Shanghai: Metro service snubs language watchdog

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Aug 8 18:36:36 UTC 2007

Metro service snubs language watchdog
By Dong Zhen 2007-8-8

CITY Metro operators plan to continue helping staff learn phrases in
five Chinese dialects to aid visitors - despite running foul of local
language authorities. Visitors at Shanghai Railway Station Metro stop
often use different local dialects to ask the fares, directions to the
railway station and the long-distance bus station. Metro workers said
the five most difficult dialects to understand were Cantonese, Wenzhou
(from Zhejiang Province), Wuhan (Hubei Province), Changsha (Hunan
Province) and southern Fujian Province. So Metro officials started
collecting tips from native speakers to help their staff answer and
understand questions.

The company is considering extending the service to Shanghai South
Railway Station Metro stop, another stop often used by city visitors.
However, the Shanghai Language Works Commission has strongly objected.
"We have contacted the Metro management today, stating that the
program could violate the country's language policy to promote the use
of Putonghua," said Zhu Lei, director of the commission, yesterday.
"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," she said.

"What about passengers who speak other dialects? Using only the five
dialects would not solve the problem."

She said the commission hoped the Metro management would obey the
language regulation and stop the new service.

"It's only a service for a small number of people in need. There are
some people who can't speak Putonghua well," said Yin Wei, a Metro
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