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Saving language aids in Games bid
By Zheng Caixiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-24 01:15

The Guangzhou municipal government has been urged to popularize its local Cantonese dialect while improving the city's standard of English speaking to help in its bid for the 2010 Asian Games.

In addition to Guangdong,Cantonese is the typical dialect spoken in the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions and many areas in Southeast Asia.

Yin Jie, a deputy of Guangzhou Municipal People's Congress, said Cantonese actually has a great influence in Hong Kong, Macao, Southeast Asia and North America where many overseas Chinese who trace their roots to Guangdong.

Yin urged local governments to use the Cantonese dialect and culture to help in the bid for the Games.

Meanwhile Guangdong credits itself with having more than 20 million overseas Chinese around the world. Most of them can speak only Cantonese and local foreign languages.

Yin who is also a Cantonese dialect anchor at a Guangzhou TV Station urged building a Cantonese Dialect Museum to help showcase the rich southern Chinese culture and popularize the dialect.

The city government's efforts to popularize Putonghua have made great achievements in the Guangdong provincial capital where the Cantonese dialect has been spoken for more than 3,000 years.

A growing number of local young people can now speak fluent Putonghua, the official language of the Chinese mainland, as well as Cantonese.

And all the teachers from primary schools and kindergartens in Guangzhou are now using Putonghua in their classes.

But the government's neglect of developing the local rich Cantonese dialect has antagonized some local deputies of People's Congress and members of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and raised a fierce controversial debate among local residents.

Yin said Tuesday the municipal government should still provide space for the development of Cantonese while making great efforts to popularize Putonghua.

In addition to Guangdong Province, Cantonese is also spoken in part of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Hainan Province.

And Fang Wei, a CPPCC member, is also against excluding dialects while efforts to popularize Putonhua are underway.

"It is not wrong to popularize Putonghua," Fang said, adding that bilingualism is a credit to a society.

But dialects, particularly the Cantonese dialect that represents a long history and should be attached importance for development.

On a public forum held in Guangzhou's People's Park on Sunday, many local residents urged the government to pay special heed to bilingualism.

Some local residents say typical old Cantonese songs and children's folk rhymes still touch their hearts.

And Tao Cheng, director of Guangzhou Municipal Bureau of Culture, said Guangzhou will organize an international Yueju (Guangdong Opera) Festival in November this year to help promote the development of Jueju and southern Chinese culture.

Yueju troupes from Hong Kong, Macao, Southeast Asia, the United States, Canada and Europe will participate in the event.

Yueju is more than 150 years old. The arias are sung indistinctive dialect and the accompanying music is also typical of the southern area.

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