Comment on "Can Putonghua Relieve Poverty?" (Published in Language Magazine, December 2017, vol 17, 4. page 8).
Original article: https://www.languagemagazine.com/2017/08/can-putonghua-relieve-poverty/#comment-546481)
Mandarinization of China, and other countries speaking Chinese languages, has clear advantages, but it should not result in the death of local languages. There are many advantages in maintaining and even promoting "heritage" languages and there are no disadvantages: it promotes bilingualism, which has positive effects on cogntive development (one I am particularly interested in is that it delays dementia), has economic advantages, promoting business activity in the larger regions as well as locally, and gives the younger generation access to the wisdom of their elders.
Use of the home language in school makes acquisition of the second language (Mandarin in this case) much easier. It is easier to develop literacy in a language you already understand, and once you can read in any language, it transfers across languages. Also, subject matter knowledge learned in the first language will make instruction in the second language more comprehensible. This has been confirmed in many studies.
China should not allow Mandarin to become a "killer language," eliminating local languages. This has happened in Singapore: the push for Mandarin has resulted in a huge reduction in the use of Hakaan, Cantonese and other Chinese languages in homes. Fortunately, other Chinese languages seem to be making a come-back in Singapore as people realize the benefits: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/26/world/asia/singapore-language-hokkien-mandarin.html?mcubz=3