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Dialects are the spice of life

China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-19 09:13

Two Americans who love the Chinese language set up a website in April "to make Chinese in different places hear Chinese dialects of all kinds". The "dialect map" has become popular in no time and has sparked public discussions on the decline of Chinese dialects and how to protect them, says an article in Guangming Daily. Excerpts:

Compared with the passion some foreigners have for the Chinese language and dialects, the country's academia and researchers have not accorded enough emphasis to the subject. Moreover, some experts say there is no need to protect languages and dialects, because they are destined either to adapt to the demands of times or become extinct.

If we consider language to be just a tool of communication, the experts' argument is justified. But more than being a tool of communication, every language or dialect carries the weight of history and culture. And the extinction of a language or dialect is the extinction of a way of life.

The increasing pace of migration of people in today's world has necessitated the use of a commonly understood language across the world. But for people living away from home, dialects are a great source of cultural and emotional comfort. Perhaps that's the reason why the website started by the two Americans has become so popular.

We cannot and should not control the emergence or disappearance of a language or dialect, but at the same time we should not forget that each language or dialect has a special cultural and historical attribute. Protecting a dialect in China is like preserving the country's history and culture.

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