BEIJING, March 7 (Xinhua) -- More than half of all
Chinese people can speak standard mandarin Chinese, while nearly 70 percent of
urbanites are fluent in the country's official language known at "common talk",
according to a massive survey conducted by the Ministry of Education.
The survey of half a million people shows that 53.06
percent of the population can effectively communicate orally in mandarin. The
fluency rate in cities was 66 percent while in rural areas it was 45 percent.
Although the Chinese share the same written language
-- Chinese ideograms or characters, which has been in use for three thousand
years -- the pronunciation of identical characters differs from region to
region. This means people who can't communicate verbally can often communicate
by writing Chinese characters that are pronounced differently but have the same
Mandarin, which in Chinese is called Putonghua and
literally means "common talk", is taught in every school in the country and is
China's standard lingua franca.
Most Chinese are verbally bilingual speaking not only
mandarin, which has many regional accents, but a completely different sounding
dialect of Chinese.
The survey also found that 56.76 percent of Chinese
men can speak Putonghua, while 49.22 percent of women speak it. About 70 percent
of people between the age of 15 and 29 speak mandarin, while only 30.97 percent
between the age of 60 and 69 can speak standard mandarin.
The sample survey was conducted among some 500,000
people in 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities on the Chinese
Zhao Qinping, vice minister of education, said on
Tuesday that the ministry would focus on promoting Putonghua in the rural areas
this year. Lessons in Putonghua will be included in skills training for farmers
wanting to migrate to cities to find work.
University student volunteers are also being
encouraged to go the countryside to help rural primary and middle school
teachers improve their mandarin.