Primary school students in Changsha, Hunan province have started to learn the Changsha dialect in an elective course newly offered by the school this semester.
More than 20 third-grade students from the Affiliated Primary School of Hunan Normal University have signed up for the course.
A dozen language professors at universities such as Hunan Normal University, Central South University and Changsha Normal University are teaching the course.
Apart from listening, speaking, reading and writing, students will also gain knowledge about the idioms, nursery rhymes, figures of speech and culture behind the dialect, according to Luo Xinru, Chinese language professor at Hunan Normal University and one of the teachers of the course.
As the country has spent a lot of energy promoting standard Mandarin, lots of young children have not learned how to speak local dialects, she said.
That's why the country has started to preserve different language resources in recent years, she said.
The Ministry of Education launched the National Language Resource Protection Project in 2015 to conduct surveys and better protect its language resources. The country has established the largest language resource database in the world, according to the ministry.
Luo said promoting the use of Mandarin and dialects are not contradictory and children are more than capable to speak them simultaneously.
"Dialect protection is the future trend and different dialects which carry diverse culture and value should not and will not disappear," she said.
"We do not expect all children taking the course to learn perfect Changsha dialect, but they should understand the importance of different dialects and perhaps be willing to dive into the research and protection of them as they grow older."
Lyu Peirou contributed to the story.