China will develop an extensive vocal database for language resources in the next 10 years by recording local dialects and languages of ethnic groups, according to the State Language Commission.
"Dialects and languages that embody different cultures are changing fast, and some are even on the verge of extinction. We have to protect them using modern methods such as recording and videotaping," said Li Yuming, a senior official with the committee, at a meeting held Tuesday.
The vocal database project started in east China's Jiangsu Province in 2008.
The topics that the participates talk about include local custom, music, culture and local history.
According to Li, in every town, only four people who speak the standard dialect get the chance to be recorded, with an average recording time of one and a half to two hours.
"The amount of data we will have in the end will be huge," said Li, adding that the final database would include data from 10,000 town-level communities.
Li noted that the database would have other functions besides preservation, including providing local language services during emergencies.
He cited the language problem encountered during the devastating Wenchuan earthquake in 2008. After the quake struck, the lack of knowledge about local dialects became a big obstacle when people nationwide dialed the hotline to inquire about their relatives.