Report on the Current Tasks of Reforming the Written Language and the Draft Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet
by Wu Yu-chang,
Director of the Committee for Reforming the Chinese Written
Delivered at the fifth session of the First National People's Congress on February 3, 1958.
Fellow Deputies: The Draft Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet is now submitted to the National People's Congress for discussion and approval. It was discussed by people of various walks of life throughout the country over a period of two years, and repeatedly examined and revised by the Committee for Examining and Revising the Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet which was set up under the State Council. In October 1957, it was again discussed by the enlarged meeting of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and on November 1, 1957 adopted by the 60th Plenary Session of the State Council. On behalf of the Committee for Reforming the Chinese Written Language, I now submit a report on the current work of reforming the written language and the Draft Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet to the National People's Congress for examination and deliberation.
I. Current Tasks of Reforming the Written Language and the Work Done in This Field During the Past Few Years
The current tasks of reforming the written language, as far as the Han people are concerned, are: (1) to simplify the Chinese (Han) characters to make them easier for the masses to master and to achieve greater, faster, better and more economical results in wiping out illiteracy, popularizing education and raising the cultural level among the masses; (2) to popularize the common speech (putonghua) so as to eliminate dialect barrier and bring about a further standardization of the Chinese language, so that it may serve China's socialist construction still better; and (3) to draw up and put into practice a scheme for a Chinese phonetic alphabet to annotate Chinese characters and help popularize the common speech.
The work of reforming the written language in the past few years has been carried on in accordance with the above policy.
I shall first deal with the task of simplifying the Chinese characters.
The government began research on simplifying Chinese characters immediately after liberation. The drafting of a scheme for simplifying Chinese characters started following the founding of the Research Committee for Reforming the Chinese Written Language in 1952. In January 1955, the Draft Scheme for Simplifying Chinese Characters was published by the Committee for Reforming the Chinese Written Language for the purpose of soliciting opinions on an extensive scale. More than two hundred thousand people in various walks of life throughout the country took part in the discussions. This committee made a preliminary revision of the draft scheme on the basis of suggestions received. After the examination and revision by the Committee for Examining and Revising the Scheme for Simplifying Chinese Characters set up under the State Council, the draft scheme was submitted to, and discussed and adopted by, the National Conference for Reforming the Chinese Written Language in October 1955. In January 1956, the State Council published the Scheme for Simplifying Chinese Characters. This scheme falls into three parts : the first is a list of 230 simplified Chinese characters (that is, 245 complex characters were reduced to 230 simple characters; in some cases two or three complex characters were merged into one simplified character and the result is that after the simplification there are 15 characters less), which came into use from the time the scheme was published. The second is a list of 285 simplified Chinese characters (that is, 299 complex characters were reduced to 285; the simplification reduced the number by 14), of which 95 came into use on a trial basis since June 1956. The third is a list of 54 simplified radicals. Thirty characters coined from the radicals in this list came into use on a trial basis from the time the scheme was published. In all, the number of simplified characters now adopted by newspapers and magazines totals 355. Apart from these, there remain 190 simplified characters in the second list and the great majority of the characters coined from the simplified radicals in the third list which have not yet been put to use. But there are a few publications which use more than these 355 simplified characters.
For example, almost all the characters in the three lists have appeared in the textbooks on the Chinese language for primary schools and in the teaching materials for literacy classes.
Simplified forms of the Chinese characters appeared as early as the time of the oracle bone inscriptions, and in the centuries that followed simplified forms continued to develop. Our work is merely to carryon the simplification in a fairly systematic way and to make official these simplified forms. The advantages are obvious. The 544 characters which are simplified in the first and second lists of the Scheme for Simplifying Chinese Characters have in their original forms a total of 8,745 strokes or an average of 16.08 strokes a character. After being simplified, they are reduced to 515 characters with a total of 4,206 strokes, each character taking only 8.16 strokes on the average. That is to say, simplified characters can save half of the time and energy used in writing. Before the simplification there were in the lists only 34 characters with less than ten strokes and after the simplification the number rises to 409; characters with eleven strokes are 35 both before and after the simplification; and there were 475 characters with more than twelve strokes before the simplification, but the number is reduced to 71 after the simplification. If we further simplify the 515 simplified Chinese characters in the first and second lists according to the simplified radicals in the third list, it is estimated that the average strokes of each simplified Chinese character can be further reduced to 6.5 strokes or only 40 per cent of the average strokes of the original complex characters. The popularization of simplified characters greatly facilitates children's education, elimination of illiteracy, and writing in general. This explains its appeal to the broad mass of the people, particularly the children and young people.
A number of rightists, taking advantage of the rectification campaign of the Communist Party, launched vicious attacks against the reform of the written language. They allege that the simplification of Chinese characters was a failure and demanded that the State Council give up the Scheme for Simplifying Chinese Characters. The simplification of Chinese characters is a good thing which is in the interests of the broad mass of the people, and, as such, is bound to be rejected and slandered by the rightists who oppose the people. From the standpoint of the people's interests, we must say that the simplification of Chinese characters has rendered a valuable service to millions of children and illiterates, and that it has been a success, not a failure.
However, we must admit that there are some shortcomings in the work of simplifying the characters. Many comrades have put forward rational proposals for our consideration. To all those who have enthusiastically put forward their views we are much indebted. Over the past two years, facts have shown that we have not given sufficient consideration to some of the simplified characters, especially in the substitution of some characters by the simpler form of their homophones. They are either inappropriate or likely to cause ambiguity. For example, it is proper in most cases to substitute 隻 (zhi meaning a unit) with the simpler form "只" (also meaning only), which has been accepted as a popular form. A sentence like “許多船只通过苏伊士运河”( xuduo chuanzhi tong guo suyishi yunhe [xǔduō chuánzhī tōngguò Sūyīshì Yùnhé] meaning "many ships passed through the Suez Canal") with this simplified form "只" in it may be misunderstood as "many ships only passed through the Suez Canal." Some other characters listed in the scheme have been misused as a result of insufficient explanation. For example, it is proper to simplify "徵收" (zhengshou meaning "to collect") and “乾凈”(ganjing meaning "clean") into "征收" and “干净" respectively; but it is of course wrong to write "宮商角徵羽" (gong shang jue zhi yu, the names of five musical notes) as "宮商角征羽" (gong shang jue zheng yu), and to write "乾隆" (Qian Long, the name of an emperor's reign in the Ching Dynasty) as "干隆" (Gan Long).
The resolution adopted by the State Council on the publication of the Scheme for Simplifying Chinese Characters stipulates that the first list of 230 characters can be formally put to use, while suggestions on the second and third lists are still being gathered and no final decision has yet been made. We are also prepared to consider revising any of the characters in the first list found to be unsuitable. The Committee for Reforming the Chinese Written Language is now asking for opinions from all quarters, and studying and revising the scheme in the light of the experience we have gained in its trial use over the past two years.
But speaking as a whole, in the interests of the working people and the children and posterity, the work of simplifying the Chinese characters must be actively pushed ahead so that all the complicated, but commonly used characters can be gradually simplified. At present most of the simplified characters in the second and third lists have not yet been put into use. There are still many commonly used words such as "賽" (sai), "霸" (ba), "'警"' (jing), "爆" (bao), "整" (zheng), "翻" (fan), "藏" (cang), "徽" (hui), "辯" (bian), "疆" (jiang), "舞" (wu), "感" (gan), "影" (ying), "鼻" (bi), "鼠" (shu), etc., which should be but have not yet been simplified. Many other characters used as names of places either involve a fairly large number of strokes or are rarely used and difficult to pronounce or both, such as "衢" (qu), "夔" (kui), "鄜" (fu), "鄠" (hu), "歙" (xi), "閿" (wen), "亳" (bo), "鄄" (juan), "婺" (wu), "黟" (yi), "酃" (ling), "郴" (chen), "崞" (guo), and "盩厔" (zhouzhi). They must also be simplified, or substituted by more familiar homophones with less strokes. Some of these characters already have simplified forms used by the people and we may consider adopting them. Some have not yet a commonly used simple form and we may adopt simple forms for them on the basis of the suggestions from all quarters. After trial use for a certain period of time and when the forms are generally considered to be satisfactory, we can put them into formal use.
In short, the work of simplifying the Chinese characters is a great event for the people of the whole country. We must be careful and guard against rashness. We must adopt positive measures and continue our efforts in order to reap greater results. At present the broad masses eagerly welcome the simplified characters, but the number of them is not yet large enough to satisfy their urgent need -- this is the main reason for a certain lack of inconsistency in the use of simplified characters. To avoid abuses and to remedy the lack of inconsistency, we should not let things drift. We must be active in our work of simplifying the Chinese characters. The simplified characters have been created by the people, so are the complex characters. They have undergone constant changes and development. The question is how to apply collective wisdom to the study, readjustment and systematization of the characters -- that is the work we should strive to do well.
Next, about the popularization of the common speech.
Of the total population in China nearly 600 million speak the Han language in various dialects. Each of these dialects includes many local patois. Over 70 per cent of the Han-speaking population talk in the Northern dialect. This shows the sharp diversity of dialects, above all, in pronunciation. On the other hand, there are favourable objective conditions for the gradual standardization of the spoken language. The basis for the further standardization is the common speech which takes the Peking pronunciation as standard and the Northern dialects as its basic form.
The common speech is the common spoken language of the Han people and, it may be said, of the people of all nationalities of our country. Today China has achieved a degree of unity and unification in her political, economic and cultural fields without parallel in history. United as one man, the people throughout the country are striving, under the leadership of the Party and the government, to attain the common goal of building Socialism. They urgently need a common spoken language, without which they will meet with difficulties in their political, economic and cultural life. Therefore, it is an important political task to popularize the common speech vigorously among the people of the whole country.
Some progress has been made in the popularization of the common speech since the National Conference for Reforming the Chinese Written Language in 1955. Apart from the Central Working Committee for Popularizing the Common Speech working organizations have been set up in 22 provinces and municipalities. By the end of 1957, there were 721,600 teachers of primary, secondary and normal schools who had been trained in the phonetics of the common speech. Several million people learned the common speech and the phonetic alphabet for Chinese characters from radio broadcasts. Beginning from the autumn of 1956, the first-year pupils of primary schools all over the country as well as the secondary and normal school students in their language course have been taught the common speech. The result of teaching in the various regions speaking the dialects shows that we have definitely made progress and that the difficulties can all be overcome. To facilitate teaching and learning, preliminary dialect surveys have been carried out in most of the provinces and municipalities, and a good number of handbooks, based on the results of the surveys, have been compiled and published to help those who speak the dialects of the various regions to learn the common speech. More than five million copies of textbooks and other publications for the study of the common speech, compiled by the Ministry of Education, the Committee for Reforming the Chinese Written Language and the provincial and municipal organizations have been sold. The sale of gramophone records for teaching the common speech has topped the million mark. The training classes in the phonetics of the common speech, jointly conducted by the Ministry of Education and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, have trained over 550 people to form the core in the work of popularizing the common speech in various provinces and municipalities.
The experience of the past two years shows that, as long as the leadership attaches importance to the work of popularizing the common speech and carries it out ill earnest, marked success can be scored even in such regions as Chekiang, Kiangsu, Shanghai, Fukien and Kwangtung where the dialects differ substantially from the common speech
To popularize the common speech does not mean to abolish dialects, which will continue to exist for a long time and cannot be wiped out arbitrarily Dialects are also useful media of social intercourse They serve the people of specific regions But their use is confined to the regions concerned Beyond this, instead of serving as media of social intercourse, they become an impediment to mutual understanding Nor does the popularization of the common speech imply the prohibition of dialects It is to enable those who speak dialects only to learn to speak, apart from their own dialect, a language common to the whole nation so as to facilitate their social intercourse with the people of other regions We should vigorously popularize the common speech in schools of all levels, especially in the primary, secondary and normal schools We should encourage the cadres, especially the local and young cadres of and above the district level, to learn the common speech On the other hand, because dialects still play an important role in local activities, cadres who come from other places should energetically learn to speak the local dialects so as to be able to establish close contact with the masses and make a success of their work
The popularization of the common speech should not and will not impair the constitutional right of the minority nationalities to use and develop their own languages Naturally the common speech should be popularized primarily among the Han people. But at present many minority people have expressed the desire to learn Han language. It is anticipated that following the adoption of the Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet, an increasing number will study it with the help of this scheme. Thus the common speech can, and should, also be promoted among the minority people. Moreover, we should satisfy as far as possible the needs of all those who want to learn the common speech, for this will help strengthen the solidarity among the people of various nationalities and encourage them to learn from one another. It will serve the common interest of all the nationalities in China. On the other hand, every Han cadre who works in a minority area not only must respect the right of these nationalities to use and develop their languages, but also make efforts to learn them.
The popularization of the common speech is a long-term mass work and no unreasonable demands should be made as to the extent and speed of success. The popularization of the common speech with the Peking accent as standard in no way requires that everyone should speak exactly like Peking people. Such a demand is unreasonable and unnecessary. The Peking accent is a goal set for everyone, but in specific work the requirement should be different for different people. For example, radio announcers, stage and film actors and actresses should have the most accurate pronunciation, so should the language teachers in primary, secondary and normal schools, but people in general should not be so required. Nor should the same be required of children and youth as of the middle-aged. Anyone who endeavours to learn the common speech deserves popular respect, for he is earnestly undertaking a serious task. The committees for promoting the common speech and the educational organizations in various places should hold regular common speech contests and foster emulation. Prizes should be awarded to those who distinguish themselves in teaching or learning the common speech. It is only under such conditions will people overcome their hesitations and have more confidence and interest in learning the common speech, and a popular movement for spreading the common speech be promoted.
At present, there still exists a tendency not conducive to the popularization of the common speech. For instance, some people sneer at, instead of encouraging, those who learn to speak the common speech. When children speak it at home, some parents rebuke them for "showing off their Peking jargon," or "forgetting their native tongue." These facts show that our poor publicity is responsible for the ignorance of many people with regard to the significance of the popularization. In order to rectify this social tendency and create conditions for the popularization of the common speech, we hope that our deputies will make vigorous efforts in publicity work among the people in all walks of life.
To teach and learn the common speech efficiently, it is necessary to have a phonetic alphabet for popular use. In the past, as the scheme for a Chinese phonetic alphabet had never been decided, certain difficulties arose in the popularization of the common speech. Now that the scheme is due to be finalized, and that this phonetic alphabet, which consists of Latin letters, will make it easy for those who speak dialects to learn the common speech by comparing the pronunciation with their own dialects, the work of popularizing the common speech will be made easier.
Now about the drawing up and carrying out of the Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet.
It should be made clear at the outset that the adoption of a scheme for a Chinese phonetic alphabet does not mean the transformation of the Chinese written language into a phonetic language. The scheme will be used mainly to annotate the Chinese characters phonetically and transcribe the common speech as an aid in learning the characters, standardizing the pronunciation and teaching the common speech; in other words, the purpose is to facilitate the learning and use of the Chinese characters by the broad mass of the people and to promote further standardization of the Chinese language, and not to replace the characters with a phonetic alphabet.
On the questions as to whether the Chinese characters will for ever remain unchanged, or whether they will be reformed on the basis of the original characters or replaced by a system of phonetic symbols -- Latin letters or other phonetic scripts -- there is no need to come to a hasty conclusion at present. But one thing is certain: the Chinese characters are subject to change. This has been fully evidenced by their changes in the past. Like the languages of all other countries, the Chinese language will eventually become a phonetic language. We can also say that the languages, both spoken and written, of all nations in the world will some day become unified though gradually. But these questions are beyond the scope of the present scheme. We need not concern ourselves about them now.
About the process of drawing up the Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet and its functions, I shall go into fairly great detail in the following.
II. The Process of Drawing Up the Draft Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet and Its Functions
Immediately after the Association for Reforming the Chinese Written Language was set up in Peking in October 1949, it started to work on schemes for a Chinese phonetic alphabet. In February 1952, the Research Committee for Reforming the Chinese Written Language was organized. Its main task, in addition to simplifying the characters, was to study the schemes for a phonetic alphabet. During a period of close on three years from February 1952 to the end of 1954, the committee was mainly engaged in studying and drawing up schemes based on our national form, that is, on the traditional form of Chinese characters. In December 1954, the Research Committee for Reforming the Chinese Written Language was reorganized into the Committee for Reforming the Chinese Written Language. Under this committee, a sub-committee known as the Committee for Drafting a Phonetic Alphabet Scheme was set up to make a more thorough and systematic study of the proposed scheme. In October 1955, four draft schemes based on the form of Chinese characters and two based on the alphabets generally used by other countries (one based on the Latin alphabet and the other on the Russian alphabet) were drawn up. These six schemes were distributed among the delegates to the National Conference for Reforming the Chinese Written Language, convened at that time in Peking, for their opinions. After this conference, it was decided, on the basis of the experience gained in the previous years, the opinions of the masses and the directives of the leadership, to adopt the Latin alphabet. In February 1956, the first draft scheme for a Chinese phonetic alphabet was published, and opinions sought on it on an extensive scale. Besides being discussed at an enlarged meeting of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, this draft was discussed at meetings organized by the local people's political consultative conferences of 22 provinces, three municipalities directly under the central government, two autonomous regions, 26 municipalities under provincial authorities, four counties and one autonomous chou, with more than ten thousand persons taking part. Departments whose work was closely related to the use of the phonetic alphabet, such as the post and telegraphic services, the navy, railways and the education of the blind, held special discussions of varied sizes on this draft scheme. Besides, the Committee for Reforming the Chinese Written Language received from February to September 1956 more than 4,300 suggestions in writing from people of various walks of life in China and from overseas Chinese.
In accordance with these suggestions, our Committee proposed revisions to this draft scheme in August 1956 and submitted them to the State Council for examination. In October 1956, the State Council set up a Committee for Examining and Revising the Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet. By October 1957, this committee had held five meetings and many discussions. It had also invited 178 representatives from the fields of linguistics, education, literature and art, the press, publications, science and technology, and translation, as well as from the armed forces and people's organizations in Peking, to hold discussions on this subject, and also sought, through correspondence, opinions from one hundred linguists in 39 other cities. After repeated discussions, consultations and revisions, the committee submitted in October 1957 the revised draft scheme which, after discussion at an enlarged meeting of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, was passed at the 60th Plenary Session of the State Council on November 1, 1957 as the Draft Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet. At this plenary session of the State Council, it was decided that the draft scheme be submitted to the National People's Congress for discussion and approval.
We must point out here that in drawing up the scheme we have also received assistance from over a thousand enthusiastic supporters of the phonetic scheme. During the period between 1949, when the Association for Reforming the Chinese Written Language was set up, and October 1957 we have received over 1,200 suggested schemes for a Chinese phonetic alphabet of different types from people in various parts of China and from overseas Chinese. Although most of them cannot be said to be well considered complete systems, a number of the ideas and suggestions threw new light on the problem and rendered us no small assistance. The completion of the present scheme is inseparable from the help of these thousand friends.
This has been the process of the drawing up of the Draft Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet. Facts prove that this draft scheme was drawn up after long study by the specialists, repeated discussions and revisions by many people. It is a true reflection of the views of the great majority of those who took part in the discussions. The attitude of the government towards this question has been both conscientious and responsible and it has taken careful steps. The contention of the rightist Chang Po-chun that this draft scheme was drawn up by a few behind closed doors and "discussed only by a few enthusiasts" is an obvious slander with ulterior motives.
Viewed from the history of the phonetic annotation of the Chinese language, the Draft Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet has inherited the ancient Chinese traditions of zhiyin (直音) fanqie (反切) and zhuyin zimu (注音字母, phonetic transcript). It is a further development on the basis of these traditions. As Chinese writing is ideographic, it gives no indication of the sound of the words. That is why the question of phonetic annotation has arisen.
There are two traditional methods for denoting the sounds of characters. One is zhiyin, and the other is janqie. The first gives the pronunciation of a character by using another character of the same sound. The defects of this method are exactly as described by Chen Li of the Ching Dynasty: "This method does not work when there is no available word of the same sound. Nor does it work when there is a word of the same sound but the word is itself unfamiliar and difficult to pronounce." The second method of phonetic transcription janqie was introduced towards the end of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220). In this method, the pronunciation of a character is denoted by means of two characters, the first with the same consonant and the second with the same vowel as the character annotated. The merit of this method is that every sound can be transcribed, while its defects are its clumsiness and its lack of clarity to the general reader. Furthermore, as in the first method, readers cannot understand the pronunciation unless they possess a considerable vocabulary.
Following the Revolution of 1911 the zhuyin zimu was introduced. In this, one has only to master 37 phonetic symbols to be able to transcribe every word in the Peking dialect. This, of course, marked a big stride forward. But compared with the Latin alphabet, the phonetic script has flaws which will be difficult to remedy. First of all, it hardly has other uses except for annotating the Chinese characters, thus its popularization is difficult. On the other hand, the Latin alphabet is widely used in science and technology; it has many uses and is frequently met with in daily life, so once learned, it will not be easily forgotten. After adopting the zhuyin zimu the secondary school students in general still have to learn the Latin alphabet, but the adoption of the Latin alphabet will make it unnecessary for them to learn the zhuyin zimu. Furthermore, owing to the fact that some vowels in the zhuyin zimu are not phonetic letters, such a script is not so flexible as the Latin alphabet, as a foundation for creating written languages for national minorities, nor in transliterating foreign words. Thus the present Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet, which adopts the Latin letters, is an improvement on the zhuyin zimu.
So far as the adoption of the Latin alphabet is concerned, the present scheme may trace its origin to over 350 years ago. As early as in the 33rd year of the reign of Wan Li of the Ming Dynasty, that is, in 1605, the first system for transcribing Chinese language with Latin letters came into being. It was followed by various Chinese phonetic systems based on the Latin alphabet. From the end of the 19th century onwards, many patriotic Chinese intellectuals came forward with suggestions for reforming the Chinese written language and formulated systems for phonetic alphabets. Those who worked out Chinese phonetic systems based on the Latin alphabet included Lu Chuang-chang, Chu Wen-hsiung, Liu Meng-yang, Ruang Rsu-pai, Rsing Tao and Liu Chi-shan. In 1926, the Gwoyeu Romatzyh (National Romanized Writing) was drawn up by Chien Rsuan-tung, Li Chin-hsi and Chao Yuan-jen (Y. R. Chao) and promulgated by the then Ta Rsueh Yuan (Ministry of Education and Research) at Nanking in 1928. Later, in 1931 Chu Chiu-pai and Wu Yu-chang devised the Latinxua Sin Wenz (New Latinized Writing). Among all these phonetic systems based on the Latin alphabet, the last two are relatively complete systems, much better than their predecessors. The present Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet is developed on the basis of those of the past and embodies all their merits. It may be said to be the fruit of the movement for a phonetic alphabet over the last three centuries or so and a summary of the experience of the Chinese people in devising phonetic alphabets over the last sixty years.
Does the adoption of the Latin alphabet mean a lack of patriotism on our part? No, we can't say so. The Latin alphabet is now used by more than sixty countries. It is a set of common symbols which is indispensable to those being educated in algebra, geometry, chemistry or physics. Just as the Arabic numerals, the Gregorian calendar and the Christian era, the metric system of measures and weights and the musical staff have become the common property of mankind as a whole and do not belong to any particular nation, so with the Latin alphabet. The huqin, a Chinese fiddle (like the Latin alphabet, it was not created by the Han people), has become our national musical instrument because it suits our needs. So will the Latin alphabet become our national alphabet because it suits our needs -- and it has actually done so in our present scheme. It is to be used to spell pure Chinese -- the common speech which takes the Peking pronunciation as standard. It will in no way affect the purity of our national spoken language and therefore will not run counter to our true patriotic feelings. This is only too obvious.
Now about the functions of the Chinese phonetic alphabet.
First, it can be used to give the pronunciation of the Chinese characters so as to raise the efficiency in learning and teaching Chinese characters. It may be used to annotate characters in the language textbooks for primary schools and for literacy classes in Northern dialects regions, as well as in children's reading materials picture books and popular publications. With the help of the alphabet, school children and illiterates can read books and newspapers and enlarge their vocabulary in dictionaries and other reference books the alphabet should also be used as a guide to pronunciation. In books, magazines and newspapers in general, annotation may be made to unfamiliar characters or those which are easily mispronounced.
Secondly, the phonetic alphabet can be used as an aid in teaching and learning the common speech. To learn the common speech, hearing and repeating alone is not enough; one forgets quickly. Good results can be achieved by using a phonetic alphabet to compile textbooks, reading materials, charts and dictionaries in the common speech, which will serve the readers for reference purposes and verify their pronunciation. The phonetic alphabet is therefore an indispensable instrument for teaching and learning the common speech. This has already been fully proved in the course of language teaching.
Thirdly, the phonetic alphabet can serve as a common basis on which various minority nationalities may create their written languages. To date many of China's nationalities still have no written language of their own. Some of them have written languages which need to be improved. If each nationality adopts an alphabet of its own, it will create difficulties in the supply of typing, printing and telegraphic equipment. This will adversely affect the development of culture and education of the various nationalities. After the Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet is officially approved, it may be adopted, on the principle of voluntary choice, as a common basis for the minority nationalities to create their written languages. This will make it much easier for them to develop and enrich their written languages by absorbing words and phrases from the Han language, and for all the nationalities of our country to learn from one another and to promote their mutual contacts.
Fourthly, the alphabet can be used to solve the problem of transliterating the names of persons and places, and scientific and technological terms. As there is so far no formal Chinese phonetic alphabet, the phonetic transliteration of names of Chinese persons and places has followed the Wade System in documents and publications in foreign languages. This method is neither accurate nor reasonable. The adoption Of the Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet will solve this problem. The problem of transliterating names of foreign persons and places and scientific and technological terms may also be solved properly step by step by making use of this alphabet.
Fifthly, it will help foreigners learn Chinese and thus promote international cultural exchange. With the steady rise in the international position of our country since liberation, more and more foreigners desire to learn Chinese. We can use this alphabet to compile various kinds of Chinese textbooks, reading materials and dictionaries to help them learn our spoken language, and the alphabet will also help them in their efforts to study our written language.
Sixthly, it can help solve the problem of compiling indices. Since the Chinese characters are not arranged in strict order, it takes a long time to compile a list, consult a dictionary or find a number in a telephone directory. The 26 Latin letters are arranged in fixed order. So all indexes, dictionaries, catalogues and cards as well as archives, reference materials and case history files may be compiled in alphabetical order, for easy reference. A simple method of finding words is necessary for every state and people's organization, school, factory and for individuals. The introduction of this alphabetical order will raise working efficiency and its advantages are obvious.
Seventhly, linguists can employ the Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet in their further study of, and experiments in, the transformation of the Chinese written language into a phonetic language.
Apart from the obvious uses mentioned above, the Chinese phonetic alphabet can be employed in future to solve the question of telegraphic codes, flag signals and serial numbers on industrial products. The four-numeral telegraphic code in current use for Chinese characters necessitates two deciphering procedures -- one on despatching and another on receiving -- and mistakes are apt to slip in. As regards flag signals, the use of Chinese characters is out of the question. With the adoption of the Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet, the problems relating to telegraphic codes and flag signals by means of the phonetic symbols can be solved after study and experiment. Also there are a great variety of industrial products each having different specifications that must be represented by serial numbers. In the past, because of the absence of a phonetic alphabet, either zhuyin zimu or Russian or English letters were used for such serial numbers, which presented much confusion. The adoption of the present scheme will help to clear up such questions.
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From what has been said above, we can see that the Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet not only has a historical background, but is urgently needed by the broad mass of our people today. An early decision on this scheme is eagerly awaited in the interests of literacy education, the popularization of the common speech and the creation of written languages for the minority nationalities. The present scheme has been studied by specialists over a long period of time, widely discussed by people in many walks of life throughout the country, and examined and revised during the past year. It is definitely better and more satisfactory than all its predecessors. Besides, it will be further improved when it is put to use. Therefore we hope that the Congress, after deliberations, will approve the scheme.
After the Congress has approved it, we hope that great efforts will be made to popularize it by stages on a nation-wide scale. In the first place, the new alphabet should be adopted' as phonetic symbols for characters in the primary school language textbooks for the coming autumn term and also in the textbooks for literacy classes of the Northern-dialects regions, so that the difficulty in learning the characters may be reduced for illiterates and millions of children. We hope that our state and people's organizations at all levels will energetically encourage among their staff the use of the new alphabet in learning the common speech, thus setting an example in popularizing the common speech. The phonetic alphabet is easy to teach and learn. Generally it takes only twenty to thirty hours to master. For those who speak the common speech or who know something about phonetics it takes still less time. If vigorous efforts are made to popularize it, it is quite possible that all our students and a majority of the young and middle-aged people of our country will be able to use it during the period of the Second Five-Year Plan. This will greatly help press forward our work of teaching characters, wiping out illiteracy, standardizing pronunciation and popularizing the common speech, and contribute to raising the people's cultural level and speeding up our socialist construction. We hope that people of all walks of life will do all they can to make known the alphabet and promote its use.