Not so long after its crackdown on foreign-language only signs in Xintiandi, the language police are now on to their next target — the Shanghai Metro! They have objected to plans by the subway operator to train its staff to learn basic phrases in five major Chinese dialects — a plan that is not without controversy — so as to help domestic tourists and visitors when they ask for fares and directions.
As can be expected, Zhu Lei, director of the Shanghai Language Works Commission, came back with the same cookie cutter response:
“We have contacted the Metro management today, stating that the program could violate the country’s language policy to promote the use of Putonghua.”
“There are at least 1,000 regional dialects in China, not including more branch dialects in different regions. The right way to solve communication barrier is to speak Putonghua.”
“What about passengers who speak other dialects? Using only the five dialects would not solve the problem.”
Shanghai Metro seems unimpressed and has shown its middle finger to the language watchdog (we love it!) by continuing with its plans to train staff in Cantonese, Wenzhou-hua (Zhejiang), Wuhan-hua (Hubei), Changsha-hua (Hunan Province) and Fujian-hua (otherwise known as hokkien). In addition, they are considering extending the service to Shanghai South Railway Station Metro stop.
However, in an online poll conducted by Sina.com asking netizens if they supported the move by Shanghai Metro to provide dialect services that we found here, 75.33% of the 11,495 people polled (as of press time) objected to the plan, 23.18% were supportive, and another 1.49% were undecided. We surmise though, that most of these people who volunteered to vote were local Shanghainese. One wonders if they would also object to a ban of the use of the Shanghainese dialect at all metro stations.
Shanghaiist: No foreign language only signs please, this is China!
Shanghai Daily: Metro service snubs language watchdog
Photo from spinsean.