«Russian Putonghua»: How to make the Russian language understandable for all of Russia’s citizens
Sergei Belov spoke about this during the Russian-Chinese Language Policy Forum, which was held within the Education section of the VII St Petersburg International Cultural Forum. He is the Director of the Research Institute for the State Language of St Petersburg University, and the Dean of the Faculty of Law, St Petersburg University. At the Forum, government officials and members of the professional community of China and Russia discussed the key issues of how the state language functions.
Sergei Belov noted that today there is a threat of a stratification of the Russian language. Special professional terms are beginning to penetrate the public space. They create difficulties for citizens in obtaining information that is important for the realisation of their rights. The most telling example is the language of legal documents.
One of the solutions to this problem may be the definition of general standards of language norms, a standard language. In Russian linguistics, it is customary to call it «literary language»: it is generally understood and is a unified form of the national language. It can be applied to the official sources that are used by everyone including: those who write, those who read, and those who listen to. It can be one of those means that will ensure the unity of the common linguistic space.
Sergei Belov, the Dean of the Faculty of Law, St Petersburg University
By the way, in China, there is such a common language — the language of Putonghua. It is controlled by several hundred different legislative acts. Some of them regulate pronunciation, others written speech, and still others control the encoding systems of Chinese characters. The need for the existence of Putonghua stems from the fact that the inhabitants of the Celestial Empire speak 130 different languages; even Russian is a language of a national minority in China.
«Over the long years of the spread of a single Chinese language, we have formed important principles,» said Li Quang, Deputy Director of the Department of Language Application and Administration at the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. «It is important that the language for verbal and written communication be unified. However, at the same time, each nationality has the right to use and maintain its own language. The spread of Putonghua does not set a goal to get rid of dialects. We, on the contrary, strongly support their study and development. In China today there are about 1,000 legislative acts that regulate the state language policy.»
The VII St Petersburg International Cultural Forum took place from 15 to 17 November 2018. The Forum has been rightfully recognised as a global cultural event, annually attracting thousands of experts in the field of culture from all over the world: stars of theatre, opera and ballet; renowned directors and musicians; public figures; representatives of authorities and business; and academic communities. The Forum is organised by: the Government of the Russian Federation; the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation; and the Government of St Petersburg.
The event was also attended by: Liu Li, the President of Beijing Language and Culture University; Chen Lixia, the Director of the Department for the Development of Confucius Institutes of Beijing University of Language and Culture; Margarita Rusetskaya, the Rector of the Pushkin State Russian Language Institute; and other experts. Specialists noted that only joint work and the exchange of experience will allow both countries to develop effective algorithms of actions aimed at preserving and developing national languages.
«Today, thanks to the efforts of the leaders of our states, Russia and China have achieved outstanding results in the field of humanitarian exchanges,» Yu Jihai, the Minister Counsellor at the Chinese Embassy in the Russian Federation, concluded at the end of the event. «We have mechanisms to support language teaching, student exchange, and various joint activities. Today, in China, there are 153 universities where Russian is studied at a professional level, as well as about 150 universities and 80 schools where Russian is taught. In Russia, the situation is somewhat different: Chinese is taught in more than 200 universities, and the number of students reaches 26,000 people. In addition, 22 Confucius Institutes work here, with more than 17,000 students. These are the successes we have achieved through a strategic partnership.»
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