The Education Ministry of China says that an estimated 400 million of its people, or 30 percent of the population, cannot speak the national language of Mandarin, according to a BBC report.
And of the 70 percent who do speak Mandarin, many cannot speak it well enough, said a ministry spokeswoman to Xinhua news agency Thursday. The Chinese government is currently launching another push for linguistic unity in the huge country.
There are thousands of dialects and several minority languages in China, including Cantonese and Hokkien, which have strong regional support.
Mandarin Chinese is one of the world’s most widely-spoken languages, and the Communist Party has been promoting it for decades in an effort to unite its huge population.
But the enormous size of the country and a lack of investment in education in rural areas have impeded such efforts, says the BBC’s Martin Patience in Beijing. The government’s attempts have often been resisted by ethnic minorities, he added.
The Education Ministry spokeswoman said they will be focusing on rural areas and regions with ethnic minorities.