Luanping positions itself as a center of learning

By Zhang Yu(China Daily)
Updated: 2017-05-23 07:27:09

According to the State Language Commission, Luanping county, Hebei province, is the "only place to experience standard Mandarin", or Putonghua ("common speech") as the official form of the language is known.

"With our natural advantages for speaking Putonghua, Luanping has started to tap into and promote language-related culture," said Yu Defu, an official at the Luanping education bureau.

According to Yu, the county has established three "Mandarin Experience Pavilions" to illustrate the history of the language, map its distribution and that of several dialects, test people's fluency in Putonghua, and teach them how to pronounce consonants, simple and compound vowels, and tones.

The Luanping Vocational Education Center has become a practice base for foreign students studying the language at universities.

In 2015, more than 120 Mexican students who were learning Chinese at Beijing Normal University visited the center to improve their ability to communicate in standardized Mandarin.

"All people need to do is chat casually with Luanping residents and listen to them," Yu said, adding that after about a month in the county, a student's proficiency would definitely improve.

"The best way to learn a language is to stay in an environment where everybody speaks it," Yu said.

According to Wang Guoping, a senior historical researcher with the Luanping Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the county is planning to establish a museum of speech to illustrate all the dialects spoken in China, which will facilitate studies of the culture related to the official language.

Wang said a school will soon be founded in the county to train teachers, broadcasters, overseas students and others who want to improve their command of the language.

"We hope Luanping will be the first name people think of when they want to identify the best place to experience and learn Putonghua," said Yu, who believes the growing popularity of the language will ensure the school's success.

According to the Ministry of Education, more than 70 percent of Chinese nationals speak Putonghua as their first language, while the other 30 percent speak Cantonese or local dialects.

The government plans to raise the number of Putonghua speakers to 80 percent by 2020, according to an action plan issued by the Ministry of Education and the State Language Commission.

The plan calls for improvements in people's ability to speak the official language, especially teachers, who will have to meet national standards before they can be employed by schools.

Wang said any Luanping resident, old or young, is capable of teaching Putonghua, once a few deviations from standard pronunciation have been ironed out.

A program to correct the pronunciation of Luanping residents, especially seniors who still use outdated modes of speech, has been established.

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