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400 million Chinese people can't speak Chinese: Official

Mandarin? No idea, mate

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In very agreeable news for those who fear that everyone on homogenised Planet Earth will eventually end up speaking an unholy mix of English, Chinese Mandarin and Spanish – with a soupçon of Portuguese, Russian, Hindi and Javanese thrown in for good measure – the Chinese authorities have admitted that 400 million of their countrymen can't speak Mandarin.

According to the BBC, that adds up 30 per cent of China's population unable to communicate in Standard Chinese, aka Putonghua - the most widely spoken language in the world.

The powers that be have for years been trying to impose Mandarin on the masses "in an attempt to unite the most populous nation in the world". The country's vast size has proved one impediment to imposing linguistic order, as has resistance from ethnic minorities quite happy to continue speaking their own lingo.

Nonetheless, China's Education Ministry is poised to launch another Mandarin unification drive, with a spokeswoman saying it would be "focusing on the countryside and areas with ethnic minorities". If it succeeds, then Mandarin will increase its already impressive lead over English and Spanish as the world's top tongue. ®

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