After three years in the making, a new Chinese-language test is scheduled to be launched in some parts of the country this October.
"In recent years, more and more Chinese people are paying attention to foreign language studies while neglecting to polish their native language... And many newly coined, non-standard Internet phrases are confusing their Chinese," said Dai Jiagan, director of the National Education Examinations Authority (NEEA).
Many Chinese people acknowledge that they have difficulty writing Chinese characters correctly.
Most Chinese use pinyin, a system for transliterating Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet based on pronunciation, while writing in Chinese on computers and mobile phones. And they don't have to know how to write characters if they use this system on such digital devices.
The test is to help Chinese people pay more attention to their mother tongue and promote their ability to use it properly, Dai said.
Aside from examining people on their listening, speaking, reading and writing abilities, the test will provide advice to examinees on how they can improve their Mandarin.
According to Dai, during the pilot run, the test will be organized by local educational departments and target school teachers and students.
"The test will not only reflect people's language abilities, but will also serve as references for employment and educational institutes," he said.
The NEEA is planning to promote the test among job seekers and school applicants before a nationwide introduction.
Shanghai, Jiangsu, Yunnan and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region are the first four provincial-level regions selected to run the test, according to the ministry.
Yunnan Province and Inner Mongolia are two regions inhabited by many people of different ethnic groups that speak different ethnic languages or local dialects.
It is estimated that only 70 percent of Chinese people are able to communicate in Mandarin.
"We hope the test will help Chinese people gradually strengthen a sense of identification with their mother tongue and deepen their understanding of the Chinese culture," said Dai.
(Xinhua News Agency August 1, 2011)