The first Shanghaihua textbook has been approved for use in local schools as the number of young speakers proficient in the dialect continues to drop precipitously:
“Now only one or two pupils in a class at many downtown schools can actually speak Shanghaihua and most of the rest could hardly understand it, or only speak broken,” said professor Qian Nairong, a Shanghaihua linguist and author of the new schoolbook.
Local parents have repeatedly expressed worries that their children will lose their own local dialect, which many see as a key part of the city’s culture.
The professor said the textbook was developed in response to calls several local elementary schools and parents.
“These schools had tried teaching the students Shanghaihua but teachers often found it hard to carry on due to a lack of systematic guidance and teaching materials,” Qian said.
To make it easy for students to accept and understand, the textbook includes 20 lessons that teach using riddles, children’s folk stories and cartoon illustrations, the author said.
“It’s most likely that the book will be used for some extracurricular classes or hobby groups,” the author said. Extracurricular courses are held less frequently than the daily classes.
“It’s better than none. We need to set up some stable teaching hours for children to practice Shanghaihua and cultivate their interest in the language,” Qian added.