4 Responses

  1. Lobsang
    Lobsang December 24, 2011 at 5:30 am |

    This is great article with a great suggestions. I hope some people will consider make changes.

  2. tioedong
    tioedong December 27, 2011 at 4:43 pm |

    China’s expansion into minority areas such as that of the Miao has been going on for about 2000 years.

    Their expansion into Tibet is different because Tibet once ruled much of what is now China, and for centuries was an independent country.

    So trying to incorporate the marginalized minorities might be similar to the American expansion into Native American lands, but the second more similar to China’s colonization of Korea and Vietnam in the past. (Poland would be a closer example for those who don’t know Chinese history.) When a people remember their past, and are willing to keep it alive, such imperialism will fail in the long run.

    You also ignore that there is no language as “Chinese”. Mandarin, the main language of China, is only spoken by half of it’s population as a first language. Many in SE China, including much of the Chinese diaspora, speak the Cantonese dialect, which is actually a different language. And I am amazed a linguest believes their claims that only 10 percent are “literate or semi illiterate”… since half of any population has an IQ under 100, one wonders how they can claim 90 percent can remember the thousands of complicated symbols needed to read Chinese.

  3. Bruce Humes
    Bruce Humes February 2, 2012 at 11:50 pm |

    This is an interesting article and I’ve enjoyed reading it. The author has tried to maintain an objective stance and I appreciate it.

    That said, as a Westerner living in China for almost 3 decades now, I can see that the author is also rather naive. I submit that the references in the Chinese constitution and to national language policy may be considered “enlightened” in the China context, but the gulf between policy statement and actual practice is so huge as to make the former meaningless. This would be clearer if the author had cited examples of actual non-Chinese language instruction; a fair amount of documentation is available on the Internet and it’s a pity it wasn’t cited.

    A few (necessarily brief!) examples. The Evenki in northern China, famous for their reindeer-herding. The 30,000 or so who live on the Russian side of the border have a written language developed back in the 1930s, and reportedly use texts in Evenki in early schooling. Those who live on the Chinese side do not use those texts, seem to be unaware of them, and therefore do not “have” a written language. If the authorities in China were serious about such matters, why haven’t they adopted or adapted that language and used it for educational purposes?

    Another example: education in Uighur and Mongolian. There are indeed elementary and middle schools offering education in these languages in parts of Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. However, it is not possible to receive a university education in these languages, and in some cases, there are little or no opportunities to get local high school education in them. Furthermore, mainstream Han Chinese and even many speakers of them look down on these languages and thus — predictably — very few non-Han decide to send their children to such “ethnic schools.” So, overall education in both Mandarin and Uighur or Mongolian tends to be seen as taking a path with “no future.” For details on the situation in Inner Mongolia, see “Mongolian Fluency Drops among Minority Students in Hulunbuir” (http://www.bruce-humes.com/?p=5375)

    Finally, one interesting factoid: In areas with high minority populations like Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang, it is ONLY minority group members who study “minority languages.” Han Chinese are not — to my knowledge — required to do so, even when the local population may be 50% of more “non-Han.” This means that well educated Han Chinese can apply and get government jobs in areas where Chinese is not widely spoken, because they are not “expected” to master the relevant languages. But ethnic minorities will be penalized when applying unless they are fluent in Chinese — another reason for them not to go to an “ethnic” school in the first place. As noted in the article I cite above, this leads to a popular concept among Mongolians: “Mongolian-is-useless” (蒙语无用论).

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    […] It’s actually a shortened version of a post from the website of the Society for Linguistic Anthropology, found here. […]

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