Shanghai Metro shows middle finger to language watchdog

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Aug 9 13:42:19 UTC 2007

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 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.

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