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MOE and SLC jointly release 2017 reports on current status of languages in China

2018-06-01 16:20:00

MOE and SLC held a joint press conference on the current status of languages in China in 2017 [Photo/ZHANG Jinsong]

On May 29, MOE and the State Language Commission (SLC) held a joint press conference on the current status of languages in China in 2017. TIAN Lixin, Director of the Language Application and Administration Department and the Language Information Management Department under the MOE, presented the 2017 reports on languages in China. Authors of the reports, including ZHOU Hongbo, Associate Editor-in-Chief of the Report on the Life of Languages in China, ZHANG Ripei, Chief Editor of the Report on China’s Language Policy Studies, ZHAO Ronghui, Chief Editor of the Report on the Life of Languages in the World, and QU Shaobing, Chief Editor of the Report on the Life of Languages in Guangzhou, also spoke at the conference. The press conference was hosted by the MOE spokeswoman XU Mei.

With the release of the Report on China’s Language Work Development, the SLC series of white, green, blue and yellow papers have officially taken shape, and will play a pivotal role in promoting national language policies, demonstrating achievements in the field of languages and increasing language awareness in society.

The overall situation regarding languages in China in 2017 can be summarized as follows:

1) Major accomplishments 

The National Project for Language and Literacy Promotion was launched in full, while further progress was made in surveys and validation tests on the popularization of standard Mandarin at county level. Nearly 400,000 people, including young adults, teachers in rural areas and ethnic minority teachers received training on national standards for language use, and a total of 6.6654 million people took the standard Mandarin level tests.

The Chinese Language Resources Conservation Program achieved a completion rate of over 2/3, with a landmark product - a 20-volume collectable publication  and an online Platform for the Collection and Demonstration of Chinese Language Resources. Chinese oracle bone inscriptions were included on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, evidencing global recognition of the cultural value and historical significance of oracle bones and helping to reinforce the heritage and promotion of traditional Chinese culture.

MOE approved Bachelor of Arts degree programs in Foreign Language nationwide now cover 83 foreign languages, 11 more than in 2016. The Guidelines for English Translation in Public Places were published in a 9-volume set, alongside the Guidelines for Russian Translation and for Japanese Translation. The National Glossary of Words Commonly Used in Sign Language and the National Program for Standard Braille Usage were adopted after evaluation.

Various events and activities were organized to promote languages, such as a highly popular TV show Chinese Poems Conference Season II, Classic Chinese Literature Recitation Contests held across the country, the first China (Beijing) International Language & Culture Expo (ILCE), and the Plan of Action for Beijing Winter Olympics Language Services. 14 Confucius Institutes and 40 Confucius Classrooms were inaugurated overseas, bringing the total number of institutes and classrooms to 525 and 1113 respectively.

2) Enriched language life

To create a “clean and clear” cyberspace for people, a survey was carried out on the use of vulgar language in website posts. Other data showed that the national reading rate had clearly improved and demonstrated that reading had become a common feature again in Chinese people’s lives. New words and buzz words, e.g. the new “Four Great Inventions”, have continued to add to the Chinese language, marking social and cultural changes while influencing the ways people communicate.

3) Steady progress in language planning studies

Studies on the development and application of modern Chinese in a global context were pursued. Researchers focused on the regulated use of the words with multiple pronunciations and words with non-standardized variant forms, while the overseas development and teaching of Chinese also started to attract research attention. Studies on language resources were also deepened, moving on from “how to preserve” to “how to pass on and keep alive” language resources. More work was carried out on foreign language policy studies, studies on language administration, public opinion on language use and other issues, and theories about how families manage language, transmission of dialects spoken by older generations, etc.

4) New achievements in the development of local language reports

From the language users’ point of view, the Report on the Life of Language in Beijing tried to uncover current problems in urban language and identify emerging needs of different language user groups. As the second green paper on the language situation for a key Chinese cosmopolitan city, the Report on the Life of Language in Guangzhou reflected the development of language work in Guangzhou, including in public places (e.g. metro stations), business districts, “urban villages” and other environments for language use. It also gave an overview of the place of language among various sections of the population, such as local youth, out-of-towners and foreigners, company employees, or pupils, and of the traditional language resources in Guangzhou while offering strategic solutions to certain issues. These two local reports gave an overview of the state of language in the North and South of China, bringing fresh insight to the national series of language reports.

Apart from the series reports on Chinese, the Report on the Life of Languages in the World displays a sophisticated global landscape in terms of the life of languages. Languages continue to play a subtle role in world politics. Although English remains the dominant language of global communication, emerging language issues brought up by international immigrants have captured wide attention, along with issues regarding preservation of language diversity, language or cultural promotional institutions, and language related technologies. As globalization drives the evolution of languages, the new social functions have underlined the growing importance of languages.

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