A deputy to the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, said on Friday young scholars must not ignore the importance of their mother tongue while carrying out research in their respective fields.
"Grammatical mistakes constantly occur in their essays as well as oral discourses, not to mention coarse wording and improper style," said Shen Dan, a professor with the elite Peking University, in a proposal to the ongoing session of parliament session.
The specialist on European and American literature said this is largely because many Chinese universities and graduate schools neglect the role of the Chinese language and rarely include it in their curricula. "In contrast, young researchers tend to spend more time on English learning and some do not even care to learn about the essence of their own culture," she said.
Unless the trend is reversed, she said it could endanger the purity of the Chinese language and the continuity of the Chinese culture.
"Young intellectuals have a leading role to play in carrying forward the Chinese culture and should be well-grounded in their own mother tongue. After all, Chinese is one of the working languages of the United Nations," said Shen.
She proposed academic writing should be included as a compulsory subject for all university students and all applicants to graduate schools should be required to take a Chinese proficiency test.
Shen became China's youngest research supervisor of doctorate students in 1993 at the age of 36.
The nation with the biggest population has become the world's largest market for English learning and large crowds of young people sit TOEFL or GRE tests each year, driven by the desire to study abroad, find a well-paid job overseas or in multinational companies at home.
(China Daily March 13, 2005)