The head of China’s department charged with getting everyone in the country to speak Mandarin admitted on Monday that at least 40 percent of those in the PRC can’t speak the country’s official language.
A survey from 2004 gave the figure of 47 percent of China’s population able to speak Mandarin. Even assuming that figure is correct (not a wise thing to do with PRC statistics), I doubt there has been much of a change since then.
The figures include those who are not native speakers of the language and may not speak it often.
Yuan Zhongrui, director of the Mandarin popularization department under the Ministry of Education, said that those who cannot speak Mandarin “are mainly those with ‘little education,’ or ‘the illiterate,’ and most of them are rural residents.” This describes the majority of the country’s population — and also those hardest to reach with Mandarin programs.
China is unlikely have all of its population speak Mandarin any time in the foreseeable future, an official from the same department admitted earlier this year.
sources and further readings:
- 40% Chinese cannot speak putonghua, China Daily, September 5, 2006
- Using Putonghua, Pinyin News, December 28, 2004
- Full Mandarinization impossible, says PRC education official, Pinyin News, January 20, 2006
- Nearly half of Chinese people do not speak mandarin, Xinhua, May 23, 2005