A Billion Voices: The Past and Future of Putonghua

Throughout the world, hundreds of millions of people, Chinese and foreign, are learning a version of Chinese called Putonghua.  Since the turn of the twentieth century a host of linguists and political leaders, from the radical intellectuals of the May Fourth Movement, to leaders such as Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong, all fought linguistic wars to establish a national language for a linguistically fractured China. In the process, many radical proposals were put forth, such as abolishing the Chinese language itself and replacing it with Esperanto, and eradicating the Chinese characters in favor of an alphabetic script. This talk traces the story of China’s language unification project, the current language policy in China, and the pedagogical issues of teaching Chinese language and script in the 21st-century era of cyberspace and the Internet.

About the Speaker:

David Moser holds a Master’s and a Ph.D. in Chinese Studies from the University of Michigan, with a major in Chinese Linguistics and Philosophy. He has been based in Beijing for over 25 years, active in academic and media circles.

Moser was a visiting scholar at Peking University in 1987-89, and a visiting professor for five years at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, where he taught courses in Translation Theory and Psycholinguistics. He is currently Academic Director at CET Chinese Studies at Beijing Capital Normal University, an overseas study program for U.S. college students, where he teaches courses in Chinese history and politics.

He appears often on BBC radio as a commentator on the daily program Business Matters, and is also a frequent China analyst on Al Jazeera television. He has worked at China Central Television (CCTV) in Beijing as a program advisor, translator, and host, and continues to be active on Chinese television as a commentator in both Chinese and English on news shows such as CCTV Dialogue and World Insight. Moser is also co-host of the Sinica Podcast, an influential China current affairs podcast widely listened to by journalists and China watchers throughout the world. Moser is the author of the book A Billion Voices: China’s Search for a Common Language, published by Penguin.


莫先生于1987 年至1989 年在北京大学做访问学者,随后在北京外国语大学做了五年客座教授。在北外期间,莫先生还教授了翻译理论与心理语言学的课程。目前,他担任CET 中国研究项目的教学主任,CET 项目位于首都师范大学,是一个美国海外留学项目,在此项目中,莫先生除了担任行政职务以外,还教授中国历史与政治的课程。

莫先生经常以评论员身份参与BBC 广播台的日播节目Business Matters。他还常常在半岛电视台做中国问题评论员。除此之外,他还担任过中央电视台的节目顾问、翻译和主持人。时至今日,莫先生仍然以中英文评论员的身份活跃在不同的CCTV 新闻类节目中,如: Dialogue World Insight.

莫先生还是Sinica 播客的联合主持人。Sinica 播客是一个很有影响力的讨论中国实事问题的播客,此播客广受世界各地的记者与中国观察家的欢迎。莫先生的新书《十亿人的声音:一场定义现代汉语的斗争》近日已由企鹅出版社出版发行。


CCK Foundation Inter-University Center for Sinology, the UBC Department of Asian Studies, and the UBC Centre for Chinese Research