A Chinese language school, yesterday
Having recently banned Skype and also having endured the closure of Google’s office in their country, barred facebook, youtube, linkedin wikipedia and a number of other social networking sites, China‘s authorities have appeared to be retrenching the distance between their country and the rest of the world.
However, news has emerged that a U-turn in this policy may be in the offing. One of the reasons why China has found it harder to integrate with the rest of the world is that its language is tied up in characters which are hard to learn. In the cultural revolution, mainland China did make one simplification of the characters, but now the Chinese government have announced a new set of simplifications which will make Chinese a breeze for foreigners to learn and thus facilitate contact between Chinese people and foreigners.
The rules for the simplification are as follows. All characters with more than 6 strokes must reduce the number of strokes to 5. In order to avoid confusion, new strokes will be introduced, slightly curvy or wavy unlike the straight ones or angular ones used at present.
Chinese has become a language where many words are made up of two syllables which used to be only one syllable. Now two syllable words will be banned. Also, the difference between c and z in Pinyin, sh and x, zh and ch and di and ji have been confusing, especially for speakers of regional accents so from now on all these sounds will merge into a single sound, which will be like the English ‘th’ sound, as in “mother”. The Chinese will also introduce a rolling ‘r’ instead of the American sounding one they have now.
To counter this, the number of tones in the language will increase to 7, the new tones will be a rising-falling tone, the opposite of the current third tone, a tone where the speaker drops to a whisper, and a tone where the speaker shouts the syllable at the top of his or her voice.
“These improvements will gradually be implemented over the course of the year” said Minister for Chinese Language Simplification Mr Pengpeng Peng. “By the third quarter we will see international communication blossoming on an unprecedented level”.
Not all voices were positive, however. In particular the Chinese lecturers at US Universities were critical of the move “I shall have to rewrite my entire course to take account of these changes” complained Professor Roland B Humfpflig of Oakle College in Rumpleton, “and at times when the University budgets are already under pressure, this is something we will will have to bear the brunt of personally”.