Related Content: Chinese Translation ServicesDistance, natural barriers and administrative and political evolution of regions have created dialects in practically every country, although each country may have its own national identities and national language. China's language map may look more like Spain, where several regional languages have survived pressure from an international, world-language and flourished in the late 20th century. Chinese Ministry of Education spokeswoman Xu Mei said that only 70% of the country could speak Mandarin, many of them poorly, and the remaining 30 percent or 400 million people could not speak it at all, Xinhua news agency reported. Written Chinese is the eldest writing system still in use, and it is the same for everybody, no matter the accent or pronunciation. Chinese characters are not letters. As "pictograms" they bear meaning on their own. Chinese dialects pronounce the characters in a different way than standard Mandarin - sometimes strikingly different. Newer technologies (mobile telephony) are making romanji (the use of the Latin script, based on letters) more popular. It is said that younger students are using Western letters more and more often, finding it easier to spell a letter-based alphabet than Chinese. Students spend several years in school learning how to read and write properly, whereas children learning to read and write letter-based alphabets average one year for the basics, irrespective of their mother tongue. Ahead of an annual campaign to promote Mandarin held every year since 1998, Xu stated that "the country still needs to invest in promoting Mandarin". "This year the ministry will focus on the remote countryside and areas inhabited by ethnic minorities". The promotion of Mandarin has long been a contentious issue in China, and in some cases has lead to violent unrest. Tibetans have protested against having to use Mandarin in schools. Several hundred people took to the streets in the southern city of Guangzhou in 2010 over fears the authorities were trying to marginalize the Southern dialect, Cantonese.
Further Reading: The country with the highest language diversity