STUDENTS are using a new textbook featuring Shanghai dialect poems and folk songs this semester amid the efforts to rescue the city's quickly fading mother tongue.
Local elementary and secondary schools started to introduce the dialect in music or art lessons this semester, after parents and linguistics experts complained that children couldn't speak Shanghaihua after the national campaign to promote Mandarin.
The textbooks, available at the Shanghai Book Fair and local book stores, are popular among people of all age groups and the publisher said they had to print extra copies given the great demand.
"We combined the classical Shanghaihua ballads together with new ones, such as the Shanghaihua RAP, to attract young people," said Fan Huiying, general manager of Shanghai Century Publishing Co Ltd, the publisher of the book.
"Lots of parents bought the book for their three-to-four-year-old toddlers who are learning how to speak.
"Many seniors in their 70s and 80s are also attracted by the books for reminiscing," she added.
The textbook has colorful illustrations and a CD for students to imitate. "I found the book very interesting," said a local student, Yang Chenjie.
The biggest proportion of the book is Shanghaihua poems and songs.
Apart from that, it introduces some ballads in other dialects such as Cantonese.
"Learning Shanghaihua helps non-local students build up their confidence," said Gong Ling, a teacher of Wanping Middle School, where about 80 percent students are migrant workers' children.
Mastering the local dialect also helps non-local children to better integrate into the city, the teacher said.
The teacher also asked students to tell each other where they're from in their own dialect to enhance their pride in their hometown and to teach them to never forget their origins.
"Some students were very timid to open their mouth to talk at first," she said. "But the interesting poems and songs help them conquer their fear."
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