The government is pushing hard to make Mandarin more widely understood and establish it as the lingua franca by those who don’t speak it as their first language. Many schools don’t allow local dialects to be spoken. A national language law initiated in 2001 decreed that Mandarin must be used in all mass media, government offices and schools, and barred the “overuse” of dialects in movies and broadcasting. Victor Mair, professor of Chinese language and literature at the University of Pennsylvania, told AFP that national authorities had been promoting Putonghua for around 100 years. "Its primary aim, then as now, has been to attempt to unify the country's language, but it has an underlying secondary agenda, which is the domination of the south — Cantonese, Shanghainese, Hokkien — by the north, Mandarin," he said. "It's the same in China as it is in other parts of the world: Quebec, Belgium, Ireland. Language matters." /^\

James Pomfret and Farah Master of Reuters wrote: “Throughout China's long and turbulent history, the nation's emperors and rulers have been driven by a desire to unite the country and to standardize speech as a powerful policy lever. Diversity hasn't been a priority for Beijing when seen in this context, and critics sometimes say Beijing's pro-Mandarin policies can amount to cultural intimidation.” Part of this campaign involved getting rid of local dialect versions of the cartoon Tom and Jerry — which has been dubbed into local dialects found in Yunnan, Sichuan , Shaanxi and Shanghai — and replacing them with Mandarin versions on state television. Many complain that the campaign will dilute and weaken China’s cultural diversity. Singling out Tom and Jerry is a bit ironic because in the original version of the cartoon neither Tom or Jerry speaks.

The use of Mandarin (Putonghua) soared after the Chinese Communist Party leadership selected it as the national language in 1955. At that time a plethora of languages and dialects were spoken all over China but by 2000 Mandarin was the common tongue of China with around 70 percent of population of China speaking it. “The national language has been a tremendous unifying force in China and it’s why they promoted Putonghua as much as they have,” Robert Bauer, a professor of Chinese linguistics at Polytechnic University and the University of Hong Kong said. “Young people don’t bother learning their parents’ dialects any more. When I was teaching linguistics in China the students told me that their local dialects are useless — in terms of feeling good about your culture and home it’s important [to speak your dialect], but in terms of getting ahead you need English and Putonghua.” [Source: Time Out Hong Kong, July 8, 2015]

400 Million Chinese Can't Speak Mandarin

Throughout China, Mandarin — known as Putonghua, the "common language", with its roots in Beijing's northern dialect — is the medium of government, education and national official media. According to AFP: “The ruling Communist Party has long viewed it as a means of weakening regional loyalties and forging a sense of common identity, particularly in far-flung areas such as Xinjiang and Tibet which see fits of resistance to Beijing's rule. [Source: AFP, August 25, 2014 /^]

A government survey in the mid 2000s found that only 53 percent of the population “can communicate in Putonghua” and television broadcast continue to have subtitles to help people overcome misunderstandings of the language. According to a 2013 ministry of education statement, 30 percent of Chinese — 400 million people — still cannot speak Mandarin. Reuters reported: “More than 400 million Chinese are unable to speak Mandarin, and large numbers in the rest of the country speak it badly, state news media said as the government began another push for linguistic unity. China’s governing Communist Party has promoted Mandarin for decades to unite a nation with thousands of dialects and numerous minority languages, but that campaign has been hampered by resistance that has sometimes led to violent unrest as well as by the country’s size and lack of investment in education, especially in poor rural areas. A Ministry of Education spokeswoman, Xu Mei, said that only 70 percent of the nation could speak Mandarin. Yet many who do speak it do so poorly, and the remaining 30 percent, or 400 million people, cannot not speak it at all, the Xinhua news agency reported. [Source: Reuters, New York Times, September 5, 2013]

Dying Languages in China

According to the New York Times: “The publication Ethnologue identifies almost 300 living languages in China, half of them on the edge of the abyss as Mandarin, the nation’s official language, continues to subsume minority tongues. Among those under pressure, 20 have fewer than 1,000 speakers, according to the website The World of Chinese. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, January 11, 2016]

According to the United Nations, nearly 100 Chinese dialects, many of them spoken by China’s 55 recognized ethnic minorities, are in danger of dying out. Efforts are also underway in Shanghai, as well as in Jiangsu and five other provinces, to create databases as part of a project under the Ministry of Education to research dialects and cultural practices nationwide. [Source: Emily Feng, Sinosphere, New York Times, November 24, 2016]

Beijing Demands That Everyone in China Speak Mandarin

In 2017, the Beijing government called for whole population to speak Mandarin. SupChina reported: China’s Ministry of Education and its National Language Committee have issued an announcement (in Chinese) calling for intensive work to spread the use of spoken Mandarin and standardized Chinese characters. Currently, about 70 percent of the population can speak Mandarin. In big cities, the figure is around 90 percent, but according to the announcement in some rural areas and among ethnic groups, the number is 40 percent or even lower. The BBC has a short report on the announcement that says the target is to have 80 percent of the population speaking Mandarin by 2020, but the original announcement does not actually mention that number. The Ministry of Education says that ensuring that the use of Mandarin is thoroughly popularized is an important goal of the 13th five-year plan, and necessary to meet China’s development goals and to preserve social harmony and unity of the nation. The announcement also calls for the “scientific preservation” ( kexué baohù) of the languages of ethnic minorities. [Source: SupChina, April 4, 2017]

According to AFP: “The ruling Communist Party has long viewed it as a means of weakening regional loyalties and forging a sense of common identity, particularly in far-flung areas such as Xinjiang and Tibet which see fits of resistance to Beijing's rule. [Source: AFP, August 25, 2014]

British journalist Dr Martin Jacques, the author of “When China Rules the World: the Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World.“, said “China has had a very weak conception of cultural difference and is very disrespectful to those that do not belong to the Han identity, which they believe is the cement that holds the country together. The biggest political value in China is unity. How power is constructed in China is much different than the West. They view state power as the patriarch of the family. And this rule has not been challenged in the past 1,000 years.” [Source: Time Out Hong Kong, July 8, 2015]

Ban on Non-Mandarin Languages on Chinese TV

Didi Kirsten Tatlow wrote in the New York Times: “Satellite television is broadcast nationally, and government regulations bar the use of local dialects on national television. In January 2014, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television issued a notice saying that all television and radio programs must use Mandarin Chinese, the standard national language, and avoid local dialects and foreign languages, China Daily reported . This policy has its critics, who say that while the central government is promoting what it calls "culture industries" at home and abroad, it is discouraging China’s own rich array of regional dialects and customs out of concern that strong local identities could challenge Beijing’s authority.” [Source: Didi Kirsten Tatlow, Sinoshere, New York Times, May 2, 2014 ]

“China has a "fantastic linguistic diversity," said Steve Hansen, the Beijing-based co-founder of Phonemica, a website that aims to document and preserve hundreds of local languages and dialects in China. Some parts of the government are trying to preserve local dialects, he said. "Obviously there are policies like the broadcasting policy that take away from the influence of local dialects. On the other hand, there is certainly government-funded academic research for dialects. And for every poster about the need to use Putonghua" — the Chinese word for standard Mandarin — "we can find a high-level official talking about the need to preserve mother tongues."

“But over all, he said, regional languages are endangered, as are local cultures. "Much of the threat in China is the same as it is around the world," he said. "People moving around, wanting their children to speak the language of commerce and ‘progress.’ Even without any additional government policies, this pressure would be tremendous."

Threats on Cantonese and Shanghaiese

James Pomfret and Farah Master of Reuters wrote: “Part of the problem in Guangzhou is that growth over the last few decades has bought an influx of non-Cantonese speakers, leading many to feel alienated in their own city. That's a situation many in glitzy Shanghai feel keenly, where it is not unusual to find shops run by migrants with signs in their windows asking customers to speak Mandarin.” [Source: James Pomfret and Farah Master, Reuters, November 22, 2010]

Cantonese has at least two powerful backers: Hong Kong's popular Cantopop music and film culture. Many young Chinese can sing in Cantonese at karaoke without being able to speak a word.

In Shanghai, the demise of the sing-song vernacular has led to calls for a rethink of China's monolithic language policies. "I think we need to loosen the city's language environment," Qian Nairong, a professor and author of a dictionary on the Shanghainese language, told Reuters. "Children should be allowed to speak their mother tongue from when they are small.”

“Traditionally fiercely protective of its culture and language,” Pomfret and Master wrote, ‘shanghai residents have a snooty reputation for often refusing to converse in anything but ‘shanghai hua.” The noticeable drop in Shanghainese speakers has stoked anger and concern that the language may fade within a generation or two, unless measures are taken to reverse the decline.” A television clip posted on Ku6.com, a Chinese lifestyle website, ignited a debate after it showed Shanghainese children unable to string together basic words. There is no official support for Shanghainese, which the government terms a dialect though is technically a separate language with its own grammar and vocabulary.”

Loss of TV Show Spelling Doom for Shanghai Dialect

In May 2014, a Sina Weibo message from Gao Bowen—that read: "Because DocuTV will soon start broadcasting on satellite, programs in local dialect can’t go on and ‘Shanghai Dialect Talk’ will close. Thank you everyone for your support! I’m grateful!"— provoked an angry response among people in Shanghai. Didi Kirsten Tatlow wrote in the New York Times: “Mr. Gao is a television host and performer of pingtan, a traditional Shanghai art form that includes telling jokes and stories, singing and playing music, and the end of his program stirred fears that the city’s unique language and traditions are in peril. [Source: Didi Kirsten Tatlow, Sinoshere, New York Times, May 2, 2014 ]

"This is going to be such a pity for us," said Qi Jiayao, a call center employee who has campaigned to spread the use of the Shanghai dialect, which he says is under threat from the large influx of newcomers to the city who don’t speak it as well as the erosion of traditional ways of living. "Media plays a very crucial role in maintaining a language. If we have programs in the local dialect, it’s something living among us all. In order to keep a language alive it needs to be in the public sphere, not just the private sphere."”

Since January 2014, “Mr. Gao, 44, had hosted "Shanghai Dialect Talk," a prime-time Monday-to-Friday, half-hour talk show on Shanghai Television. Images on the show’s verified Sina Weibo account showed traditional barbers, furniture, houses, musical performances and early 20th-century dress. The show’s slogan: “Not just a show! An attitude to life!” Mr. Qi said the show was the latest of three in the Shanghai dialect to be canceled since last fall. The other two were a news show and a Mandarin-language television drama dubbed in Shanghainese but halted after just a few of the 20 scheduled episodes.”

In February 2014, “China Daily reported that the main character in a popular television show about an elderly Shanghainese busybody "switched to using broken Mandarin, rather than his signature colloquial and idiomatic Shanghai dialect," to comply with state regulations. DocuTV is a channel of Shanghai Television, which is part of the state-owned Shanghai Media Group. On Friday, a spokeswoman for Shanghai Television who gave her name as Ms. Chen confirmed that the show had been dropped because DocuTV was applying to become a satellite channel. "According to Chinese laws," she said, "you cannot use dialects on satellite channels in order to make it easier for other people to understand."

“On the Sina Weibo account of the Shanghai Times newspaper, there was much disappointment. "Shanghai Dialect Talk is a really good program! These last years’ efforts to push Mandarin in Shanghai have really been effective. Why do they need to exterminate dialects!!!" wrote one commenter called Goldfish in the Grass. Another post began: ‘"pread this with grief and indignation!" It repeated the news, then ended, "Online friends are expressing their discomfort and anger at the ending of the show."

“Several commenters drew comparisons with what they called a more permissive situation in Guangdong Province, where they said tens of millions of Cantonese speakers are able to watch television shows in their dialect. "This is like news of a death. I hope it proves to be just a rumor," another commenter wrote.” Steve Hansen, the co-founder of Phonemica, a website dedicated to preservation of local languages and dialects in China, told the New York Times: "In some ways Shanghainese is doing quite well in comparison to other Sinitic languages. Shanghainese have a lot of pride in their language and many make an effort to pass it on to the next generation."

Cantonese Versus Mandarin in Guangzhou (Canton)

AFP reported:“Cantonese is the first language of roughly half the population of Guangzhou, China's third-largest city and the provincial capital of Guangdong — where for many elderly residents, it is their only tongue.In mainland China the two languages generally use the same characters for the same words, so that they are mutually intelligible in written form — but incomprehensible when spoken. [Source: AFP, August 25, 2014 /^]

“Cantonese is spoken by more than 60 million people in China, according to the state-run China Daily — on a par with Italian in terms of native speaker numbers. But some in Guangzhou worry that as young people and their parents focus on Mandarin for academic and career reasons, Cantonese may fall by the wayside. "A lot of kids, they speak only Mandarin at school," said Huang Xiaoyu, a 28-year-old media worker. "And at home, their mum will speak to them in Cantonese but the kids will respond in Mandarin. "Very, very few little kids these days speak Cantonese. How are old people going to communicate with their grandchildren if they don't use Cantonese?" she added. /^\

Zhang Yiyi, 72, a professor of French from Nanjing, three provinces away in eastern China, has lived in Guangzhou since 1988. "I speak Mandarin; I'm a professor," he said. "Kindergarten, primary school, middle school, high school, college: the language of education is Mandarin. Cantonese is a regional language." /^\

“Cantonese has a greater range of tones than Mandarin, as well as a choppier sound to an untutored Western ear. But Cantonese activist and editor Lao Zhenyu said the language was "rich in sounds, and sonorous". "Relative to Mandarin, the history of Cantonese is more profound, it has nearly 1,000 years of history, and Mandarin only has around 100. When we read ancient poems in Cantonese, we find they still rhyme. Cantonese has a more abundant vocabulary than Mandarin, and its expression is more vivid." Now, though, it was becoming "increasingly marginalised", he said. "Cantonese is not just a language, but for native speakers it is part of our identity."/^\

Victor Mair, professor of Chinese language and literature at the University of Pennsylvania, told AFP Cantonese had been "tremendously weakened" in Guangdong since the People's Republic was established in 1949, he added. "If it weren't for Hong Kong, Cantonese would soon cease to exist as a significant linguistic force." /^\

Cantonese Versus Mandarin on Guangzhou TV

In August 2014, reports from neighbouring Hong Kong said that Guangdong’s official broadcaster Guangdong TV was planning to quietly switch most of its programming from Cantonese to Mandarin on September 1, 2014. Four years ago earlier a similar proposal by Guangzhou TV provoked an outcry. Hundreds of protesters defied authorities and took to the streets on the issue, backed by similar demonstrations in Hong Kong, which also speaks Cantonese. The plan was dropped. [Source: AFP, August 25, 2014 /^]

"I oppose them changing it all to Mandarin," Huang Yankun, a 17-year-old student, told AFP. "It's wrong for them to try to restrict the language in this way. Speaking Cantonese is a Guangdong custom; it's a tradition that we need to support." But as China's richest province, Guangdong attracts migrants from all over the country, many of who can’t speak Cantonese. A 58-year-old woman surnamed Yang from Shandong province in the northeast, said: "I don't understand a word of Cantonese. It's very annoying! Everyone can understand Mandarin, it's widespread." /^\

Mimi Lau wrote in the South China Morning Post, “At least four Cantonese anchors had been replaced with Putonghua [Mandarin] presenters on GDTV's news channel, sources inside the network said. The channel has endured lower ratings than its competitors in the city. While preparations are underway for programmes to switch from Cantonese to Putonghua, GDTV's hourly news bulletin has been presented in Putonghua since the end of” June 2014. “It was the first Cantonese programme at the channel to be replaced by a Putonghua version. "This is being done quietly, without any official promotion or notification to audiences," said one source, who declined to be named for fear of retribution. [Source: Mimi Lau, South China Morning Post, July 11, 2014 ==]

“The broadcasting language in Guangdong has been a sensitive topic since the summer of 2010. That's when thousands of protesters took the streets on July 25 and August 1 to express their vocal support for the local dialect following reports of a plan to change television content to Putonghua from Cantonese for part of each day. ==

“Industry sources outside the network said GDTV decided to switch to Putonghua without consulting the public. The move has sparked an outcry online, with internet users questioning the motives of GDTV, but no official response has been made. Dr Jack Chan Wing-kit, an associate professor at Sun Yat-sen University's school of government, said the switch in broadcasting language was another symbolic move to marginalise Cantonese. "This is worse than what happened in 2010 as that involved a proposal that was eventually withdrawn. But today we are talking about an actual implementation without notice," Chan said.” ==

Resistance to Giving Up Local Languages

There is a strong resistence by many Chinese to give up their local languages and embrace Mandarin more than they already do. James Pomfret and Farah Master of Reuters wrote: “From the remote mountains of Tibet to the soaring skyscrapers of Shanghai and Guangzhou, an unlikely issue has emerged to both anger and unite China's disparate peoples — their language. The country's 1.3 billion people may be almost all exclusively educated in one tongue, the official medium of Mandarin, but decades of its promotion has failed to stifle popular attachment to regional vernaculars and dialects.[Source: James Pomfret and Farah Master, Reuters, November 22, 2010]

“The banishing or planned banishment from the airwaves and classrooms of languages such as Cantonese, Shanghainese and Tibetan has sparked rare public protests, as people push back against a government with little time for cultural diversity. While such pockets of linguistic angst across China almost certainly won't snowball into broader unrest, continued erosion of language variety could feed deeper-rooted resentment given the centrality of speech to cultures.”

"It's really a worry for us, because we've seen the cultures of other ethnic minorities, including the Tibetans, slowly fade and become assimilated. If Beijing can persuade the next generation of kids to use Mandarin, then they've succeeded to an extent," Hong Kong-based activist Choi Suk-fong who helped organized protect Cantonese protests, told Reuters.

In Shanghai, however, even with a growing middle class that is becoming more confident and vocal, there has been no sign of language-related unrest, something put down by some to a traditional reluctance to get involved in politics. "People don't have time to safeguard the Shanghainese dialect," bemoaned Shanghai born Miao, a smartly dressed young banker, shrugging her shoulders. "Shanghainese needs more than the effort we're currently seeing if it is to survive."

Local Languages and Dialects in the Media and Pop Culture in China

In a review of the book “Signifying the Local” by Jin Li, Lauren Gorfinkel wrote: Despite the 2005 regulations stipulating the use of standard Putonghua, shows such as Zhao Benshan’s comic sketches in the CCTV Spring Festival Galas and telenovelas aired on CCTV1 have continued to feature characters who speak in dialects and have been especially popular. Formats of successful sitcoms have been re-produced and re-packaged with local actors from other localities.” News talk shows in local languages” are popular. “Local news and soft news stories, use of commoners as news anchors, and the blending of news with traditional entertainment forms from the area, also comes in opposition to the serious Mandarin news programs with their highly trained anchors. [Source: “Signifying the Local: Media Productions Rendered in Local Languages in Mainland China in the New Millennium” by Jin Liu (Brill 2013). Reviewed by Lauren Gorfinkel, MCLC Resource Center Publication, February, 2017]

Comic Sketches in CCTV’s Spring Festival Eve Gala” are examines the interpenetration of central (high, official, elite, state-sanctioned) and local (low, popular, vulgar) discourse on one of China’s most popular and most highly controlled entertainment programs, the annual CCTV Spring Festival Gala. Through analysis of “comic sketches/short skits” , particularly those of famous comic actor Zhao Benshan, Liu examines tensions between central, official, Putonghua and peripheral folk discourse, highlighting how the local both conforms to and subverts the central. Liu relates this phenomenon to Bakhtin’s theory of carnivalesque folk humour discussed in his work Rabelais and His World (1968) and the notion of “grotesque realism” in which the “forbidden” and the “low” and “dirty” that is usually excluded in official discourse emerges in that very discourse as both “triumphant” and “mocking”.

“Starting from the Internet sensation Xue Cun’s “The Northerners are all Living Lei Fengs,” Liu discusses how dialects are used by youth as a way of standing out in a context where Putonghua is seen as “too common, general and amorphous”, and as a way of distinguishing their identity from music from Taiwan and Hong Kong. The chapter compares rock music, which uses local languages “to signify a marginal outsider identity”, and the music of urban rappers, who use regional vocals to celebrate their local, urban roots. With compilations made on home computers, the Internet has become an “unofficial space where youth can “voice their discontent, frustration, and rebellion against their parents’ culture and hierarchical systems”, through, for instance, the use of expletives and discourses forbidden in school. At the same time, online productions also often celebrate and express pride in local identities (Shanghai Wu dialect/identity being a particularly active example) while negotiating with mainstream conceptions of national identities in ways that may “overlap” with government positions. Furthermore, the Internet is also full of parodies that poke fun at the very official culture with which young artists may simultaneously be involved.

“Multiplicity in Mainstream Studio Films in Local Languages,” examines the use of dialects in so-called “main-melody” films. Such officially supported films saw a reduction in the use of local dialects (once used to portray revolutionary leaders in Socialist China) after the implementation of a national language law in 2001 and a regulation by the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television in 2005. Yet, the chapter highlights that despite official regulations, dialects have nonetheless returned to commercial entertainment films. Many mainstream films, especially comedies, have used dialects to portray the underprivileged and mark distinctions between “the urban and the rural, the insider and the outsider, and the little characters and the big shots”.

Book: “Signifying the Local: Media Productions Rendered in Local Languages in Mainland China in the New Millennium” by Jin Liu (Brill 2013).

Protest on Curbs on Cantonese in Guangzhou

At a rally in the booming southern city of Guangzhou in July 2010, protesters thronged against police and shouted obscenities, demanding the protection of their mother tongue, Cantonese.” "The protesters were very united. We all had just one aim: to protect our own language," said Michelle, one of the self-proclaimed "cultural defenders" at the rally who asked her full name not be used because of the sensitivity of the issue. [Source: James Pomfret and Farah Master, Reuters, November 22, 2010]

"Cantonese people speak Cantonese!" many yelled, in a surprisingly venomous retort to authorities, and a passionate defense of culture that caught officials — more accustomed to simmering unrest over issues like land grabs, corruption and pollution — off guard. A subsequent protest, organized via an online campaign and buzzing chatrooms was soon smothered by police and Internet censors in a sign of unease by the Party at any challenge to its rule. Still, the government did back down slightly, promising that Cantonese broadcasting would continue in Guangzhou, making it one of the few places in China where state-run radio and television make wide use of the vernacular.

Replacing Tibetan and Mongolian Language with Chinese at Tibetan and Mongolian Schools

Chinese has displaced Tibetan as the main teaching medium in schools despite the existence of laws aimed at preserving the languages of minorities. Young Tibetan children used to have most of their classes taught in Tibetan. They began studying Chinese in the third grade. When they reached middle school, Chinese becomes the main language of instruction. An experimental high school where the classes were taught in Tibetan was closed down. In schools that are technically bilingual, the only classes entirely taught in Tibetan were Tibetan language classes. These schools have largely disappeared.

These days many schools in Tibet have no Tibetan instruction at all and children begin learning Chinese in kindergarten. There are no textbooks in Tibetan for subjects like history, mathematics or science and tests have to be written in Chinese. Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan writer in Beijing, told the New York Times that when she lived” in 2014" in Lhasa, she stayed by a kindergarten that promoted bilingual education. She could hear the children reading aloud and singing songs every day — in Chinese only. Most Han Chinese teachers know little or no Tibetan. They teach their classes either in Chinese or English. At one school a Chinese principal who didn't speak one word of Tibetan told the Washington Post, "Tibetans don't have a vocabulary for science. Some science terms that are two words in Chinese, like 'electrical resistance,' when you translate then into Tibetan come up with a whole long string that you can't even write on the blackboard." Tibetan middle school and high school teachers are supposed to teach in Mandarin although many teach in Tibetan.

A policy announced on August 2020 ahead of the start of the new school year, required schools to use new national textbooks in Chinese, replacing Mongolian-language textbooks. Associated Press reported: In 2017, the ruling Communist Party created a committee to overhaul textbooks for the entire country. Revised textbooks have been pushed out over the last few years. The new policy for Inner Mongolia, affects schools where Mongolian has been the principal language of instruction. [Source: Huizhong Wu, Associated Press, September 2, 2020]

“Literature classes for elementary and middle school students at the Mongolian-language schools switched to a national textbook and be taught in Mandarin Chinese. In 2021 the politics and morality course also switched to Mandarin, as did history classes starting in 2022. The remaining classes, such as math, will not change their language of instruction.

Taiwan Example on Language

Taiwan offers a good example of how multiple languages can co-exist. James Pomfret and Farah Master of Reuters wrote: “After the defeated Nationalists were driven into exile to Taiwan following the Chinese civil war, the promotion of Mandarin was upheld as a pillar of unity and link to the motherland.Taiwan's dominant Hokkien dialect — also spoken in China's coastal Fujian province and parts of Southeast Asia including Singapore — was repressed by the Nationalists and children could be beaten for speaking it at school. [Source: James Pomfret and Farah Master, Reuters, November 22, 2010]

Yet in the 1990s its usage surged again after democracy took root. Politicians now speak Hokkien as much as Mandarin and Hokkien soap operas are a mainstay on Taiwan television."You restrict a language for so long then when it's suddenly OK, it becomes excessively popular," said Hsu Yung-ming, a political scientist at Soochow University in Taipei. "It has always been the dominant language."

Image Sources: Maps, Dartmouth College; Language charts, Wikipedia

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated November 2022

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