Language battle brews in China
As the Commonwealth Games draw to a close in India, it is interesting to note the recent ruckus in China which has preceded the Asian Games (to be held in China next month). Protests erupted in the Cantonese speaking Guangzhou province in August this year, incited by the announcement that local TV stations are to switch to Mandarin instead of the local Cantonese dialect. A bid, it would seem, to cater to the influx of Mandarin speaking visitors to the games. However, protesters viewed the Chinese Government directive as part of an ongoing campaign to ensure that Putonghua (a variant of Mandarin founded on the dialect of Beijing) is the dominant and therefore, “unifying”, language of China. A hefty task when considering that there are “160 dialects and 130 minority languages” present in China.
Reuters reports that “about two dozen people were taken away by police and detained, including eight journalists” during the Guangzhou protest. The following day a rally was held in the Cantonese speaking stronghold of Hong Kong; evidence that the 50 million Cantonese speakers in China are not alone in their fight to maintain linguistic diversity.