that the regulation aims to better prepare the city for 2010 World Expo.

(China Daily 09/14/2005 page3)

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