FAQs: relationship between language, dialect and law.
1. Q: Are there any laws or regulations provide something in relation with languages or dialect in China?
A: Through searching in the Chinese law system, there are more than three thousand records indicating that there are many laws and regulation provide restriction and requirements in relation with the use of language or dialect in legal procedures. Such as the Constitution, the Civil Procedure Law and the Criminal Procedure Law all regulate, that citizens of all China's nationalities have the right to use their native spoken and written languages in court proceedings. The people's courts and people's procuratorates should provide translation for any party to the court proceedings who is not familiar with the spoken or written languages commonly used in the locality.
2. Q: Which language is nationwide use in China?
A: According to Article 19 of the Chinese Constitution, Putonghua which is based on Beijing pronunciation is promoted by the state to be nationwide used.
3. Q: How about the relationship between Putonghua and other dialects in the legal procedures or daily life in China?
A: Article 37 of the Law of The People's Republic of China on Regional National Autonomy provides, schools（classes and grades）and other institutions of education where most of the students come from minority nationalities shall, whenever possible, use textbooks in their own languages and use their languages as the media of instruction. Classes for the teaching of Chinese（the Han language）shall, where possible, be opened for junior of senior grades of primary schools to popularize Putonghua (the common speech based on Beijing pronunciation) and popularize Chinese characters. Article 49 also supplement that the organ of self-government of a national autonomous area shall persuade and encourage cadres of the various nationalities to learn each other's spoken and written languages. Cadres of Han nationality should learn the spoken and written languages of the local minority nationalities. While learning and using the spoken and written languages of their own nationalities, cadres of minority nationalities should also learn Putonghua and the standard written Chinese（Han）language commonly used throughout the country.
4. Q: How many dialects are there in China?
A: There are 56 nationalities in China, and more than 80 dialects are spoken by different nationalities respectively.
5. Q: For the modern cities in China, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Chengdu, which dialect do the people there use?
A: Beijingers use the Northeast dialect which is the North dialect in the narrow sense, and it is the base of the Putonghua. Shanghai uses the Wu dialect which is widely used in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. In Hong Kong, people speak Cantonese which is also used in Guangdong province and other provinces such as Guangxi and Hainan. In Chengdu, Sichuan province, people use Southwest dialect.
6. Q: Is there a law or regulation which is used to specially regulate the use of language, letters, words or dialect in legal systems and daily life in China?
A: Yes. According to Order 37 of the President of the People's Republic of China, the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Standard Spoken and Written Chinese Language, adopted at the 18th Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Ninth National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China on October 31, 2000, is hereby promulgated and shall go into effect as of January 1, 2001.
Reference:Law of the People's Republic of China on the Standard Spoken and Written Chinese Language
Chapter Ⅰ General Provisions
Chapter Ⅱ Use of the Standard Spoken and Written Chinese Language
Chapter Ⅲ Administration and Supervision
Chapter Ⅳ Supplementary Provisions
Chapter Ⅰ General Provisions
Article 1 This Law is enacted in accordance with the Constitution for the purpose of promoting the normalization and standardization of the standard spoken and written Chinese language and its sound development, making it play a better role in public activities, and promotint economic and cultural exchange among all the Chinese nationalities and regions.
Article 2 For purposes of this Law, the standard spoken and written Chinese language means Putonghua (a common speech with pronunciation based on the Beijing dialect) and the standardized Chinese characters.
Article 3 The State popularizes Putonghua and the standardized Chinese characters.
Article 4 All citizens shall have the right to learn and use the standard spoken and written Chinese language.
The State provides citizens with the conditions for learning and using the standard spoken and written Chinese language.
Local people's governments at various levels and the relevant departments under them shall take measures to popularize Putonghua and the standardized Chinese characters.
Article 5 The standard spoken and written Chinese language shall be used in such a way as to be conducive to the upholding of state sovereignty and national dignity , to unification of the country and unity of the nationalities, and to socialist material progress and ethical progress.
Article 6 The State promulgates standard norms of the spoken and written Chinese language, administers its use in the community, supports the teaching of and scientific research in the language in order to promote its normalization, enrichment and development.
Article 7 The State rewards the organizations and individuals that have made outstanding contribution in the field the standard spoken and written Chinese language.
Article 8 All the nationalities shall have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages.
The spoken and written languages of the ethnic peoples shall be used in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Constitution, the Law on Regional National Autonomy and other laws.
Chapter II Use of the Standard Spoken and Written Chinese Language
Article 9 Putonghua and the standardized Chinese characters shall be used by State organs as the official language, except where otherwise provided for in laws.
Article 10 Putonghua and the standardized Chinese characters shall be used as the basic language in education and teaching in schools and other institutions of education, except where otherwise provided for in laws.
Putonghua and the standardized Chinese characters shall be taught in schools and other institutions of education by means of the Chinese course. The Chinese textbooks used shall be in conformity with the norms of the standard spoken and written Chinese language.
Article 11 Publications in Chinese shall be in conformity with the norms of the standard spoken and written Chinese Language.
Where foreign languages need to be used in publications in Chinese, necessary explanatory notes in standard Chinese shall be applied.
Article 12 Putonghua shall be used by the broadcasting and TV stations as the basic broadcasting language.
Where foreign languages need to be used as the broadcasting languages, the matter shall be subject to approval by the broadcasting and television administration under the State Council.
Article 13 The standardized Chinese characters shall be used as the basic characters in the service trade. Where both a foreign language and the Chinese language are used in signboards, advertisements, bulletins, signs, etc, as is needed by the trade, the standardized Chinese characters shall be used as far as the Chinese Language is concerned.
People working in the service trade are encouraged to use Putonghua when providing services.
Article 14 The standard spoken and written Chinese language shall be used as the basic spoken and written language in the following circumstances:
(1)spoken and written language for broadcasting, films and TV programs;
(2)written language for the facilities in public places;
(3)written language in signboards and advertisements;
(4)names of enterprises and other institutions; and
(5)packaging and specifications of commodities marketed in the country.
Article 15 The standard spoken and written Chinese language used in information processing and information technology products shall be in conformity with the norms of the State.
Article 16 Where the relevant provisions of this Chapter are concerned, local dialects may be used under the following circumstances:
(1)when State functionaries really need to use them in the performance of official duties;
(2)where they are used in broadcasting with the approval of the broadcasting and television administration under the State Council or of the broadcasting and television department at the provincial level;
(3)where they are needed in traditional operas, films and TV programs and other forms of art; and
(4)where their use is really required in the publishing, teaching and research.
Article 17 Where by the relevant provisions of this Chapter are concerned, the original complex or the variant forms of Chinese characters may be retained or used under the following circumstances:
(1)in cultural relics and historic sites;
(2)the variant forms used in surnames;
(3)in works of art such as calligraphy and seal cutting;
(4)handwritten inscriptions and signboards;
(5)where their use is required in the publishing, teaching and research; and
(6)other special circumstances where their use is approved by the relevant departments under the State Council.
Article 18 The "Scheme for the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet "shall be used as the tool of transliteration and phonetic notation for the standard spoken and written Chinese language.
The "Scheme for the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet" is the unified norm of the Roman letters for transliterating the names of Chinese people and places as well as Chinese documents and is used in the realms where it is inconvenient to use the Chinese characters or where the Chinese characters cannot be used.
Chinese phonetic alphabets shall be used in primary education.
Article 19 All staff members who need to use Putonghua as their working language shall have the ability to speak Putonghua.
The Putonghua level of those who use Putonghua as their working language, such as broadcasters, program hosts and hostesses, actors and actresses of films, TV series and plays, teachers and State functionaries shall reach the respective standards set by the State; those who have not yet reached such standards shall receive different training, as the case may be.
Article 20 Putonghua and the standardized Chinese characters shall be taught in classes for foreigners who are learning Chinese.
Chapter III Administration and Supervision
Article 21 The department in charge of the work related to spoken and written language under the State Council shall be responsible for planning, guiding, administering and supervising the work related to the standard spoken and written Chinese language.
The departments concerned under the State Council shall administer the use of the standard spoken and written Chinese language in their own departments.
Article 22 Local departments in charge of the work related to spoken and written language and other departments concerned shall administer and supervise the use of the standard spoken and written Chinese language within their own administrative areas.
Article 23 The administrative departments for industry and commerce under the local people's governments at or above the county level shall administer and supervise the use of spoken and written language in the names of enterprises and commodities as well as in advertisements.
Article 24 The department in charge of the work related to spoken and written language under the State Council shall issue standards for the test of Putonghua at different grades.
Article 25 The department in charge of the work related to spoken and written language under the State Council or other departments concerned shall make arrangements for the examination of the translation of the proper nouns like the names of foreigners and foreign places and the scientific and technical terms into the standard spoken and written Chinese language.
Article 26 Any citizen may make criticism and put forward suggestions where the use of spoken and written language is at variance with the norms of the standard spoken and written Chinese language and is in violation of the relevant provisions in Chapter Ⅱ of this Law.
Where persons mentioned in the second paragraph of Article 19 of this Law use the language in violation of the relevant provisions of Chapter Ⅱ of this Law, the units concerned shall, by way of education, criticize the persons who are directly responsible; anyone who refuses to put it right shall be handled by the units concerned.
Where the characters used in the facilities and signboards in public places of cities and in advertisements are in violation of the relevant provisions of Chapter Ⅱ of this Law, the administrative departments concerned shall give orders for them to be corrected; anyone who refuses correct them shall be given a disciplinary warning and be urged to put them right within a time limit.
Article 27 Anyone who, in violation of this Law, interferes with other persons'learning and using of the standard spoken and written Chinese language shall be ordered by the relevant administrative departments to put it right within a time limit and be given a disciplinary warning.
Chapter Ⅳ Supplementary Provisions
Article 28 This Law shall go into effect as of January 1, 2001.