II. The Spoken and Written Languages of Ethnic Groups Are Widely Used
Language, in both spoken and written forms, is an important carrier and a distinct symbol of culture. Xinjiang is a multilingual region, and historical experience shows that learning and using the commonly used standard Chinese as a spoken and written language has helped develop Xinjiang’s ethnic cultures. The Chinese government works hard to promote the use of the standard Chinese language, protects by law ethnic people’s freedom to use and develop their own languages, and advocates and encourages ethnic groups to learn spoken and written languages from each other, so as to promote language communication and ethnic unity among all Chinese people.
Promote standard Chinese by law.Learning and using standard Chinese helps different ethnic groups to communicate, develop and progress. When the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China was revised in 1982, the sentence “The state promotes the nationwide use of Putonghua (common speech based on Beijing pronunciation)” was added. On January 1, 2001, the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Standard Spoken and Written Chinese Language took effect, clarifying the legitimate status of Putonghua and standardized Chinese characters as the standard Chinese language. The Educational Law of the People’s Republic of China (Revised in 2015) provides: “The standard spoken and written Chinese language shall be the basic language used by schools and other educational institutions in education and teaching…. Schools and other educational institutions dominated by ethnic minority students in ethnic autonomous areas shall, according to the actual circumstances, usethe standard spoken and written Chinese language and the spoken and written languages of their respective ethnicities or the spoken and written language commonly used by the local ethnicities to implement bilingual education.” Regulations on the Work Concerning Spoken and Written Languages of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, revised in 2015, state the need to “promote the standard spoken and written Chinese language”. Ethnic people are enthusiastic about learning and using standard Chinese to adapt to economic and social development and increased communication.
We should strengthen education and teaching of standard Chinese. In the 1950s, in response to the call of the state, Xinjiang began Chinese courses for ethnic minority students at elementary and secondary schools. In 1984, Xinjiang proposed to strengthen Chinese teaching at ethnic minority schools to achieve the goal that students “master both standard Chinese and their own ethnic languages”. Currently, students at preschool institutions and elementary and secondary schools in Xinjiang have universal access to bilingual education, including teaching of standard Chinese and ethnic minority languages, ensuring that by 2020 all ethnic minority students will be able to master and use standard Chinese.
We should carry out various forms of training on the standard spoken and written Chinese language. In 2013, the “training program on the standard spoken and written Chinese language” was launched, a special program for ethnic minority youths participating in vocational or business training in counties or cities where people of ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities. In 2017, a program aimed to popularize standard Chinese by the year 2020 was launched.
Protect spoken and written ethnic minority languages in a scientific way. The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy both clearly prescribe that all ethnic groups have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages. Currently, 10 spoken and written languages are used among the various ethnic groups of Xinjiang. Ethnic minority languages are extensively used in such areas as judicature, administration, education, press and publishing, radio and television, internet, and public affairs. At important meetings such as those of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference documentation and simultaneous interpretation in Uygur, Kazak, Mongolian or other ethnic minority languages are provided. When performing official duties, Party and government organs of Xinjiang and lower-level autonomous prefectures and counties use at the same time standard Chinese and the languages of those ethnic minorities that exercise regional autonomy. All ethnic minorities have the right to use their own spoken and written languages in elections and judicial matters. Schools and other educational institutions where ethnic minority students are the majority highlight the study and use of ethnic minority languages in setting their curricula and in various entrance examinations. Xinjiang uses Chinese, Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz and Mongolian languages for the annual national higher education entrance examination.
In 2015 the Chinese government organized and launched a program to protect the rich language resources of China, collecting and recording physical forms of linguistic data such as Chinese dialects, spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities, and oral language cultures. The largest of its kind in the world, this program has covered the whole country. Field surveys have been conducted in Xinjiang, covering more than 30 survey locations of ethnic minority languages, 10 locations of Chinese dialects, six locations of endangered languages, and two locations of language cultures. To date more than 80 percent of survey tasks in these locations have been completed, and some symbolic successes have been achieved.
Multilingual press and publication and radio and television are a major feature of Xinjiang. Xinjiang publishes newspapers, books, audio and video products, and e-publications in six spoken and written languages – Chinese, Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz, Mongolian and Xibe. Xinjiang TV broadcasts in Chinese, Uygur, Kazak, and Kirgiz. Xinjiang People’s Broadcasting Station broadcasts in Chinese, Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz, and Mongolian. Xinjiang Daily is printed in Chinese, Uygur, Kazak and Mongolian.
To enable ethnic minorities to share the achievements of the information age, the Chinese government has set national specifications of coded character set, keyboard, and type matrix for Mongolian, Tibetan, Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz, and some other languages. It has studied and developed different typesetting systems and intelligent voice translation systems for several written ethnic minority languages. The government supports the orderly development of websites and emerging media in spoken and written ethnic minority languages, and works to improve information processing and application capabilities in ethnic minority languages. Xinjiang has set up the Ethnic Language Work Committee and ethnic minority language research institutes at different levels, which are responsible for scientific research into ethnic minority languages, and which work to make them more standardized and apply them in IT.
Encourage ethnic groups to learn spoken and written languages from each other.The Chinese government encourages different ethnic groups in ethnic autonomous areas to learn languages from each other, urging ethnic minorities to learn standard Chinese while encouraging Han residents to learn ethnic minority languages. It emphasizes that grassroots civil servants, newly recruited civil servants, and employees in the public service sector should know two or more languages and provides facilities for their learning. Xinjiang conducts special training courses for Han officials to learn ethnic minority languages. Since the 1950s, the state has offered majors in ethnic minority languages and literature (Uygur and Kazak) at colleges and universities in Xinjiang; most graduates of these majors work in the fields of administration, education, and research on ethnic minority languages. For many years, it has been a common practice that different ethnic groups of Xinjiang learn languages from each other. More and more people are becoming bilingual or multilingual, which promotes communication and integration among all the ethnic groups.