More Shanghai residents can speak Mandarin than Shanghainese, a report released by the Shanghai Statistics Bureau revealed yesterday, and test scores have shown that younger residents prove to be worse at speaking Shanghainese than their elders.
The bureau’s report, which surveyed some 1,000 locals and non-locals aged 13 and over, showed that 97 percent of respondents could speak Mandarin and 81.4 percent could Shanghainese.
While the number of Shanghainese speakers in the city is still high overall (especially considering non-locals were included in the survey), residents fear that the fluency of young Shanghainese speakers is steadily decreasing, according to Shanghai Daily.
Respondents born in Shanghai and aged between 13 and 20 scored 3.9 out of 5 in a Shanghai dialect listening test, 0.4 lower than the average score of all age groups.
Their speaking ability was even worse with a score of 3.1 out of 5, the lowest of all age groups. The average was 4.1.
Nearly half of the respondents could speak English and 30 percent other Chinese dialects.
Some 87 percent of respondents, however, advocated the protection of Shanghainese, and in the past couple of months alone, the city has taken extensive efforts to do just this.
In January, Shanghai’s education bureau revealed a pilot program to be implemented across kindergartens in the city that encourages students to speak Shanghainese rather than Mandarin between classes.
Shanghai Metro likewise began a trial operation on lines 12 and 16 for Metro announcements to be broadcasted in Shanghainese along with Mandarin and English.
Liu Mei, who speaks Shanghainese courses at Tongji University, said that the city needs to take further measures to save the language as most people who speak it are entering their 50s and 60s.
“To save the dialect, the government must introduce a compulsory course into local schools or the situation won’t get any better,” Liu said.
“When the old generation passes away, there will be no one teaching the young generation.”