China’s huge population and lack of resources mean the country will never manage to get all its people to speak the national language Mandarin or standarded Chinese despite a 50-year campaign to do so, said a senior education official.
But the fact that more than half of China’s 1.3 billion people can now speak Mandarin represents a tremendous success, Zhang Shiping, vice director of the education ministry’s language planning department, told Reuters.
“I would say a 60 to 70 precent penetration rate is the best we’ll ever achieve,” Zhang said. “China is too big, and has too many poor areas to get to 100 percent. That will never happen.”
The article, alas, continues the standard but incorrect practice of referring to “dialects” (as opposed to separate languages), though at least it did add this:
Linguists say some of the dialects are actually separate languages, but in China they are officially seen as dialects of a single Chinese language.
Significantly, however, that sentence was deleted from the version of the story posted on the Web site of the Shanghai Daily.
source: China gives up on speaking the lingo, Reuters, January 20, 2006