Minority language to be promoted

China Daily, February 15, 2011
Minority language to be promoted

Residents of the Zhuang ethnic group perform folk songs at a cultural fair in Liucheng county of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region on Nov 6. The country has more than 17 million Zhuang, composing the second largest ethnicity in China after Han. 

China is expected to roll out its first examination to test the proficiency of certain students and workers in a language spoken by the Zhuang, the country's largest ethnic minority.

The State Ethnic Affairs Commission (SEAC) said the policy is a bid to promote the use of the tongue, which, unlike many languages belonging to ethnic groups, is still in wide currency.

The new proficiency test, the first of its kind, is to be held this May in Beijing and South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, home to the country's largest population of the Zhuang ethnic group, the commission announced on its official website last Friday.

Some 17 million Zhuang live in southern China, mostly in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, and speak the language.

"We have discovered that many county-level television stations (in the autonomous region) do not have workers who can speak the Zhuang language, and TV programs do not have Zhuang subtitles," Xinhua News Agency quoted an unnamed official as saying.

The official also said Zhuang has many dialects and another 12 linguistic subdivisions, a state of affairs that makes the use of the language difficult to promote.

The proficiency exam will entail a written test, and there is a possibility that a listening section will be included at a later stage. Experts and professors are now working to establish a final form.

Aiming to encourage the use of the language, the test will push for the standardization of the many different dialects.

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