According to an article I came across today, the local government in Shanghai is trying to preserve Shanghainese, the variety of Wu spoken in Shanghai. This involves recording people who speak ‘pure’ Shanghainese talking about local legends and traditions, etc. This is the third time such a project has been attempted, and they hope to find more speakers of ‘true’ Shanghainese this time – something they didn’t manage before.
Similar projects are underway in other parts of China, such as Jiangsu and Yunnan, to preserve other regionalects/languages. The plan is to compile a national database of regional languages and dialects.
This initiative marks a reversal of the government policy of the 1990s when there was a campaign to encourage people to speak Mandarin rather than Shanghainese in Shanghai. The use of Shanghainese was banned in schools and the number of Shanghainese programmes on the radio and TV fell dramatically. As a result, relatively few children speak Shanghainese and those who do don’t speak it very well, Mandarin became the main language for many people in Shanghai, and Shanghainese became stigmatised.
Recently the situation has changed somewhat with the publication of a Shanghainese dictionary, a regular and popular newpaper column, and music and stand-up comedy in Shanghainese [source].
Do you speak Shanghainese or are you studying it?