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Is Shanghainese making a come-back?

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December 15, 2009
Shanghai
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We’re working on a piece about Shanghai’s local dialect, so we drove out to deepest Pudong to visit the Modern Baby kindergarten. Opened three years ago, by Ling Jie, it was the first kindergarten in the city to teach its pupils Shanghainese. The kids spend three days a week being taught in Mandarin, while Wednesday is Shanghainese day and Friday is English day. In each class, there is a Mandarin teacher and a Shanghainese teacher, who cajoles the children along in roll call and with other parts of their day. I was surprised to hear that even names are pronounced differently in Shanghainese. My Mandarin name, Ma Qian, which means Humble Horse, is Mo Qie.
Ling Jie told us that she had the idea after discovering that her own 12 year old son, a native Shanghailander, couldn’t speak the local dialect. His nanny, of course, was from outside Shanghai and so she spoke to him in Mandarin. Ling Jie and her husband spoke to each other in Shanghainese, but not to their son. She also said 60 per cent of his classmates were similarly mute. It was important to her, as a Shanghainese, to do something about it, and there remains a huge pride about the city’s dialect. Mrs Ling explained how Mandarin had deliberately simplified its language while Shanghainese remained descriptive and idiomatic, with many different ways of saying something. Instead of Hao (good) and Feichang Hao (very good), there are a range of Shanghainese words to convey everything from sparklingly brilliant to excellent or amazing.
After years of insisting that standard Mandarin was the only tongue worth having, the city government is now supporting Shanghainese and Shanghai culture. But it is still impossible to find Shanghainese spoken in any junior, middle or senior schools. With such a large population of migrants in Shanghai, teaching in Shanghainese is seen as divisive. Which may be precisely the reason that the locals are suddenly falling back in love with the dialect. With many Shanghainese growing increasingly resentful of the waidiren (the people from outside the city) who arrive to take their jobs and display country-bumpkin ignorance, it makes perfect sense to start communicating once again in a language that can only be understood by real insiders.*
* According to Qian Nairong, a professor of linguistics who we interviewed earlier this year, it can take up to a year for a Chinese from elsewhere to assimilate Shanghainese, and that’s with total immersion.

我们目前在做一期沪语保护和推广的专题,为此打车去了浦东郊区的一家现代宝贝幼儿园。该幼儿园是学前教育专家凌捷女士于三年前创办的,是上海第一家专业教授沪语的幼儿园。孩子们在一周当中,周五学沪语,周三学英语,其余三日学习普通话。每个班级都配备一名普通话老师和一名沪语老师,负责孩子们的课程和活动,沪语老师会用上海话点名。我很诧异名字也有区别于普通话的沪语发音。我的中文名,马谦,谦虚的马,上海话念起来像“抹七”。
凌女士夫妇都是上海人,自己12岁的儿子却不怎么会说上海话。他们家的保姆也是外地人,家里除了夫妻间的交流,基本都用普通话。凌女士还发现儿子班上60%的学生都不会说上海话。凌女士觉得很震惊,觉得有必要对沪语的保护推广做些工作。凌认为沪语传承了上海文化,上海人也以乡音为傲。凌女士举了些例子说明普通话为了推广方便故意简化了用语,而上海方言却保有了其鲜活地道,丰富多样的特性。譬如称赞的用语,普通话一般会用“好”,“很好”等相对贫乏的词汇,上海话却有一系列的词语去描述,像是灵啊,赞啊,哈灵,老赞的。
经年不遗余力的推广普通话,奉其为圭臬,上海市政府现在也开始支持推广上海话以及保护上海文化。然而,目前在上海的小学,初中,高中,上海话几乎没有立足的地方。上海的外来人口庞大,学校开设沪语课程可能会被视为歧视排外。这大概也是当前上海话回潮的一个原因。很多上海人开始排斥甚至痛恨外地人,因其抢占了自己的资源空间,工作机会,并带有乡野的一些陋习和无知。上海人说上海话,这给他们一种“自家人”的感觉。
我们先前采访的钱乃荣教授说只要用心学习,一般外地人不出一年就可以学好用好上海话。
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Written by malcolmmoore

December 28, 2009 at 8:30 am

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