Saving The Shanghai Dialect English Language Essay

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Shanghainese is a prestige dialect of the Wu Chinese spoken in the city of Shanghai. The story of Shanghainese can go back as far as the late Qing Dynasty, Shanghai played a crucial role as a port and commercial center, therefore the Shanghai dialect was a dialect spoken around Jiaxing and later Suzhou(1). In the late 19th century, Shanghai dialect was combined by Northern Jiangsu and Ningbo dialects and after 1843s, it was gradually formed by lots of west-side businessmen and furthermore Shanghai has become an international colony for about 100 years(2). During 1930s, Shanghainese was reckoned as one of the fastest-growing dialects of Wu Chinese and had developed into the dialect most widely spoken in Shanghai. As far as I am concerned, it is no doubt that Shanghai Dialect was an important part for a city's culture. Currently, Shanghai Dialect is in an extremely dangerous situation. Although, by the estimation, Shanghai Dialect is spoken by 14 million people, just a small number of elderly native Shanghai citizens can speak totally correctly(3). Surprisingly, most of the younger generation does not know how to use this language(4). It becomes one of the main issues in Shanghai during these years. From my perspective, the reason why Shanghai Dialect is in jeopardy comes from the government impulses where Mandarin as an official language in China(5). In addition, the social influences from Mandarin and English have also led to the disappearance in Shanghai Dialect(6). Forthermore, the decline of shanghai's own culture influence the Shanghai Dialect wane definitely. All of the problems mentioned make Shanghainese people realize that Shanghainese Dialect is facing a dangerous situation. Therefore, here are some solutions to prevent it; firstly, we can use Social Media to maintain the Culture. Secondly, taking the language recovery Program is very necessary. Thirdly, finding the way to make different languages stay together is also the positive approach to the saving of language.

The reason why Shanghai Dialect is in jeopardy

Government excessively promotes Mandarin Chinese as the national language is the major reason which makes the survival of Shanghainese is threatened. In that case, the massive influx of migrants from outside Shanghai lead to a great drop in the popularity of Shanghai dialect (7). In order to better promote the use of Mandarin, banning Shanghainese as a policy is implemented in media broadcasts, particularly in school (5). In the early 1990's, a teachers' wage was tied to their morality scores which depended on whether their students were figured out speaking the Shanghai dialect in school, so as soon as a student was recorded to speak Shanghainese, the class teacher would scold him for bad behaviour. As a result, young people couldn't get a good education and environment in learning Shanghai dialect which discouraged the using of Shanghainese. Furthermore, there is no need to learn Shanghainese, because various dialects make communication very difficult and the educated can generally speak Mandarin to communicate with people outside Shanghai. In addition, younger people seem much to prefer learning English than Shanghainese (6) and the cause is obvious that to study English as an international language, the student will gain many advantages for their future work and studies. As well as the Shanghainese culture, which included varieties of folk songs, games,fables,etc. For example, the Shanghai distinctive opera called Huju opera was unable to find the inheritor from the new generation who can speak pure and coherent Shanghai dialect (7). Eventually, all of these will cause Shanghai dialect to become a dying language. The situation of Shanghai dialect is more dangerous than expected. However, this does not mean that Shanghai will give up on its language easily.

The solution to saving the Shanghai Dialect

Firstly, use the media to maintain and revival of the Shanghai dialect. One of the most influential processes is to set up the indigenous language programs on different kinds of media such as TV, radio, Internet, etc. For instance, Hong Kong, the special region in China, allow the use of Cantonese in the people's daily life and also in its own entertainment industry like Hong Kong movies, Cantonese songs, TV series, etc. Under promoting the popularity of Cantonese in these social media, a large number of people start enjoying this language and this prompts people to learn the Cantonese in their leisure time. In recent years, the Hong Kong entertainment industry represents not just the entertainment itself, but is also playing a progressive role in the whole language undertaking. This case offers an important example to the local government, in other words, If the government really wants to save the Shanghai dialect, it will need to loosen its policy and lift the restrictions on the Shanghai dialect in public such as school, media broadcasts. Furthermore, writing a Shanghai dialect dictionary is a very good means of preserving this indigenous language as well. The main reason one should write this dictionary is to preserve this "dying language" for future study or revival and it provides the speakers with firm evidence to justify this kind of minority language like Shanghainese as a living language exists in the world which are recognised as an equal of the language of wider communication. Thus, writing a dictionary is a symbolic part in the operation of saving Shanghainese. To illustrate this point, Wadjarri, the language of Murchion Region of Western Australia, was documented through the dictionary published at 2012(8). According to the "Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006 Census", there are just approximately 86 speakers in Wajarri (9). So people in Murchion hope the Wadjarri Dictionary can encourage the new generation to learn more about their indigenous language and preserve their culture(8).

Following this, setting the language Recovery Program also plays an important role on saving the Shanghai dialect. The main content of this program is to record the different kinds of words and phrases from an individual speake and translate into a catalogue. There is an example about running this program, Siletz Dee-ni, a kind of Native American language. Although this language was once spoken widely by native people in Oregon, now only one man named Alfred "Bud" Lane can speak it fluently and correctly. This guy realized the risk of the Siletz Dee-ni and he decided to record his voice and set up an online talking dictionary which contained more than 14,000 Siletz Dee-ni words in order to revive this language.(10). Back to the point, when the record is finished, the government can promote Shanghai dialect by pushing for greater use of these recordings like city buses can introduce announcements in both Shanghainese and Mandarin, school can play these recording on radio during lunch time. Obviously, these recording cannot only serve as an outstanding educational tools but also make a contribution to culture. Another part of the language Recovery Program is to let the new generation have interest in the Shanghai dialect. It will become one kind of power that arouse these new generation's study enthusiasm. As we all know, the new generation are more influential on preserving the language since if Shanghainese becomes a popular language, it will reinforce the language use.To paraphrase more apropos to the reason, perhaps, the Maori Language that is the indigenous language in New Zealand was in decline rapidly in the 20th century. After that, many Maori people realized the language as an integral part of the Maori culture, so the major Maori language recovery programs started to target at young people and the education system, like creating a Maori-language environment in the primary school has played a notable success.(11)

Lastly, by studying successful experience and methods of language issues in other countries and areas can be regarded as a good way to save Shanghai dialect. As far as we are concerned, Singapore is a cosmopolitan society which contained different kinds of language, culture and religions, how they solve the language problem should be noted by Shanghai. Case in point: Firstly, the language policy in Singapore is to promote four official languages, these are Mandarin, Malay, Tmail and English. There is no doubt that English is one of the most common languages in Singapore but the children still need to learn both English and mother tongue in school to make sure that they do not get rid of their own language. At the moment, most Singaporeans can speak two kinds of languages, some even three or four. Secondly, Singaporeans put more emphasis on their culture's maintainance. Due to lots of immigrants from Malaysia, China, India and Europea, there are many settlements in Singapore such as China Town, Little India, Holland Village,etc(12). These places give an opportunity for Singaporeans to experience its own and other different types of language. Through these ideas, Shanghai can emulate Singapore such as introducing Shanghai dialect into school and also can make some particular places in public for Shanghainese exchange.


In conclusion, there are three main reasons to cause the Shanghai dialect to become dangerous. First of all, government restrained the development of Shanghai dialect. Secondly, Mandarin and English become more important than Shanghai dialect in our social life. Thirdly, people neglect the importance of maintaining the culture. Therefore, we should not hesitate to save the Shanghai dialect. For the most crucial part, Language is not only a communication tool, it also includes rich oral cultures with different kinds of stories, songs and histories. Moreover, every time when a language dies, we will lose part of the picture of what our brains can do. From my point of view, saving the endangered language is definitely as an emergent project for the world. Hence, there are some suggestions to solve this language problem; first, via the media such as TV, Internet, should encourage the use of Shanghai dialect. Then, the language recovery program will have a chance to resurgent the Shanghai dialect. Finally, collecting the information from some successful experience and methods in other countries and apply it into our own language system.