Local legislators want to protect the Shanghai dialect.
They are concerned that the number of local young speakers is dropping rapidly.
At the annual session of Shanghai People's Congress, lawmakers urged authorities to promote the local dialect by setting up television and radio channels, opening online courses, and textbooks about the dialect.
"Local dialect is the 'blood' of the city Shanghai, while most local kids cannot speak the dialect nowadays," said Wang Rugang, director of the Shanghai People's Farce Troupe and a legislator. Wang said it was difficult for the troupe to hire young performers who could sing the traditional local Huju Opera or play farce in local dialect. Most local young people spoke with an inaccurate or wrong Shanghai dialect, he added.
According to a survey from the Shanghai Statistics Bureau, more Shanghai residents can speak Mandarin than the local dialect. More than 97 percent of locals could speak Mandarin, compared to about 80 percent who could also speak the local dialect. According to the survey, more than 30 percent of respondents said they were willing to learn or improve their Shanghai dialect.
Shanghai dialect involved the regional cultures and customs of the city. It absorbed many foreign languages and had its own creativity, which was in accord with the spirit of Shanghai, said Chen Qi, a legislator.
"The dialect is an important component and root to the city's Haipai culture along with the shikumen building," Chen said at the sideline of the congress.
Chen proposed to open Shanghai dialect channels on television and radio programs to meet the demands of local senior residents as well as for non-locals to learn the dialect.
There were too few Shanghai dialect programs on TV and radio, Chen added.
Zhang Yayu, another legislator, called for Shanghai dialect courses to be offered at schools and for daily "Shanghai dialect time" to be set at kindergartens.
"My 3-year-old granddaughter can no longer speak Shanghai dialect after entering the kindergarten because the teachers and students talk in Mandarin," Zhang said.
She proposed a language expert panel be set up to issue pronunciation rules for the local dialect. She said the dialect should also be included in the textbooks at schools, and teachers should be trained to speak the native dialect.
Yang Shaolin, also a legislator, said local government should open online courses to teach Shanghai dialect. The legislative body could also make a law to protect and expand the use of the native language, he said.